Developer looks up for restaurant design

TRD New York /
Nov.November 19, 2009 07:32 PM

While some New York City real estate developers look to another neighborhood for inspiration, Tony Greenberg, founder of the just-launched Up Ventures, looked halfway around the world.

Up Ventures, a real estate development group specializing in innovative restaurant space, aims to bring Tokyo- and Hong Kong-style restaurant real estate to New York City.

“Here in New York, you see restaurants on the basement floor, the ground floor [or] the rooftop [in different buildings],” Greenberg said. But overseas, Greenberg said that restaurateurs establish eateries on upper-level floors of the same building. Rather than browse blocks for restaurants, patrons could look upstairs or downstairs at the offerings in a single building.

Greenberg, who had been vice president of finance at Hudson Yards Development Corporation before leaving the post in the late spring, said that the concept clicked for him during his travels and he began to explore ways in which he could apply the relatively unheard of strategy in New York.

He’s currently looking to invest in a six-story building, around 30,000 square feet in size, and is exploring different neighborhoods, from Union Square to Lincoln Center, for the right building. Greenberg said it’s too early to name who his investment partners are — or how much he’s planning to invest in a potential building — but said that most of his financial partners come from the real estate world.

Unlike developers who invest in ground-level restaurant space on a block, and face a gamble when it comes to what establishments will set up shop next door, Greenberg said he will have total control over which restaurants neighbor each other. Greenberg plans to have higher-end restaurants occupy his first building, which have price points hovering in the $50 per person for dinner range.

Still, despite the plan’s upsides, Greenberg said that the development will take a considerable amount of planning to make it work for a western clientele.

“I can’t just take this Eastern concept and transfer it here,” Greenberg said. “We [are] always looking at why [it might not] work here, what the cultural differences are.”

He said that a focus on the building’s design and architecture will be key to the project’s success. Touches like lavishly-decorated elevators, for example, will help build ambiance and draw in customers.

“In order for [the] concept to work here, that elevator [has] to be spectacular,” Greenberg said.

While other relatively similar multi-floored buildings, such as the Time Warner Center and Grand Central Terminal, house eateries, Greenberg’s floor-consuming restaurants stand apart, eschewing pedestrian walkways and retail shops.

Although the restaurant industry can be a gamble, particularly in a down market, Greenberg said he’s confident that the tenants in his restaurant building will be successful. He plans to take in established restaurants that are hoping to open second or third outposts.

Rather than searching blocks for a good place to eat, Greenberg said he envisions a one-stop-shop.

“Let’s go to the restaurant building where we know four awesome restaurants are there,” Greenberg imagines them saying.

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