Developers struggle to restart construction at stalled city sites

August 01, 2011 09:57AM

In early 2008, Francis Greenburger’s Time Equities began demolishing three buildings at 50 West Street to make room for a $600 million, 62-story hotel and residential development. A few months later, the development was put on hold as a result of the financial crisis.

“Market conditions were too unstable to proceed at the time,” Greenburger said. “We just secured the site and decided to wait until conditions improved.”

Time’s prospective development was just one of many stalled construction sites on a 650-building list compiled by the city’s Department of Buildings in 2009, Crain’s reported. Now, two years later, construction is recommencing at some of those sites –about 550 sites have restarted in the two years the list has existed, including 111 Kent Avenue and 175 Kent Avenue in Williamsburg — but not as quickly as some might hope. Experts say it may take longer than it did after the last downturn in the early 1990s for all of these projects to get going again.

“It’s hard to be optimistic when the list of stalled sites is still so stubbornly high,” said Richard Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress.

One of the key issues facing developers in these situations, Crain’s said, is the tight lending standards of banks. Borrowers without perfect track records will not be considered.

“Special servicers are selling some notes, but not as aggressively as anyone anticipated,” said Robert Knakal, chairman of Massey Knakal Realty Services.

Time requested new permits for its 50 West Street development last month. [Crain’s]