Local buyers trump international investors: developers

Industry heavyweights talk demographics, infrastructure and affordable housing during panel

Mar.March 27, 2014 01:40 PM

While international buyers have emerged as potential clients when developers are conceiving of a project, New Yorkers remain the primary demographic, according to some of the city’s top developers yesterday at the Manhattan Association of Realtors’ annual Global Real Estate Symposium. 

The panel discussion brought together players from the development teams behind Hudson Yards, Greenwich Lane, Hallets Point and other major projects. Guests included Bill Rudin of Rudin Management Company; Kyle Kimball of the city Economic Development Corporation; Michael Samuelian of Related Companies; Joel Bergstein of Lincoln Equities Group; Stanley Gale Jr. of Gale International; and Gregory Fournier of East End Capital. The Real Deal publisher Amir Korangy moderated the event, held at the McGraw-Hill Building at 326 West 42nd Street in Midtown.

The Rudin family’s Greenwich Lane project — which includes five condo buildings and five single-family homes along West 11th and West 12th streets — has largely attracted city residents, many of whom already live in the Village. Roughly 10 percent of homebuyers at Greenwich Lane are from outside the U.S., hailing from Canada, Hong Kong and elsewhere, Rudin said.

Bergstein said he is paying close attention to the diverse community in Astoria while developing the 2,500-unit, seven-tower rental development to be known as Hallets Point. About 27 languages are spoken in the neighborhood, Bergstein said. The project, which might include some condominiums, is slated to break ground in 2015.

“After the City Council approved our project (in October), the phone was ringing off the hook with Asian buyers wanting to invest,” Bergstein said, adding that the project had already secured capital at that point. Economic Development Corporation helped to fund Lincoln Equities’ $1 billion undertaking.

Despite the city’s prominent global status, the JFK and LaGuardia airports for example are “still not world class,” Samuelian said.

“The infrastructure is eventually going to tamp down development,” Samuelian said.

The developers acknowledged the challenge to cater to both the domestic and foreign buyer, as well as learning how to deal with the extremes of offering a $50 million condominium in one building and affordable housing in another.

The conversation moved away from foreign investment and toward other changes and trends spanning the city.

The Economic Development Corporation’s Kimball said the city is in need of more modular, flexible office space with smaller floor plans and operators willing to take a two-year lease rather than a five-year lease.

Related’s Samuelian interjected that that strategy would not be compatible with Hudson Yards, which boasts 4.5 million square feet of already leased office space. Last month, Related applied for permits for 550 West 34th Street, a planned office tower in the district, as previously reported.

“Our biggest competition is people staying in place,” said Samuelian who described Time Warner’s relocation deal to as “a complex and sophisticated series of transactions.”

When asked for projections on the next breakout neighborhood, Kimball cited Staten Island’s North Shore for residential growth and said a “young, hip crowd” is moving to the Rockaways in Queens.

“We’re astounded by what we’re seeing there,” Kimball said, referring to the Rockaways.

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