RXR floats idea of cruise-ship hotel at SuperPier

Pier 57 sits atop "sunken concrete box"

TRD New York /
Feb.February 26, 2015 12:35 PM

The New York-New Jersey Super Bowl had an ocean-liner hotel, so why shouldn’t the SuperPier?

Scott Rechler’s RXR Realty, which joined Youngwoo & Associates last year in a joint venture to redevelop Pier 57 on the Hudson River, is floating the idea of docking an out-of-commission cruise liner next to the structure to use as a hotel.

“We’re looking at bring a ship, one of the large retired ocean liners to potentially create a hotel facility next to it,” Michael Maturo, president of RXR, said this morning during a roundtable discussion on best practices for structuring partnerships.

During the Superbowl XLVIII, Anheuser-Busch InBev docked a 4,000-passenger Norwegian Cruise Line ship further up the Hudson River at Pier 88 as a Bud Light-branded hotel and entertainment venue.

Maturo added that the pier, which the development partners are converting to 200,000 to 300,000 square feet of office space, doesn’t sit atop wooden piles, but instead rests on a sunken, concrete caisson.

“It’s a giant concrete box that’s in the water, and actually when you’re down in it you can hear the water moving around,” he said.

Developers and investors on the panel, hosted by accounting shop EisnerAmper and law firm BakerHostetler at the latter’s Rockefeller Center office, discussed the different ways they attract and work with foreign partners.

“[Chinese partners]  are really diving in more so than just writing checks, which is I think what we see more with Canadian, European [and] South American investors which are more focused on governance rights than being co-development partners,” said Joseph McMillan, CEO of DDG, which is developing one of the tallest buildings on the Upper East Side, the 521-foot 180 East 88th Street.

The upside of this hands-on approach, he added, is that “you have a partner with a lot of capability for the next five years, but five years on what they really want is to be able to do it without you. If you go that route, that’s the cost of doing business.”

Todd Bassen, director of investment at Invesco, said having boots on the ground in Asia helps direct capital both ways.

“We have domestic clients that want to take advantage of what’s going on in Asia,” he said. “We actually have capital that’s going the other way as well.”

RXR’s Maturo said the company markets itself as an operator that can provide access to the US through its capital funds.

“Over the past number of years we’ve been able to attract capital by saying if you invest a little bit in our fund … we’ll give you kind of a cherry-pick opportunity to co-invest with us in deals that we’re doing,” he said. “It’s been very effective.” RXR recently agreed to sell a 50 percent stake in six New York-area office buildings to the Blackstone Group.

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