One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and a trio of brokers from Newmark Grubb Knight Frank now have the plaques to prove it. The team won a REBNY Ingenious Award for trading a Department of Sanitation site that paved the way for a new medical campus on the Upper East Side.
Mark Weiss, Justin DiMare and Howard Kesseler took home The Henry Hart Rice Award, the Real Estate Board of New York’s top deal-making prize, for their land-swap with the city’s Department of Sanitation, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Hunter College.
“It all started with an ingenious idea to transform a deserted site with smelly trucks that had been overlooked for decades,” Savills Studley’s Woody Heller, who chairs REBNY’s sales brokers committee, explained Tuesday evening at the committee’s 72nd annual cocktail party at 101 Park Avenue.
The $215 million deal got its start back in 2008, when the sanitation department demolished a truck repository at 525 East 73rd Street with plans to build a new, modern facility. But the city kicked the plan to the curb when the recession hit, and in 2010 the brokers came forward with a proposal to sell the site and use the proceeds to build a facility elsewhere.
But when the New York City Economic Development Corporation issued a request for proposals for the site overlooking the East River, it stipulated it be used for healthcare, education or scientific research – ruling a residential developer out of the question.
The brokers’ solution was to pair Memorial Sloan-Kettering, which had capital to build a new campus, and Hunter College, which had excess real estate that exceeded the city’s requirements for a new sanitation facility.
“The synergy of this partnership was game-changing for all parties involved,” Heller said.
The deal, which was approved in 2011 and closed last year, resulted in a new, 1.1 million-square-foot campus where Hunter will train nurses desperately needed at the hospital.
Weiss, who earlier this year jumped over to Cushman & Wakefield, said the transaction meant more than just dollars and cents.
“At the press conference when the EDC contract was awarded and signed, Mayor Bloomberg put his arm on our shoulders and said, ‘Did you ever think you were going to make a deal and do something in your work that will result in some lives being saved?’” he recounted. “I’m never at a loss for words, and that just took my breath away.”
DiMare said he thought it was a good example of “thoughtful and proactive land-use policy” he hopes will be replicated at the location Hunter swapped with the city at 425 East 25th Street.
Industry heavyweights like Newmark’s Jeffrey Gural, Mary Ann Tighe from CBRE and Peter Hauspurg of Eastern Consolidated mixed and mingled at the 101 Club, where the award winners were selected from a field of 16 submissions.
The second-place Robert T. Lawrence Award went to Lauren Crowley Corrinet, Gregory Tosko and Sacha Zarba of CBRE for LinkedIn’s 44,000-square-foot expansion at the Empire State Building. And Ackman-Ziff Real Estate Group’s Alan Goodkin took home the third-place Edward S. Gordon Award for negotiating construction-financing for developer Jonas Rudofsky’s 160,000-square-foot medical center in East New York that will be home to EmblemHealth.
In the weeks leading up to the awards, The Real Deal reviewed a number of submissions to give an inside look at how some of the city’s most complex deals come to fruition.
(They include David Ash’s retail condo for Zara, Arthur Mirante’s NBPA office lease, Rob Martin’s space swap for Assured Guaranty, Paul Wolf’s 99-year lease on the St. Luke campus in Greenwich Village, Michael Brais’ lease with Gansevoort Market at the Empire Outlets and Singer & Bassuk’s refinancing of TF Cornerstone’s headquarters on Park Avenue South.)
Heller congratulated the winning Newmark brokers for succinctly describing their deal in four pages, while at the same time playfully chiding others who implemented “creative page-design” in order to squeeze the details of their transactions into the maximum limit of ten pages.
“All because the true essence of our transactions can’t possibly be captured in a mere 10 pages,” he said wryly. “Let this be a lesson to all of us.”