Despite Amazon’s departure, declining home prices and talk of swelling inventory, real estate executives remained optimistic about development in New York.
“I’m addicted to hope because I’m a developer,” said MaryAnne Gilmartin of L&L Mag during at panel on new development at The Real Deal’s 12th annual New York showcase on Wednesday.
Gilmartin joined fellow developer Michael Shvo in noting how the transformation of the West Side — namely with the launch of Hudson Yards — will have a ripple effect throughout the area. As employment in the area grows, it’ll be good for real estate in neighborhoods like West Chelsea and even New Jersey, Gilmartin said.
“If you work that far west, the notion of going back to the east side to live is certainly not as appealing as hopping on a ferry to going to Jersey,” she said.
In Shvo’s view, Hudson Yards is culmination of the development process initially spurred by the High Line, which “made West Chelsea what it is.” Amid concerns about condo inventory along the High Line, Shvo said he isn’t worried about his ultra-luxury project in the area, The Getty.
“The Getty is the billionaire’s building of West Chelsea,” Shvo told TRD‘s editor-in-chief Stuart Elliot, the moderator. “I don’t think we’re competing with anybody.”
To Stribling & Associates’ Elizabeth Ann Stribling-Kivlan, the amount of attention shone on West Chelsea has made it more of a destination.
The panel — which also included PAU Group founder Vishaan Chakrabarti — also reflected on the effect of Amazon nixing it plans for Long Island City. While the real estate industry was disappointed by the loss, development in Queens still has upside, said Gilmartin, whose firm is planning a large, mixed-use project on the waterfront at 44-02 Vernon Boulevard.
She added that a more strategic plan should be in place for the waterfront area. “I was 100 percent in, with or without Amazon,” she said. “But a comprehensive plan for the waterfront there is long overdue.”
Gilmartin said there’s a housing crisis in the city at the moment and, “If your units aren’t moving, it’s because you’re greedy.”
The speakers agreed that developers shouldn’t be chasing foreign buyers from specific countries (Stribling-Kivlan said the Chinese buyer hasn’t been seen in years) and also touched on the frequent criticisms of Billionaires’ Row.
Chakrabarti said it was overstated. “Billionaires’ Row is 2,000 units in a city of 8.5 million people. I’m not sure how much it means,” he said, adding that claims of gentrification were a head-scratcher. “What are you gentrifying? Central Park South?”
Shvo and Chakrabarti noted that land prices and construction costs put restraints on that kind of rental development needed for lower- and middle-income New Yorkers.
But Gilmartin argued that’s where the government should step in, incentivizing developers to take on projects they wouldn’t otherwise.
“We will only do that which we can make money on,” she said. “But it has to be figured out. It’s also key to a strong commercial base in the city — to make sure people have places to live.”
Wrapping things up, Stribling-Kivlan explained her decision to sell her family’s residential brokerage to Compass. “We felt the time had come to stand up for our agents and step up to the plate and try to take back this industry,” she said. “I cannot stand by and not try to make a change for my agents. It’s the best choice we’ve ever made, and I think the future is going to be a lot brighter working together.”