WATCH: Developer Sharif El-Gamal has Covid-19. But he’s one of the lucky ones

Soho Properties founder: "This pandemic has proved we might not need all this real estate"

New York /
Mar.March 31, 2020 09:15 AM

Sharif El-Gamal is one of the lucky ones.

The founder and CEO of Soho Properties, developer of 560 Seventh Avenue in Times Square and 45 Park Place in Tribeca, has tested positive for Covid-19, he said in an interview with The Real Deal Monday.

But he’s making a full recovery, and is aware that many in his hometown are facing a very different reality.

“I’m almost 100 percent better. I’m one of the blessed people that was able to get through this,” he said. “It’s very surreal what we’re hearing about, and the levels of people that are passing away right now.”

More than 66,000 New Yorkers have tested positive for Covid-19 and more than 1,200 have died. About 56 percent of the state’s cases were in New York City.

“It was unlike any feeling that I’ve ever had — just pure fatigue,” El-Gamal recalled of his symptoms.

He and many of his staff got access to testing; six people at Soho Properties have tested positive, the CEO said.

(For more conversations with leading industry players and their responses to the pandemic, check out TRDTalksLive.)

Soho Properties’ operations are at a standstill, El-Gamal said, as the state last week ordered a stop to all non-essential construction.

The firm’s most prominent projects are a 43-story, 50-unit condo at 45 Park Place, and a 234-key, 30-story, 170,000-square-foot Margaritaville hotel at 560 Seventh Avenue being developed in partnership with Chip and Andrew Weiss. The hotel was slated to open at the end of this year, but that timing is now uncertain.

“It’s very nerve-wracking right now,” El-Gamal said.

He noted, however, that “everybody” — read: lenders — “understands what we’re going through and is supportive. Force majeure letters are going out right now, and there are formal notifications that are going out at our projects, but at the end of the day we’re one of the lucky groups.”

Once the city is past the pandemic, he predicted, a “tremendous, pent-up demand” would be released for condominiums and entertainment offerings. But he did warn that in the long term, there may be a fundamental reckoning of the whole business of space.

“This pandemic has proved to us that we might not need all this real estate,” he said. “And there needs to be other uses for it.”


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