After more than 15 years at the center of financial troubles and stalled development, a Washington Heights property could be nearing a fresh future with new owners leading the charge.
Developers Sumaida + Khurana — led by founding partners Saif Sumaida and Amit Khurana — and Bizzi & Partners — headed by CEO Davide Bizzi and managing director Alessandro Pallaoro — teamed up to purchase the site at 524 Fort Washington Avenue in the Hudson Heights neighborhood. Crain’s reported the firms paid $12 million to take the site from Amalgamated Bank, which took control of the property after a lengthy foreclosure process.
The developers are finalizing plans for the site, which will “include an architecturally distinctive residential development that will incorporate a significant amount of space dedicated for community use,” according to the firms.
Up to 145,000 square feet of development is permitted at the site, but Crain’s reported the inclusion of a community space increases the buildout to 275,000 square feet.
The sale is the latest in a saga that wrecked the career and personal life of Rutherford “Ruddy” Thompson. The developer had big plans for the One Bennett Park condominium project after acquiring the site in 2006, planning a 23-story, 114-unit development for his first ground-up project.
Construction began in 2007 — on the eve of the financial crisis — and Amalgamated Bank halted funding shortly after, according to Crain’s. To navigate the site’s geology, Thompson bought the air rights of the adjacent Fort Tryon Jewish Center next door for about $2 million, agreeing in the deal to also renovate the synagogue.
Thompson demolished part of the synagogue but did not finish the renovations, leaving the building unusable, and the rest of his project also stalled. He made a deal with Amalgamated, the lender, to sell the site to avoid foreclosure, but couldn’t find a buyer, leading him to file for bankruptcy. The project ultimately left Thompson’s life, marriage and finances in shambles.
“If I don’t get any proceeds from this sale, I’ll have absolutely nothing,” Thompson previously said. “No place to live. No money.” He began working as a residential broker to make ends meet.
Amalgamated finally finished the foreclosure process in 2020, according to Crain’s, and Ariel Property Advisors began marketing the property. The congregation of the former synagogue, meanwhile, is still looking for a new site.
[Crain’s] — Holden Walter-Warner
Correction: An original version of this story misstated the price paid for the Fort Tryon Jewish Center’s air rights.