Ex-Vornado boss Michael Fascitelli back in the game 

New firm working on resi project in Hudson Yards

Michael Fascitelli and renderings of 509 West 38th Street
Michael Fascitelli and renderings of 509 West 38th Street

About a year and a half after he resigned as the chief executive at Vornado Realty Trust, Michael Fascitelli is back on the New York City real estate scene, quietly working on a residential development in Hudson Yards through his new investment firm.

Fascitelli, who left the REIT giant in April 2013 after nearly 16 years with the company, teamed up with former Vornado colleague Eric Birmbaum several months ago to form the investment firm Imperial Companies, sources told The Real Deal.

Imperial declined to comment, but during an interview in September at DLA Piper’s Global Real Estate Summit Fascitelli said he was looking to get back into real estate with “value-added development opportunities.”

Imperial has set up shop with an office on the 27th floor of 888 Seventh Avenue, the Vornado-owned office tower that also serves as the REIT’s headquarters.

The building is familiar territory for the two men who worked closely during their time at Vornado.

Before joining the real estate investment trust in 1997, Fascitelli worked in the real estate division of Goldman Sachs. He became one of the most high-profile figures on the real estate scene, and during his tenure as Vornado’s CEO the publicly traded company made big moves such as the $140 million investment to redevelop the Marriott Marquis retail space at 1535 Broadway and pouring money into JC Penney. That investment led to a loss of nearly $225 million.

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Fascitelli cited burnout when he left Vornado, though at least one industry insider said he may have clashed with Vornado Chairman Steven Roth. Despite his departure, Fascitelli still serves on the company’s board of trustees. He also recently became a part owner in the Milwuakee Bucs basketball team, the New York Business Journal reported.

Birnbaum spent about six years at the company in the acquisitions and capital markets group as well as the in-house development team. He set out on his own in 2009 to form ELB Holdings, a company that repositioned and sold some 2,000 residential units, assembled a large development site on 42nd Street and began developing a 225-unit rental building in Hudson Yards under its Iliad Realty Group division.

Plans for the BKSK Architects-designed tower set to rise at 509 West 38th Street in Hudson Yards have been public for some time. But an examination of a Housing Finance Agency application reveals Fascitelli’s involvement. Imperial, along with its San Francisco-based partner Shorenstein, applied to receive $100 million in financing for the project, in exchange for setting aside 20 percent of the units as affordable housing. Fascitelli’s name appears on that application document.

The state Public Authority Control Board later voted to lend $104 million to the developers and provide an additional $5.9 million in tax credits. In return, Fascitelli’s group will set aside 46 of the building’s 225 units for tenants earning 60 percent of the area median income. The development also has an inclusionary-housing bonus of 44,436 buildable square feet the partners intend to sell off.

“It is anticipated that the bonus will not be used for the building,” the application read. “The square footage will eventually be sold for another development at another site.”

Birnbaum’s ELB Holdings is considering folding the 42nd Street development site – a 700-key, mixed-use hotel dubbed 400 Times Square – into Imperial Companies, a source told TRD. Imperial is also working on developing a large, upscale retail property.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the design architect of 509 West 38th Street. BKSK Architects is the design firm. Ismael Levya Architects is the architect of record.