Real Estate News from December 2011

  • Toll Brothers City Living is Becoming Formidable By Justin Spees | December 13, 2011

    If you live in the low-rise at 303 East 33rd St., or a handful of other luxury condo buildings in the city, you might have heard of Toll Brothers. Toll Brothers is a high-end building construction company based in Pennsylvania. It opened a New York office in Brooklyn seven years ago, and has spent that time in steady expansion.  So far it’s developed 8 residential projects in the city. It has plans to develop two more next year. And it just closed a deal in conjunction with Equity Residential for the acquisition of a 400,000 square foot piece of land at 400 Park Avenue South, where it will build another one. So when we heard the office had announced plans to move from its Brooklyn office to one in the Financial District, it looked to us like a sign that they’re feeling pretty confident right now.

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  • Propping up the Real Estate Market One Green Card at a Time By Justin Spees | December 12, 2011

    The United States has looked increasingly towards an unlikely source to rejuvenate the flagging real estate market: foreign buyers. Here in Manhattan, we can thank the international community for a sizeable amount of our housing market’s recovery. Foreign investors in the New York borough make up 30% of all property owners. The banking giant HSBC recently increased the size of the loans its willing to give foreign investors for property in New York, as a way to spur investment. And the federal government has come up with ideas of its own. The Immigrant Investor Program, or EB-5, is  one such idea. The program fast tracks green card obtainment for immigrants who are willing to invest at least $500,000 into the American economy.  It was initially conceived in 1990, but its been updated in recent years to make it as attractive as possible to wealthy investors.

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  • Passive Houses Give 'Green' New Meaning By Daniel Muhlenberg | December 09, 2011

    The term ‘green’ gets thrown around a lot these days, but, as with any catchphrase, its meaning is questionable. One could say that they’re ‘green’ because they unplug their cellphone charger when they leave their apartment in the morning, and they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong (although they would be pushing it). When we’re honest with ourselves, most of us recognize that we think of being ‘green’ as a matter of small concessions here and there, but nothing drastic. Leave it to the Europeans to change that: the passive house movement is the first green technology that radically alters the way we consume energy.

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  • Midtown West Gets a Little Bigger By Justin Spees | December 09, 2011

    We’ve been watching Midtown West’s development from a desolate part of New York City to the next thriving residential neighborhood with eager eyes. We get pretty excited each time a new development deal is announced, so imagine our joy when we read that the Brooklyn-based real estate investment company Fortis Property Group recently spent $23.5 million for a development site in Midtown West, which it plans to turn into a residential building.

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  • Jane Jacobs And New York City: Part 2 By Kimberly Milner | December 08, 2011

    What would Jane Jacobs, the iconic urban planner in owlish glasses, have to say about the residential infrastructure of NYC today? As we previously noted, Jacobs’ best-selling book The Death and Life of Great American Cities has become critical reading for urban planners throughout the country. Indeed, the tenets she laid down are used to justify the mixed-use and often high-end projects that define progress in NYC today. But whether it’s new city-wide projects like white roofs or public-private parks that housed the Occupy Wall Street protestors, how does the rise of “sophisticated” (often steel-and-glass) projects really measure up against this eminent thinker’s original blueprints for a modern, accommodating city?

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  • Brokers Unsure if REBNY Membership is Worth their While By Daniel Muhlenberg | December 08, 2011

    The main constituency of the most powerful real estate organization in New York City is unhappy. Many residential brokers are reconsidering their membership in the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) after REBNY increased dues for the first time in 4 years despite the fact that it is in very good financial standing. In and of itself, this increase isn't that big of a deal - yearly dues for residential brokers cost $425 - but it has tapped into a preexisting undercurrent of discontent with the way REBNY is run. Out of REBNY’s 12,000 members, 78% are residential brokers, and out of the $6 million collected in in dues last year, brokers paid $2.5 million. Despite making up such a large part of the organization, many brokers claim that REBNY favors large owners, developers, bigger brokerages, and commercial firms, and that consequently they do very little for individual brokers. In short, they contend that those who contribute the most benefit the least.

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  • Ownership of Stuy Town Up in the Air By Daniel Muhlenberg | December 06, 2011

    When Metropolitan Life, the longtime owner of the joint Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village complex, put it up for auction in 2006, tenants made a bid to acquire the 80-acre property, but it was to no avail. MetLife ended up selling Stuy Town to Tishman Speyer Properties and BlackRock Realty for a record $5.4 billion, a decision which later proved distastrous - the two ownership groups defaulted on $4.4 billion worth of loans and abdicated ownership rights. CW Capital in 2009 took out a mortgage for $3 billion to acquire rights to the property, but now they’re looking to sell. So the tenants association of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village are again attempting to make another bid for the complex (although that bid has yet to be formed), except this time they’ve formed a partnership with a major player with deep pockets - Brookfield Asset Management.

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  • Welcome to LoLo, the Manhattan Neighborhood on Water By Justin Spees | December 02, 2011

    Governors Island, the small island below the tip of Manhattan, was a military post until 1996. Now it’s a seldom-traveled enclave where Manhattanites making day-trips by ferry can find rec fields and arts events. But the Center for Urban Real Estate, a newly established research group at Columbia that focuses on new development projects in New York City, sees it as an untapped development site. The center recently proposed building a land bridge out of millions of cubic yards of landfill between Manhattan and Governors Island. It calls the project LoLo, for Lower Lower Manhattan. This is how it works: A land bridge would remove the inconvenience of getting to the island, so developers would be more willing to build on it. The Center suggests that New York City then build a 92-acre national historical district, 3.9 million square feet of public buildings like schools, and 270 acres of open space on Governors Island, and in the process, generate $16.7 billion in revenue.

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  • Historic Districts Being Created at an Unprecendented Rate By Daniel Muhlenberg | December 01, 2011

    Historic Districts in New York City are popping up like wildflowers. Or weeds. Depends who you ask. One thing is certain: over the past 8 years 27 new historic districts have been created by the Landmarks Preservation Commission - a New York City government agency whose sole task is to create historic districts - and its chairman Robert Tierney. According to its website, the LPC’s mission is to, “safeguard the city’s historic, aesthetic, and cultural heritage.” The LPC has certainly followed through: since its inception in the mid-1960s, it has landmarked over 29,000 buildings and sites across the city. Whether or not that’s a good thing is still up for debate.

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