Monthly Archives: July 2019

Manhasset Square Redevelopment Brings Additional Solutions to Long Island Housing Crisis

It was announced earlier this year that Brookfield Developments would be helming a $400 million reworking of the Macy’s parking lot off of Northern Boulevard. The project, called Manhasset Square, will cover 16 acres of land and transform it into a multi-use property to feature housing, offices, and retail space. 

 

This project has generated some local concerns, as the North Hempstead area of Long Island has no apartments, dominated largely by single-family homes. Critics have asked how this would affect traffic and school routes. However, Brookfield Developments and the local government seem to be confident in the positive boosts the project hopes to bring to the area. 

How Would Housing at Manhasset Improve the Area? 

Supporters of the Manhasset Square project have seen and heard the concerns, but the positive, to them, far outweighs the potential drawbacks.

  • Affordable, Manageable Housing. As the Island Now sees it, developments like Manhasset Square means rentals that local villagers can afford. Homeownership is a nearly impossible dream for many now, for a number of reasons, and there are many residents in the Long Island area who have no desire to leave the community they love but revile the expenses. Young people, the elderly, and empty-nesters may benefit from housing options that don’t include sizeable property taxes and more property than they would care to (or afford to) maintain. 
  • Increased Area Revenue. With a hotel, dining, retail, and office spaces included in the mix and many bids already to fill them, this development promises an economic boost for the area in the form of new jobs and tax revenue, plus shopping opportunities within easy reach.

What Will It Take to Finish This Redevelopment?

As of May 2019, Brookfield Developments is still seeking the zoning rights for the property, which currently allows for retail, office, and hotel space, but not residential space. 

 

When this is secured and ground is broken, tradespeople can look forward to opportunities in building on:

  • 355 luxury apartments. With predominantly studio and one-bedroom options, with some two and three-bedroom apartments as well, there are options for single and dual occupants as well as families. The specification of “luxury” implies not only the use of quality materials but also upgrades and amenities that will need to be accounted for in construction. 
  • 200-unit boutique-style hotel. With no shortage of tourism opportunities in the New York metro area, there will always be a need for accommodations. “Boutique” here suggests high-end living with, again, amenities, and this could include unique selling points from spas to special classes for guests, all of which will need unique spaces.
  • Office and Retail Spaces. With similar construction needs, these parts of Manhasset Square will afford people the opportunity to run all their errands within the area of Macy’s. There will be a similar demand for open floor space and storage, with some calling for unique architecture that conforms to a brand image. 
  • Dining. Visitors can finish their shopping with a quick bite or an intimate meal, depending upon what goes in. Formal and casual restaurant spaces need places to put the customers but also kitchens unique to what will be found in residences. Specific franchises will likely opt in to many of the spaces, and each of them tends to have unique facilities to construct. 
  • 2,271 parking spaces. New locations to visit means the roads to get there and the places to park. Presently, the intent is to construct parking both above and below ground, which in itself calls for special considerations a single-level parking structure would not need, including strong foundational support. 

 

With these, plus landscaping, wiring, plumbing, and other considerations across the board, there will be work to go around. For now, all there is left is to wait for all the signatures on the dotted line, and then Manhasset Square will be well on its way. 

 

With Steady Decline in Architecture Business Billings, Tariffs Exacerbate Growing Problem

In June of 2019, the Architecture Billings Index reported a negative in design deals as well as new project inquiries, the latter of which reached a decade low. This is concerning news following an earlier report in 2018 that stated a decline aside optimistic gains in job growth. The ABI, a reputable source in tracking economic growth for commercial and industrial developments, further reports that billings remain on the downturn in all regions save the south, which continues to see growth, up 1.9 points compared to the previous month’s growth. 

The news for firms in the New York metro area is far less positive, with the northeast region on a 3.9-point decrease from the previous month’s reporting. Sources report a generous backlog of projects, experts have expressed concern that a surplus may quickly whittle down to a deficit. While multiple causes may contribute to this disturbing trend, many are nodding to the pressures brought on by tariffs on China and other nations as only making the problem worse. 

What’s Going on with the Backlog?

In May, Associated Builders and Contractors Inc’s construction backlog indicator showed a near 9-month backlog of upcoming projects nationwide. That said, ABC’s Chief Economist Anirban Basu also indicated the following: 

  • Rises in the cost of materials and labor were still present. 
  • Declines in infrastructure-related jobs were reported as well, though he indicated this might be the result of a statistical anomaly. 
  • Spending has continued and, he reports, should continue through several more quarters. 

The concern, however, is with the slow in new projects and proposals to add to the backlog, and how many of those new projects are coming to the state of New York. With multiple sources reporting declines since the turn of the year, what appears to be the trend in the national region holds true in the Big Apple and all the boroughs as well.

 

Delaware to Receive Substantial Increase in Construction Spending

Delaware legislature adjourned its session on July 1 after allocating nearly $900 million for the state’s construction projects in the coming fiscal year.

The lawmakers approved $863 million budget for major road, school and other construction projects as they wrapped up the session and headed into their summer recess.  The bill is a substantial increase, not only over funding from the previous fiscal year but from Governor John Carney’s January proposed amount of about $678 million.

The bill earmarks $425 million for transportation projects (up from $368) and $437 million in non-transportation construction spending, including maintenance, technology, equipment, economic development, and environmental projects, according to the Associated Press (down $10 million). The additional funds on top of the governor’s proposed budgets were available because revenue projections are significantly higher than they were last June, the AP story said

Another bill with implications on the industry will have to wait for the next session. Senate Bill 95 sought to change the definition of “independent contractor,” which would then require workers to pay taxes through a social security number. Currently, they can use an Independent Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to file and changing that would mean workers who are undocumented immigrants who can’t get social security cards could not work—and contractors who need workers might not be able to find enough.

The senator who sponsored the bill told WBOC, the intention was to regulate the way contractors treat their employees. Upon hearing from those concerned about the ramifications of such a law on undocumented immigrants, he and his fellow lawmakers proposed a change in the language in the bill that would allow workers to use an ITIN to register with the department of labor and not reveal their immigration status.

The Bronx Point Complex: Music History and Affordable Housing

Set to complete in 2023, a waterfront site in the South Bronx is, for now, the home of an ongoing project that shall evolve into a center for entertainment with promises for housing, jobs, and more. Sitting near the 145th street bridge that connects the borough to Manhattan, Bronx Point will come together under the leadership of L+M Management, bringing a reputation of outreach and building excellence. 

 

The Real Deal reports that the company, which successfully bid back in 2017 for the project with a projected budget of $200 million to finish, is already known for community-broadening projects such as converting a navy prison into affordable housing in Brooklyn and the Seward Park redevelopment. 

What Facilities Will the Development Include?

While many headlines have made a point to highlight the construction of the Universal Hip Hop Museum as a notable feature, the Bronx Point’s mixed-use plan means it is offering not only this but also much more. With the project moving in two phases, phase one will provide: 

  • The Universal Hip Hop Museum will break ground in winter of this year and has creative minds behind its development like LL Cool J and the first Hip Hop artist to be signed to a label, Blow, who is also the museum’s co-chairman. It seeks to bring the borough’s rich music history to the forefront for locals and tourists alike. 
  • Low-to-moderate income residential units to include the first half of the proposed final amount (600 of 1045) will expand an ongoing affordable housing initiative in the New York metro area. 
  • A multiplex theatre will offer further entertainment beyond the sights and sounds of the museum. 
  • Outdoor event space for live performances of any genre. 
  • Additional outdoor spaces such as a plaza near Exeter Street, and a 2.3-acre esplanade that follows the river and expands Mill Pond Park. 

Phase 2 of the Bronx Point development will finish the remaining residential spaces and add new commercial and community spaces. Further details are to be released when there is a set start date. 

What Kinds of Construction Jobs Will This Project Produce?

Under L+M Management, the first phase of Bronx Point is ready to take shape, and it will take tireless and creative hands to make that happen. 

  • On the museum side, with a facility hoping to include live performances, interactive exhibits, workshops, and more, contractors of all stripes will be called in to raise the walls that can house these diverse activities and displays. 
  • For housing, the units planned will need to be reasonably affordable to anyone seeking a place to lay their heads. Bedrooms, bathrooms, elevators, and private and communal living spaces all offer their unique challenges. 
  • A multiplex calls for space for tall screens, projecting equipment, washroom facilities, concessions, office space, and more. 
  • Outdoor event space needs ample sitting and standing space, a functional stage, and the means to operate a multitude of electronic equipment. 
  • Finally, the rest of the outdoor spaces will include walking and green space, lighting, and other facilities that will be both unique to the complex but seamlessly merge where needed with nearby locations, all to be designed and built. 

At their completion, there is another remaining phase, with still more jobs on the horizon for constructing new, unique facilities to distinguish the site further.

One Million SF in E-Commerce Warehouse Space Coming to Bayonne

For consumers, part of the appeal of buying things online is avoiding a brick-and-mortar store. The item goes from the website to their doorstep, like magic. But all of those e-commerce purchases do need a place to go during the shipping process. For the tristate area, that place is going to be a collection of warehouses on a man-made peninsula in Bayonne.

Lincoln Logistics Bayonne is being built on 90 acres of land that once belonged to the U.S. government and was home to the Military Ocean Terminal tract. It has been dormant since 1999. The site plan consists of four warehouse buildings, individually ranging from 150,000 square feet to 477,000 square feet and totaling 1.6 million square feet for e-commerce shipments. Each building will have 40-foot ceilings.

Vertical construction is expected to begin in early 2020. To be ready for redevelopment, the 70-year-old structures on the site were demolished, and to comply with post-Hurricane Sandy standards, the elevation of the site is being raised six feet.

The location provides access for shipping. Lincoln Logistics Bayonne will contain nearly 63 acres of riparian water rights and maritime access to the Hudson River and Newark Bay. It will also have immediate access to nearby major highways, including the New Jersey Turnpike and routes 78, 440 and 1 and 9. It is also adjacent to the Global Container Terminal and is less than 10 miles from Newark Liberty International Airport. And, according to developer Lincoln Equities Group (LEG), there are 27 million consumers within a two-hour drive and 59 million consumers within a 5-hour drive from the location.

“We’re just 7 miles from Newark and 8 miles from the Holland Tunnel,” LEG President Joel Bergstein said during a tour of the site in June. “This will be a prime distribution point for the city.”

The redevelopment is expected to create 2,700 jobs.

Ronkonkoma Vision Project Only Beginning to Take Shape

From parking spots for commuters to bustling sports and convention space, the Ronkonkoma Vision project’s grand plans are only beginning to mature in the 86-acre property between MacArthur Airport and the Long Island railroad station. 

 

The $1.1 billion project promises a huge boost in both temporary construction jobs and permanent positions as the complex is completed, with the planning stages in motion since at least 2013. Locals hope that the project brings a boost in tourism, sporting events, and more to this corner of the metropolitan area. However, with no projected completion date in sight as of July 2019, what does it spell out for the more immediate future? 

What Amenities Does the Ronkonkoma Vision Project Hope to Bring?

With the draw of local and visiting athletic teams, business sponsorships, and more, all at the center of that crucial commute between plane and train, the finished Ronkonkoma project began with more extensive plans than those that were ultimately finalized. 

 

The proposed sports stadium, the crown jewel of the complex, once promised a mindblowing 17,500-seat capacity. Developers have reduced this number by half and are looking to attract a minor-league hockey team to make their home there. But what else is coming?

 

  • The main arena. The 7,500-seat arena hopes to host multiple entertainment events like concerts as well as hockey and lacrosse. 
  • The outdoor stadium. At a smaller 6,000-seats, this venue will be home to soccer and lacrosse events.
  • Three public practice fields. Not playing for a league? No problem. For professionals, semi-professionals and amateurs alike, the Ronkonkoma complex invites anyone to come to play and practice. 
  • Hotel space. A 300-key convention hotel will sit on the complex to house visiting teams, tourists, and any other event attendees.
  • Convention center. With more than just sports to offer the brave and the curious, the convention center can host virtually any manner of event that area is not built for. 
  • Retail Spaces. With commuters, out-of-state visitors, and locals to attract, shopping space is not only necessary; it’s practically mandatory. 
  • Class A Office Space. With a preference to medical and research institutions, these will be centrally located with easy access, in a spacious and quality infrastructure. 

What Does This Mean for Construction Jobs?

Once ground is broken, the breadth and scope of this project gives an “all hands on deck” sort of feel. Virtually every manner of construction, engineering, and landscaping will be needed to finish the Ronkonkoma Vision project. Short of permanent residential areas and a second airport, almost every kind of urban establishment imaginable is going into the blueprint. Following a trend in New York construction of late, many of the spaces outlined will have multifunctional vertical spaces, with different establishments on multiple floors. Tenants in the upper part of the convention center hotel can take a short elevator ride to their event or shopping down on the ground floor, for instance. Developers and tradespeople can look for a number of upcoming projects to include: 

 

  • Class A office structures. Because these buildings will command high rent from quality occupants, they will be expected to come together using the highest quality materials and building conventions, assembled and made whole by masters in their craft. 
  • Multiple, diverse entertainment venues. The main arena itself will need to hold the population of a small town, at its feet, cheering for their team, but steel beams are just the start, and the complex will be home to fields of green, ice, and more. 
  • Modern, comfortable hotel space. Beyond even just the rooms, amenities and facilities will need to be accessible and welcoming to the widest possible customer base. 

 

All of these and more will each have their own unique challenges. The demands of a functional office, arena, and hotel rooms can be as different from each other as night and day. These all call for not just structure, but electrical, plumbing, landscaping, and roads and walkways to navigate them.

 

A Wealth of Development Opportunities Arise if Philadelphia’s Hahnemann Hospital Closes

Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia has filed for bankruptcy and faces possible closure. If the medical campus closes, there are obvious concerns about serving the community’s health needs, as well as the loss of jobs of those who work there. But according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the seven medical buildings and parking garage that take up over nearly six acres on Broad Street along the Vine Street Expressway could become one of the “most enticing-if challenging” development sites the city has seen in years.

The age and condition of the buildings make it difficult to modernize to continue its use as a hospital. But the site sits between Center City and Broad Street making it a “gateway” location for redevelopment should that inevitably happen. At this point, there is no consensus of what kind of development it would be or if it would encompass the entire site or pieces of it.

Should redevelopment happen, it won’t be the first hospital site in the city to be redeveloped and re-imagined. The former Mt. Sinai Hospital at 400 Reed Street was turned into nearly 100 luxury townhomes with “pocket parks” and pedestrian walkways configured into the buildings’ layout. Southwark on Reed became the fastest selling townhome project in Philadelphia to date. And St. Joseph’s Hospital’s transformation into a mixed-use site with 88 apartments, The Civic Apartments, is nearing completion.

But Hahnemann’s future at this point is unknown. The president of the Center City District Business Association, Paul Levy, told the Inquirer that while his group hopes to keep the services and employment from the hospital if it closes, but there would be a huge, new opportunity for the city.

“The top priority is to preserve the medical services and jobs the hospital represents,” Levy said. “If, unfortunately, it was impossible to save them…it could create a whole new zone in the city.”

RELATED STORIES:

Bernie Sanders Holds a Rally Against Hospital Closure, abc Action News Philadelphia.

 

Room for Moving Up: Times Square’s Palace Theatre to Receive a Facelift, Other Developments

The trend in urban revitalization through multi-functional spaces continues its spread in New York City, where significant updates to popular venues in Times Square continue to unfold. Where locals continue to agree that a downtown area must leave ample options for living, working, shopping, and playing within a few steps of each other, it is clear that the beloved bowtie of NYC proper is more than happy to take the lead with the ever-advancing TSX Broadway development. 

TSXB promises to be an “experiential” shopping, entertainment, and residential experience, offering 46 floors of modern amenities, prime advertising and retail space, and the protection and preservation of a historic landmark. It includes the area in and around the famous Palace Theatre, which shut its doors in late 2018 to begin a long renovation process. 

What Changes Are Coming to the Palace Theatre?

A venue that has been home to the Vaudeville greats, high-profile film premieres like RKO’s Citizen Kane, and numerous Broadway stage productions, the 1700-seat Palace Theatre closed its 2018 season with the promise to return in the early 2020’s. Its redevelopment is part of a larger project affecting the whole area, but its most surprising change will be its location: 30 feet above its present spot, part of a $2.4 billion project approved by NYC City Council June of last year. Here, there are multiple aims:

  • New Space. The elevation of the theatre will create around 10,000 square feet of retail space for street-level customers. This likely will include the need for multiple separate units for a diverse shopping experience, mechanical space, bathroom facilities, and more.
  • A Landmark, Preserved. Developers L&L Holding Co., Maefield Development, and Fortress Investment Group are dedicated not only to bringing the area into the electrical future, but also meticulously restoring and preserving every detail of this popular location. Workers with expertise in preservation and restoration may have a monumental project on their hands, with everything from facades, statuary, seating, and detailing needing to look their authentic best. 

What Other Changes Are Coming with the Redevelopment? 

Aside from treating a grand old lady like the Palace Theatre like the queen she is, TSX Broadway promises several new additions to Times Square to keep locals and tourists close and comfortable. All of these changes will call for a variety of construction types and trades to complete. 

  • A Memorable Trip. Popular among NYC retailers is the offering of an “experience” rather than a mere shopping trip, and TSX Broadway is embracing this in all its spaces. With other popular stores offering meditation sessions to draw shoppers, or displays to attract Instagram influencers, the entire TSX complex hopes to play off of a similar vibe. Developers are challenged to create a structure that facilitates this that includes edgy, unique modern architecture that can blend seamlessly with the Palace Theatre’s classical charm. 
  • Out with the Old. Among other changes, this requires the demolition of the Doubletree hotel that currently sits atop the Palace Theatre, in itself an enormous project, especially since everything under the Doubletree must remain intact. The removal and further updates to the property will pave the way for the building of new, 669-room luxury hotel with every amenity (an update from Doubletree’s 612-room offering).
  • Outdoor Entertainment. TSX Broadway’s completion will come with the installation of Times Square’s only permanent outdoor stage, adding a new, established venue for year-round entertainment. It will call for a structure fit to hold a sizeable partying crowd and fixtures for state-of-the-art equipment. 
  • The Most Valuable Signage. When it comes to drawing tourists, locals, and influencers of every stripe, for once—it’s all about what’s on the outside. Times Square’s billboards and screens are an integral part of its character, with recent updates from neon to LED and video dominating your view as you look up from the street. TSX Broadway will be no different, refitting its outdoor space with an 18,000 square-foot wrap-around sign with video and streaming capabilities. With video advertising space in Times Square bringing in as much as $12 million a year on much smaller screens and with the TSX project’s signage breaking records for the area, the construction of such a giant will be a massive undertaking in itself. 

With a mixture of modern amenities and the charm of New York’s colorful entertainment history, perfectly preserved, the TSX Broadway development may change the landscape. For now, with opening day still a couple of years away at least, the mountain of jobs it leaves for passionate developers and tradespeople are innumerable.

Mixed-Use, Transit-Oriented Project Key in Paterson’s Plan for Renewal

Paterson officials are once again talking about a renaissance. The key piece to this attempt at making Silk City more attractive to young adults and businesses is a proposed $34 million mixed-use building across from the Paterson train station.

When announcing the plans, mayor Andre Sayegh said the city is looking to attract millennials and become a hub for young professionals the way other area cities have done. There is Hoboken, of course, and Jersey City. Harrison has exploded with residential and retail construction built in the areas surrounding the PATH station—and part of the development was a new PATH station that was recently opened as well.

“Paterson, we believe, is the next frontier,” Sayegh said as he unveiled the plans for the “transit-oriented” project that will include 160 multi-family apartments— running from approximately 400 to 850 square feet each, as well as a food hall, co-working space, retail businesses, 15,000 square feet for a business incubator program for the fashion and garment industry. It has a targeted date for completion at the end of 2022.

Developer Anthony LoConte will handle the project at the Ward St. and Memorial Drive site where an old parking garage now sits.

The project will create more than 60 construction jobs and the retail space will create 15 full-time jobs when the project is completed, according to the Paterson Times. LoConte hopes to break ground in the next eight months and plans to be involved in more projects around the city, the story said.

Making Every Floor Count: City of New York Closes Mechanical Void Loophole

After approval by the city council on May 29, 2019, an amendment that stands to noticeably affect the New York City skyline, has been ratified. It comes in the form of an attempt to close a unique loophole in zoning laws that creates taller residential buildings with far less available living space. The Residential Tower Mechanical Voids Text Amendment imposes new regulations on the use of excessive mechanical voids in building construction.

What, Exactly, Are Mechanical Voids, and What Is the Problem? 

Before this amendment, mechanical voids of any kind did not count in the square footage of usable space in a zoning permit. The reason for this is that these voids usually make up floors for storing mechanical equipment for the building and mechanical bulkheads in the tops of some high-rise structures. In a residential space, these entire floors are not habitable and therefore do not count toward the square footage, hence the name “void.” The projected height of a building generally should not be largely different from the finished product. 

This is where the issue of excessive mechanical voids comes into play and what the amendment hopes to do away with in future projects, involving not only the size of singular voids but also how multiple close voids can be in relation to each other. The amendment seeks to address issues such as:

  • Too-tall buildings. With uninhabitable spaces in a high-rise building reaching and exceeding the equivalent of multiple habitable floors, the final structure is far higher than zoning would have otherwise allowed. This poses environmental changes to other parts of the city, such as longer shadows cast on parts of Central Park, as suggested by activists supporting stronger regulations. 
  • Inflated cost of living. These taller buildings in highly demanded corners of the city use these voids to reduce the amount of livable space on lower floors, meaning the available residences are higher up and ultimately cost more. As the discussion around affordable housing in the city of New York continues to rage, the closing of this loophole has become a necessary part of the discussion

Is The New Legislation Enough? What Are Critics Saying? 

While some hail this decision as an essential first step, others say the amendment is not enough. In some cases, this has already led to some slight alterations. For instance, the City of New York website notes that criticism did lead to some changes before the amendment’s final passage. Initially, the minimum allowable height of a mechanical void that would not be counted among usable space in zoning was 25 feet in height, raised to 30 feet to allow a more reasonable amount of space for mechanical equipment. By and large, criticisms come from both sides of the debate: 

  • Not strict enough, say some critics. Gale Brewer, President of the Manhattan Borough, believes the required distance between voids (before they are counted as zoned space) should be increased from 75 feet to 90 feet. City Councilman Ben Kallos suggested that the allowable size of unzoned space for individual voids should cap at 14 feet rather than 30 feet. 
  • Space is needed for growing energy trends. At a time when New York has committed itself to increasing energy efficiency and reducing its carbon footprint, lobbying groups like the Real Estate Board of New York insist that these limitations further limit developers’ ability to incorporate evolving technologies for lowering energy costs. Mechanical equipment, including ventilation systems and batteries, require space. The latter, especially, are growing larger all the time. 

As the debate continues and further restrictions are proposed at the state and local level, the discussion will only continue to evolve just as the city skyline does. For now, whether it reaches unforeseen heights or becomes more down-to-earth discourse remains to be seen.