Monthly Archives: March 2020

The Nassau Hub—Years in the Making and Still Taking Shape

BSE Global and RXR Realty have been hard at work for some time now, creating their vision of a “new suburbia”around the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The land waiting to transform presently makes up around 70 acres of parking lots, and the dream is a mixed-mixed use, walkable downtown area. 

RXR Realty is behind a number of major developments in the New York City metro area. The firm manages a wide array of commercial properties and investments, as well as numerous multi-family residential developments. BSE Global specializes in innovative entertainment venues, overseeing properties like Barclays Center, NYCB Live, and LIU Brooklyn Paramount Theatre. Combining their joint efforts, investors and locals alike hope to see the area around the Coliseum booming with economic activity among visitors and residents alike. 

What’s Been Keeping the Nassau Hub Project So Delayed?

There were previous attempts to develop the land, most notably the Lighthouse Project in 2004, just one effort by Nassau County in the ensuing years to revitalize the area, so the forward momentum in the current project is encouraging. 

The current plan helmed by BSE Global and RXR Realty first took root in September of 2018 when the initial plans were released to the public. The ball did not begin to roll, however, until December of that year, when the Nassau County Legislature passed the development plan agreement. The efforts to fund the project since have been the work of just over a year, all told, with the latest news showing the first major kickoff will be the construction of parking garages, recently funded from the state. 

The Nassau Hub: The Vision and What Remains

The finished site, presently dubbed the Hub Innovation District, will leave the heart of Nassau County with more than just the Coliseum that these efforts will grow around. It will combine housing, retail, and outdoor green space, placing new residents and businesses within mere steps of local sports. The 2020 master plan includes the following features

  • Two parking garages with 6,000+ spaces total, as well as around 6,000 offsite parking spaces for Hub patrons. 
  • Additional entertainment venues including an 600-seat multiplex, multiple restaurants, and a 57,000 square foot performing arts center.
  • An 850-room hotel complex. 
  • An anchor tenant in Northwell Health, who will construct a research and development center. 
  • Multiple retail and office spaces. 
  • Three residential spaces, totaling 500 housing units, each measuring around 1250 square feet, aimed at keeping millennials and working-class locals in the county.
  • Outdoor green space for leisure and pedestrian travel.

Reports in the last month have suggested that one of the next major steps in the Nassau Hub development is to pass its town review. Developers are seeking permission to rezone, finishing an environmental assessment, and presenting multiple blueprints. BSE and RXR are hoping to break ground a year from now at the latest and as soon as the end of this 2020. There are plans even beyond completion to continue building to bring in more retail and office spaces.

Coronavirus Response Suspends Some Construction; NY and NJ Governors Cite Need for Building Medical Facilities

As of 9 a.m. Tuesday March 17

For most companies in the construction industry, it remains business as usual with bid openings and construction continuing, states are stepping in to suspend some projects as part of the extraordinary measures being taken to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is suspending all construction projects through March 30, but PennDOT crews will be available for “critical functions and emergency maintenance.”

In Bergen County, NJ, county executive Jim Tedesco ordered all construction suspended and utility roadwork done only in emergency situations. It remains to be seen if this is enforceable or companies will follow Tedesco’s order or fight it.

But while non-emergency construction was being suspended in some places, the governors of New York and New Jersey are looking to turn college dorms, former nursing homes and other buildings into medical facilities to treat patients as hospitals are expected to be overwhelmed. Private developers, construction workers, and the National Guard are expected to be needed for these emergency projects. The plan is currently a backup in case the federal government does not meet his request to send the Army Corps of Engineers to build temporary hospitals.

Before state and local governments began enacting these more extreme measures to “flatten the curve” of the spread of the disease and its impact on hospitals, there have been reports of specific sites across the country shutting down after a worker tested positive and companies taking precautions to keep workers safe.

The Associated General Contractors has a webpage dedicated to the virus with information about symptoms and what constitutes a reportable workplace illness. “AGC will continue to monitor the situation and update the information on this page accordingly,” the site said.

Over the weekend, the Centers for Disease Control recommended no groups with more than 50 people for approximately eight weeks.

Coronavirus Impact on the Construction Industry

The impact of the coronavirus will likely be felt in every industry, and while the extent of the impact is unknown as the situation evolves quickly around the world, construction was already taking a hit.

Before the public became aware of people testing positive in the United States, a slowdown in the production of supplies in China was already raising costs. U.S. construction companies import about 30 percent of their building products from China. It is the largest importer of construction materials to the U.S. As the Chinese government shut down factories, a manufacturing decline was already creating supply issues and driving up prices for American companies.

Now, the crisis has hit the U.S. and there is further uncertainty in an industry that was already getting mixed messages.

The U.S. Construction Outlook report for 2020 put out by commercial real estate and development firm Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. reported that industry volume and hiring would be flat this year. It also predicted growth for companies that work for the government on projects related to schools, healthcare, and transportation. That report was released last week.

At this point, there is no way to predict the construction man-hours that might be lost to illness or what the brewing economic crisis, caused in part by the global pandemic, might do to future projects. The situation seems to change by the hour and right now industry professionals can only have a plan for the possible effects and wait and see.

Hell’s Kitchen Condo, The West, Tops Out and Approaches Completion

Adding a unique silhouette to the skyline, a new condominium project appears to be edging toward a finish line, with construction topping out in February and its first renderings released to the public only a month prior. Dubbed the West, its design comes from the revered dutch architectural firm, Concrete, and this is reported to be their first condo development in the New York City area. Good press has surrounded a number of their other designs, including the Urby residents in Jersey City and Staten Island, as well as the first Virgin Cruise ship. 

What Are the Basic Details of the Project? 

Helmed by the joint efforts of CB Developers, SK Development and Ironstate Development under the name CBSK Ironstate, the finished, 12-story building will feature modern amenities akin to their Urby developments, but also going beyond them. The overall design aims to bring to mind the area’s historical ties to industry, with large windows, Dutch brick on the facade, and a clean, modern aesthetic, with features (and 25,000 square feet of amenities) that include:

  • 219 homes, ranging from single studios to sprawling 3-bedroom condos (the latter of which will have their own outdoor spaces).
  • A communal kitchen, cleverly called Hell’s Kitchen
  • A dog run for pet owners as well as a pet grooming station
  • A children’s play area
  • Bookable guest suites for visitors.
  • A rooftop swimming pool
  • A yoga studio
  • A gymnasium, and more. 

Most notable, and the aspect that most recently topped out, is the Cloud, the upper five stories of the building, which are distinct from the lower portion in their appearance of a geometric, floating living space. The all-glass facade is home to the condominium’s largest residences. Many of them have their own private terraces and will probably command the largest price tags. Starting prices are at $820,000 for a studio

What Remains to be Completed? 

Photos in late January showed the mere skeleton of the entire structure, and against the earlier-revealed renderings, it may be easier to visualize its image on completion. Construction continues as the facade, and the many interiors are assembled. With the bones of the Cloud in place and the building at its final apex, the complete picture can now begin to take shape. This will not just include wiring, windows, and walls that passerby can already see coming into view, but also the extensive level of landscaping, plumbing, and top-of-the-line materials and fixtures that condominiums of this value can be expected to have. 

Construction is expected to finish this year. Sales are set to begin in the Spring, ideally when enough units have been finished to offer a clearer picture of what the majority of units will look like. Since it is likely that the larger, more luxurious homes are situated up in the Cloud, they may wait to unveil until the upper floors are nearer to finished. New residents will be able to move in starting in early 2021.

Governor Spotlights Portal Bridge, Affordable Housing in NJ Budget Address

New Jersey governor Phil Murphy’s 2021 budget address last week was called “Building on Our Progress,” There wasn’t a lot of literal building highlighted in the speech outlining his administration’s priorities in the FY2021 budget, but he did mention a couple of construction related priorities.

First and foremost is the Portal Bridge. Of course, the Gateway Tunnel and Portal Bridge projects have been a huge source of conversation and controversy. The desperately needed repairs and new tunnel require federal funding that is being withheld by the Trump administration. But in February, the Federal Transit Administration raised the rating on the portal bridge replacement project to “medium-high,” making it eligible for federal funding. Of course, there are still hurdles to clear. A grant needs to be approved and a check written, but it looks like the rating will pave the way for that to happen. And that is definitely good news.

“With the federal government’s long-awaited green-lighting of the Portal Bridge replacement, we are finally moving forward in alleviating one of NJ TRANSIT’s commuters’ other headaches – wondering if a cranky, obsolete, century-old bridge is going to hold it together for another day,” Murphy said in his address.

He called it a “big victory” not only for commuters but “the building trades” and a “state whose economic lifeblood can only flow with modern infrastructure.”

Murphy, though, didn’t miss the opportunity to note the larger project that still needs to be approved.

“The Portal Bridge is just one part of a much larger project,” he said. “One new span doesn’t in any way eliminate the need for new tunnels under the Hudson and it in no way signals our retreat in the fight to get Gateway done.”

The other construction priority set by Murphy centered on affordable housing, as he noted the budget allocates at least $60 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to support NJ municipalities in developing affordable housing in their area.

Hicksville Downtown on Long Island Primed for Renovations

While many small villages and hamlets in the Long Island area have been undergoing massive upgrades, in Oyster Bay on Long Island, the downtown area of Hicksville has long awaited its opportunity for similar updates. A mixture of development delays and a lack of funds have left the most active railroad hub on the island locked in a bygone time, with crumbling facades and outdated buildings. It seems that at long last, Hicksville’s day has come, and several sources have come together to begin an overhaul that aims to transform the face of Hicksville’s downtown area for the better. 

A Template for the Future Downtown Hicksville

In late February, CBS reported that Hicksville marked the establishment of what they called their first “smart-growth” development in the downtown area. The previously vacant building had been reworked into a mixed-use space that has become popular in communities all over the metro area: shared workspace, with 18 new apartments situated above. Officials stated their belief that this would be the template for the renovations to come: a downtown area that is lived and worked in and alive. 

What Is Contributing to the Funding of the Hicksville Renovation?

Much of Hicksville’s upgrades are tied to its proximity to the Hicksville Long Island Railroad Station, so not surprisingly, part of this funding is coming straight from the Metro Transit Authority, including roughly $132 million invested in the station itself. Other sources report that Oyster Bay is in talks with the MTA to construct commuter parking near the station. 

This is not all, however. The Nassau County Office of Community Development has provided a $150,000 grant for “transit-oriented” improvements. Another, larger grant is coming from the New York State Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) nearing $10 million will help to fund the project going forward. 

What Are Some of the Major Details on This Project?

The renovation as it kicks off is going to call for a number of different, smaller projects that are needed to create the community vision that leaders and residents share alike. 

  • At least 10 new buildings are to be constructed in the area. 
  • One property adjacent to the Hicksville LIRR has recently been offered up as a space for potential “residential transit-oriented development.” 
  • The overall plans will incorporate increased access to transportation, including the upgrades to the transit areas like that proposed commuter parking, a “walkable” downtown map, and residences closer to the train station. 
  • New housing opportunities are attached at nearly every level of this, whether through mixed-use properties or the pressing for more homes for rent rather than for sale. 

In all of this, locals have emphasized a desire to maintain a more suburban look to the place and are generally averse to high raises and other new developments that feel more like what you find in larger nearby cities. For those firms pulled in to take part in the planning as they go forward, this may call for a little creativity.