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February 18, 2014
Three West Side Hotel Game Changers
Architect Gene Kaufman is designing McSam Hotel Group's 350 W 40th and 326 W 37th—both expected to break ground next quarter and fly national-brand flags. Here's what to expect from the newest hotels on Manhattan's West Side.
1) Privacy and activity in one
On Friday, we snapped Gene with a few of his models in his 525 Broadway office, where he told us tourists and weekend guests want to be part of the bustling Times Square. Privacy isn't achievable in such a dense area, though a sense of privacy is, he says. So the 600-key 350 W 40th (on the site of an old parking garage between Eighth and Ninth) will have a 90-foot-tall lattice (a grid that mimics Manhattan's streets) grown over with ivy, which still lets guests steal glimpses of the buzzing neighborhood outside.
2) New destinations
326 W 37th (also between Eighth and Ninth) is two doors west of a Homewood Suites that Gene designed and that will open in April, and a Courtyard by Marriott just opened across the street. He says the Garment District, like Chelsea a few years ago, had been neglected for a while and now is finding higher and better uses (like a pair of old slacks turned into drapes). North, on 39th, where once there was no reason to walk the block, he's opened a Candlewood Suites, Holiday Inn Express, and Hampton Inn all side by side (which we snapped this afternoon), and SoHo chocolatier Kee's has opened a second location (guess what Gene's wife got for Valentine's Day).
3) Contributing to the neighborhood
In the next wave of projects, Gene's looking for ways to replace the retail, restaurants, and parking that redevelopment has taken from the area. At McSam's L-shaped Holiday Inn at 585 Eighth Ave (which we snapped today), for instance, a plaza will go in along the avenue, and a restaurant (independent from the hotel) that's larger than the 288 rooms call for will go in on the street.
Here's Gene's most expensive hotel: A duplicate of this one-quarter SF birdhouse, designed on behalf of Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman & Associates (he's also a principal in that firm), sold at a recent charity fundraiser for $4,000, or $16k/SF. Gene's first hotel, in 1997, was the second for McSam chairman Sam Chang. Gene was close to finalizing a residential design for a project near South Street Seaport when the developer sold the 320 Pearl St site to Sam. The seller told Gene he was doing Gene a favor, because McSam would become his biggest client. He turned out to be right; Gene has designed more than 50 hotels for Sam, and his firm does one or two hotels a month.
BRIAN STEINWURTZEL, 36, Newmark Family Properties
Along with his cousin Eric Gural, Brian helps run Newmark Family Properties' $3B, 8.5M SF of holdings for the Gural family, the third-generation former owner of brokerage Newmark Grubb Knight Frank.
The portfolio consists primarily of Manhattan offices, around 40 assets or interests like the Flatiron Building and 230 Fifth in NoMad, the Film Center Building in Hell's Kitchen, and others in prime submarkets like Union Square, SoHo, and Hudson Square. The cousins' grandfather, Aaron Gural, who died at 91 just four years ago, was the one who bought Newmark and started picking up personal real estate. The cousins often had lunch with him at Sardi's or the old Jezebel at Ninth and 44th, and he would tell them, with a smile: "Your job is not to make a fortune but not to lose it."
He would be proud: Like Eric's father Jeffrey before them, they've worked to institutionalize the family holdings, using low leverage to survive cycles and cash flow to add buildings, doing just a deal or two every year and rarely selling.
Eric's forte is leasing, while Brian's is acquisitions, dispositions, and financing. Together their focus has been repositioning and creating new value in old buildings, turning manufacturing space into state-of-the-art tech and media offices while creating high-foot-traffic retail frontage by relocating lobby/core areas away from tourist traffic to quieter, new entrances.
The result is cool retail brands like Desigual and Converse and restaurants like Coffee Shop in Union Square and The Smith's new location in NoMad. They've done this while remaining true to Jeffrey's mission to help not-for-profit tenants find affordable space.
Brian's first experience at Newmark was a summer job at age 16 collecting rent in the Garment District when crime was still high and tenants tended to pay with cash in paper bags.
Growing up in suburban DC, where his mother (Aaron's daughter) was a French translator, he spent a lot of time trying not to be in the real estate business because in the late '80s and early '90s, it wasn't doing well. He went to Washington University and worked in the tech consulting division for PwC, then for a Goldman Sachs tech startup.
But at Columbia Business School, he got hooked on real estate, as many of the top players like Mike Fascitelli, Sam Zell, and Paul Pariser would appear in his classrooms and tell about their exploits.
An avid tennis and basketball player, golfer, and occasional Autocross racer, he's got 5- and 1-year-old daughters and lives in a small town on the Hudson where on Friday nights during the warmer months they close down the streets for farmers' markets and the high school band.
New Plan for Houston's BP Station
LargaVista and Related will break ground within a year to replace the BP gas station and the two lots south of it on Houston between Lafayette and Crosby with an 83k SF retail and office condo building. LargaVista president Marcello Porcelli tells us the rare-for-SoHo large floor spans at 300 Lafayette St will give a global retailer the flexibility it needs to create a brand-defining flagship (three stories). The developers are targeting discriminating pros who shop for office space like they do for their homes—on a total cost rather than per SF basis. The two-story penthouse, he says, will have 6,000 SF of wrap-around outdoor space and an indoor/outdoor fireplace. CookFox Architects will design both components, and the building will deliver within three years. CBRE's Mary Ann Tighe, Tom Duke, Greg Tosko, and Lauren Crowley repped LargaVista.
YOU TELL US: Should Fido Be Welcome?
Dogs seem as ubiquitous as interns in some office buildings (though we haven't been as successful in training the latter to fetch our coffee). We've also seen cats sprawled across lobby desks and Fluffy faithfully trailing his owner in the supermarket's canned food aisle. It's a common sight in tech and creative strongholds, but is it a trend we shouldembrace? Or should owners leave their furry friends at home? Tell us how pets impact you by clicking our survey.