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December 29, 2008



Until six months ago, design was all about opulence and making a statement. That’s changing, GreenbergFarrow principal Navid Maqami told us recently at his West 28th Street office.


Now, clients are focusing on saving money, space, and energy. One of the firm’s residential projects has changed from condos and rentals with generous amenities packages to mostly apartments that maximize rentable units and minimize cost. He sees this efficiency awareness as far away as Dubai, once the center of architectural lavishness.


This mindset may affect GreenbergFarrow’s ongoing New York projects  as retailers worry about the economy, he says. In the meantime, the firm has quite a portfolio ready to deliver: 400k-SF Sherman Plaza, a 20-story mixed-use residential, office, and retail development in Upper Manhattan; 500k-SF East River Plaza in Harlem; 241k-SF Fordham Place office/retail tower at East Fordham Road and Webster Avenue in the Bronx; 1M-SF, 16.5-acre Gateway Center at Bronx Terminal Market in Hunts Point; and the 21-condo/retail Zinc Building at 475 Greenwich St. in TriBeCa (see spiffy model above).


Navid with colleagues Alejandro Cabrera, Joseph Chou, Sara Ngan, Eugene Klein, David Gagne, Stephany Santiago Selles and Hayk Arustamyan. The firm is also working on the renovation of the Manhattan Mall and Toll Brothers’ mixed-used project on the Gowanus Canal, among others. Overall, it has 11 New York projects under construction and 16 in design. With all these under his belt, it’s a wonder Navid has any time for relaxation, but he and his family enjoy vacations to Europe, scuba diving, and skiing (he hit the slopes for the holidays).


September and October were thin months, but November and December have been very encouraging for strictly seller-rep firm Massey Knakal, according to vice chair John Ciraulo, whom we met in his Madison Avenue office. And he bears good news for the new year: transactions will pick up soon, since there are sellers who need to get assets off the books and cash buyers waiting at the sidelines. In the past two months, the firm has signed double the contracts it has in previous months, which means money should be coming in within 30-90 days. It’s still not at the level of 2007, but there are sellers who want out of real estate and others forced to sell. There will also be some price reductions.


Plenty of buyers are looking at transactions, he says. Massey Knakal recently negotiated a two-building apartment package sale in Chelsea, which attracted 15 bidders, two whom were prepared to pay full price. And on East 15th Street on Stuyvesant Square, three users bid up a 7,500-SF vacant townhouse to over $5M—a great number, he says. Overall, rent-stabilized apartment buildings will be the most attractive, since they have upside and are safety nets for owners; fair market apartment buildings, less so; and B and C office buildings now need to be priced right as fewer investors think rents will increase in coming years. Owners who need to sell will see continued activity in all property classes, although pricing is sensitive in some cases, he adds. In the meantime, John took a break to enjoy Christmas at home with his family in New Jersey, with a possible family ski trip to Vermont.

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