Multifamily Monday: Michael Namer's Trip From Havana to Chelsea
Alfa Development has restarted its 27-unit Village Green West at 245 W 14th St now that it bought air rights, redesigned the building, and won approval for larger floor plates. Hereâ€™s how CEO Michael Namer became NYC's pioneer in sustainable and healthy-living residential development.
We snapped Michael in his West 18th Street office with a rendering of the property. 52 years ago, he and his brother were among the 15,000 children air-lifted out of Havana (he was 8 and Izak was 9) and lived with a foster family in Whittier, Calif., until their parents joined them in SoCal a year later in 1962.
Above is Michael with his dad Sam, son Luke, and brother at Luke's '09 graduation. Sam moved his family to New Jersey in '65, and Michael went to Queens College, graduating in '75 with a double major in business psychology and fine arts. Next step: working for Sam in international commodities trading. In Michael's spare time, though he chased his dream of owning a beach house. He started with a $19k plot of land in Westhampton that Sam bought out of tax foreclosure and a $45k construction loan from his dad. 22-year-old Michael worked on that house nights and weekends from November to May, rented it for $22k/year, paid his dad back, and then built six more. (Our trite New Year's resolutions seem utterly attainable.)
Then came Mexico City. Michael made the trip to research an asset, a GM factory, for his dad's company, and ended up sticking around and working as the general manager. By 1980, Sam was ready to retire and Michael returned to New York and real estate, starting with a small project in Westchester and moving on to one of the first luxury loft conversions, the 30k SF Loft at 130 E 12th St. Michael tells us TV producer Michael Fuchs bought the 7,000k SF penthouse when the project delivered in '84 at $200/SF and still lives there.
Later in the '80s, Michael convinced his brother to leave behind the tenure he'd just earned as an engineering prof at Drexel and join him in the real estate biz—just in time for the '90s recession. Using a letter of credit from Europe, they managed to get a bank loan. They also mortgaged everything they had and bought a big block of space on Sullivan Street in SoHo. They eventually built six buildings on that land, starting with 136 Sullivan. And in '07, they launched their Green Collection. The first project, Village Green, sold out in '09 (again, during a recession). The second, Chelsea Green, sold out in five months in 2012, and it'll deliver in the spring. And now Alfa has launched sales for Village Green West (above, the model lounge in the sales office, where Michael also runs an art gallery).
Izak passed away in 2010, but Michael's still chasing the dream alive with new projects. 199 Mott, which he intended to be a hotel, will go up as condos in Nolita. And Michael did get himself another hotel. Alfa Development bought the Hotel Grand Union at 32nd and Park a year ago and has taken the value-oriented hotel from 2.5 stars to 3.5 stars and raised revenue. And he also tells us he's got other news coming in his go-to submarket of Chelsea soon.