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Silverstein Tosses Chips Into NYC Casino Race With 1.8M SF West Side Proposal

The table of players in New York City’s casino race is getting more crowded.

Silverstein Properties, the developer of the World Trade Center complex, is proposing a 1.8M SF, two-tower hotel and casino on a site near the Javits Center in a bid for one of the few available downstate New York casino licenses.

A rendering of the Avenir, Silverstein Properties' proposed 1.8M SF casino and entertainment complex on 41st Street and 11th Avenue.

But the developer could face tough competition, with Related, SL Green, Thor Equities, Vornado, RXR Realty, the Soloviev Group and even Saks Fifth Avenue already in the game.

Silverstein announced its proposal, to be called the Avenir, would be on a vacant, 92K SF site on 41st Street and 11th Avenue that it owns. Silverstein is partnering with Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, which owns and operates Pennsylvania’s Parx Casino, the one of the state's highest-grossing casinos. It will also work with Las Vegas-based entertainment architect Steelman Partners and CetraRuddy, whose portfolio includes One Madison.

The Avenir would be composed of 1,000 luxury hotel rooms, a 1,000-seat performance hall on the complex’s top floor, 12 restaurants, and a public sky bridge between two towers, which will each be 46 stories high. Silverstein said it would employ 9,500 union workers for the project, 4,000 of whom will be in construction and the remaining 5,500 permanent employees.

The proposal also has a residential component, proposing at least 100 affordable units for residential use, but it does not specify the total number of apartments or income-restricted units it would add to the area.

In a statement, Silverstein Properties Chairman Larry Silverstein said casino development will help the city confront the challenges it is currently facing with budget shortfalls, commercial real estate’s tremors and concerns over housing supply.

“I’ve always said you should never bet against New York,” Silverstein said in the statement. “This City and State will come back bigger and better than ever before.”

Silverstein intends to lean on its own expertise for the housing and hotel components of its proposal, citing two Four Seasons projects as examples of its expertise in the hotel space. The developer also pointed to its history in the area near the Avenir’s proposed site, with developments including River Place, the 921-unit residential development at 650 West 42nd St., as well as its recent success winning a hard-fought battle for approval for its $2B, 1,436-unit Innovation QNS project in Astoria.

A rendering of the Avenir

The site is shovel-ready, and its location lends itself to minimal construction-related congestion, residential or commercial displacement, according to a release issued by Silverstein Properties. The site is just a few blocks north of Related Cos.' proposal to develop a casino resort as part of the second phase of Hudson Yards with Wynn Resorts.

Competing with Silverstein and Related on the west side of Manhattan, Vornado is looking at a site that could be part of the Penn Station redevelopment plan. In Times Square, SL Green has teamed up with Caesars Entertainment and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation on an entertainment-centered casino proposal on Broadway.

The Soloviev Group is also in the mix, with a proposed casino and museum on its vacant site near the United Nations headquarters on the east side of Manhattan, while Saks Fifth Avenue parent company Hudson's Bay Co. wants to redevelop the top floors of the department store near Rockefeller Center.

Several casino proposals also look farther afield. Thor Equities’ proposal targets Brooklyn’s Coney Island for its site, while New York Mets owner Steve Cohen reportedly hopes to put a casino near Citi Field in Queens’ Willets Point neighborhood. The Las Vegas Sands is also hoping for a shot at the license, signing a 99-year ground lease with the Nassau Coliseum in partnership with RXR Realty.

New York state approved casinos in New York a decade ago, allowing for seven licenses in total, but the upstate casinos, which were approved first, are so far failing to deliver on their expected revenue by dramatic percentages.

Three downstate licenses are available, and the buy-in is steep: There’s a $500M license fee and a $500M investment. Resorts World Casino in Queens and Empire City Casino in Yonkers are expected to capture two of the licenses, leaving the who's who of development giants battling for one jackpot.

But it's unclear what the appetite for a casino in the Big Apple would be, as it would be competing with a vast array of other options such as Broadway shows, nightclubs, live music and comedy, for entertainment consumers’ dollars.