NEW YORK – “There is only one Fifth Avenue,” the guests heard – the same could have been said of Manhattan and New York City – during the annual panel discussion “The State of New York City Development Design and Construction” presented by The Development, Design and Construction Committee of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce (HACC).
New York’s building boom, the envy of the world, continues and Lou Katsos, the chairman of the Committee, was the host and moderator of the informative and entertaining panel on the topic that consisted of Jay Badame, president and CEO of Tishman Construction, Faith Hope Consolo, Chairman, Douglass Elliman’s Retail Leasing and Sales Division, Carlos R. Olivieri, Jr. Sr. VP, Edward Minskoff Equities, Inc. and Martin Piazzola, Sr. VP of Development, Avalon Bay Communities.
Katsos, who has 40 years of major project experience in the New York real estate and construction management market and is president of Jekmar Associates, Inc., a construction and development consulting firm, likes to present “unscripted panels” whose success is indicated by the industry heavy hitters who are panelists and audience members year after year.
The discussion was drive by Katsos’ description of a hypothetical project in the heart of Manhattan’s fabled real estate market, Fifth Avenue in the 50s, in the glorious shadows of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Center.
Each panelist contributed facts and perspectives – property costs, union vs. non-union labor, steel vs. concrete – that fleshed out the fascinating universe of people, markets, technology, and designers, which determines the pros and cons and mix of residential, retail, and commercial properties – hotels are still hot commodities – that will be born on Manhattan’s storied earth.
Badame and Piazzola spoke about the finance dimension and the mindset of investors. The latter also noted that the criteria for picking architects include their mastery of the nuances of New York’s zoning laws with don’t permit much flexibility and thus place a premium on the imagination and experience of the designers.
Olivieri suggested the ideal situation is international “starchitects” who will attract buyers working with local architects “to create a special project.”
Piazzola spoke noted that job growth is the engine of the residential market and Katsos inquired about the upper end of the condo market that has been a lure for the rich of the world. He was told that sales remain strong but the market is not unlimited.
Consolo, whose clients sell the world “denim to diamonds” on Fifth Avenue, described bidding wars among retailers who are desperate to be there. She added that the renaissance of big department stores in Manhattan indicates the market’s confidence in New York’s future – Katsos referred to a tidal wave of Chinese investments. Among the new arrivals will be Neiman-Marcus.
The tourist boom continues, especially driving hotel construction, including a Katsos’ project on Ninth Avenue and 42 Street, the heart of New York’s pre-Astoria Greektown.
Predictions about the Manhattan bubble bursting continue to fall by the wayside. “I thought it would burst by 2015, but I was wrong” Olivieri said. He noted that in New York, as some areas cool off, other get hot, and that outer boroughs are growing faster than Manhattan.
Although he no longer sees a bust, he said the market wills eventual “deflate a little bit.”
Amb. George Iliopoulos, Greece’s consul general in New York, greeted the guests and Nancy Papaioannou, the president of HACC, presented an overview of the organization.
She emphasized the value for its members and the community of the networking opportunities generated by its events. “The free exchange of ideas HACC that facilitates contributes to making the world a better place,” she said.
Katsos expressed his gratitude to the sponsors who enable HACC to host such events free of charge, thus maximizing the Chamber’s ability to support good causes, such as helping the needy in Greece.
Among HACC’s upcoming events that are generating excitement in the community are its “First National Hellenic American Genealogy Conference,” on April 25, from 9AM to 5PM in the Holy Trinity Cathedral Ballroom and the “Archbishop Iakovos Anniversary Musical Tribute to be held on Thursday, April 30 at 7PM at 53rd Street and Lexington Avenue. Admission is free but seating is limited. RSVP by April 15th at [email protected] or (212) 629-6380.