Shawmut Design and Construction
On Tuesday, January 12th SMPS-NY held its annual client panel at the CUNY Graduate Center. Moderator Russell A. Davidson, FAIA, 2016 AIA President, started with a question about the global economy and its relationship to New York City. Catherine Dannenbring, Director of Development for Thor Equities, answered that there were signs of global instability, but NYC is still viewed as a safe investment internationally, though there has been some softening at the super luxury end of the market. Frank J. Sciame, Jr., President of Sciame Development, commented that $40 billion of construction was put in place in 2015 and projected for 2016 and Governor Cuomo has commissioned $100 billion of infrastructure work. Yet, 432 Park Avenue is dividing floors because they can’t attract enough buyers for full floors at the luxe tower.
Mitchell Korbey, Esq., Partner at Herrick, Feinstein LLP, mentioned that the city is at the peak of its population and we shouldn’t fear density and taller buildings. New York has more students than the entire population of Boston and they stay and want to stay in the city. Richard Bearak, Land Use Director, Office of the President of the Borough of Brooklyn, said there has been resurgence in population in areas outside of Williamsburg with many Millennials living with roommates, allowing them to pay more in rent. Frank said more micro apartments could be a solution to keep Millennials here in the city instead of having them move out to the suburbs. Kristen Richards, Hon. AIA, Hon. ASLA, Editor-in-Chief of ArchNewsNow.com and Oculus Magazine, stressed that people the world over know Brooklyn and specifically Williamsburg as a cool, hip place. Catherine mentioned that Queens, with its Night Market, is another place that is growing, but to continue to do so transit and infrastructure have to expand.
Richard remarked that affordable housing is still a huge issue for the city – many projects stalled in 2007 and there is still need to increase the affordable housing stock. Mitchell stated this is a big challenge that requires changes to the tax policy, adjustments to the building code and smaller units in order to make a big impact. Healthcare also continues to grow; hospitals want to expand and stay in the city. Mitchell said educational institutions such as NYU and Columbia need to be allowed to grow, they are important to the economy as a source of new thinking and innovation from their students and graduates. Kristen noted that schools are making an effort to become a part of their neighborhoods by taking down fences, inviting the neighbors in for events and adapting older buildings for new uses. Mitchell mentioned WOOFs (Well Off Old Folks), those in their 70’s and 80’s who move into or stay in the city to take advantage of the cultural attractions, healthcare and 24-hour home delivery of almost everything. Catherine mentioned that those in the gap between the Millennials and the WOOFs, the people with young families, are often overlooked. Schools are overcrowded; if families live outside the city the parents face multi-hour commutes to their jobs. Frank said better rail service and shuttle buses can assist, but Catherine countered that the transportation needs to be reliable, delays and breakdowns are extremely common and frustrating for those with long commutes. Russell emphasized that it’s a regional economy and the city and the suburbs must work together to solve these issues.
In closing, Russell said there is a projected shortage of architects and engineers in the near future with a surplus of work in the region. Catherine said the visual communication architects offer to clients and builders is extremely powerful and the way to win work is to be on top of your game in regards to new technologies and creativity around cost constraints. Frank emphasized that value engineering doesn’t have to be a bad thing – if clients, architects and construction managers collaborate they can find the way to a win-win.
for photos from the event!