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22 years on, GF55 partners finds 'overnight success'.

Proclaiming oneself "a New York Architect" can be risky business. Sure, indicating you and your firm is based out of--and surviving in--what is perhaps the most sophisticated and competitive design community in the world has a certain cachet, but it's a cachet that is sometimes served with a dash of contempt.

"I think some clients and contractors, especially those based in other markets, hear 'New York architect' and they instantly picture someone very snooty ... A prima dona," said David A. Gross, AIA, one of three partners at GF55 Partners LLP. "They don't get that with us. We're nice guys and we're easy to work with."

Described as possessing "New York style, without the New York 'tude," GF55 partners David E. Gross AIA, Leonard Fusco AIA and Shay Alster AIA and their staff are making big moves here in town. After 22 years of hard work as a small firm, GF55 Partners LLP has lately become what Gross calls "an overnight success," overseeing a host of multifamily residential projects underway here in New York as well as work in New Jersey, Miami and other markets.

Since 2002, the firm has designed or completed multi-family projects of over 2.5 million s/f, and, currently, GF55 is working on 10 buildings in Harlem alone. Gross said he's enjoying GF55's newfound success and notoriety.

"Leonard and I came here right after school 22 years ago and opened an office like idiots, thinking the clients would just come to us," he said. Instead, the two former University of Pennsylvania classmates discovered they had a lot to learn.

"We didn't understand at first that we needed better exposure to get work," Gross said. "It wasn't until we made the cover of Architecture Digest [in 1996] that things really started to pop for us."

Over the past few years, everything has popped so well for GF55 Partners that they outgrew their Flatiron office, forcing them to double their space on W 21st Street as the number of employees grew to 30. They are also opening an office in Miami. Just recently, GF55 expanded their partnership to include Alster, and renamed the firm GF55 Partners LLP from GF55 Architects LLP. New Senior Associates were also named, Misun Kim and Paul Wang.

Much of GF55's work at present focuses on designing both market rate and affordable housing in rising neighborhoods such as the Harlem and the South Bronx. Gross said he is proud of this work.

"We're creating housing where there wasn't housing before. Almost everything is done on vacant lots," he said. "I think there's a misconception that when you rebuild in poorer areas you are displacing people. Usually, people aren't getting displaced. There's just housing where there wasn't before."

GF55's affordable work is also gaining notoriety. This year they won the NYSAFAH's New York State Association of Affordable Housing's 2006 Project of the Year award for their work on Manhattan Court in New York. Additionally, they recently won the commission by the Greater Jamaica Development Cooperation to build a 3 building 143,000 s/f Urban Design Development in Queens, New York. On the luxury end, one of the firm's high-end residential projects was recently featured in the Robb Report.

The story of GF55, it seems, is the story of the nice guys finally finishing first. Still, Gross recalled, not everyone likes nice.

"We were working for a client in Texas and at the end of the project she said, 'we expected you to be snooty,' and I think she was a little disappointed," Gross joked. "I think she wanted us to fit the stereotype."
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Title Annotation:PROFILE; GF55 Partners LLP
Author:Moran, Tim
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Aug 30, 2006
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