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Consultants rise above market lows.

Profile/Levien-Rich Associates, Inc.

Consultants rise above market lows

After 53 years in the construction business, Maurice B. Levien, president, Levien-Rich Associates, Inc. knows that the market is cyclical.

Two months ago, Levien and partner E. Roy Rich regained control of their construction consulting firm from their former parent, the now-bankrupt Laventhol & Horwath.

The firm was purchased by the accounting giant in 1987. The merger, Levien hoped, would provide a broader base of clients and help them "even out the cycles a bit." But when the company went bankrupt last year, it was Levien & Rich that rose above the tide. According to Levien, their company didn't miss a beat. They formed a new corporation and kept every commitment to every project and every client.

"We helped them more than they helped us," said Levien who received his engineering degree in 1938.

The partners are back in business -- two New York offices and locations in Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles -- with a slightly changed name for legal purposes Levien, Rich & Co. is now Levien-Rich Associates.

"Bankruptcy is a very intricate, complicated procedure," he said. "So we had to make a deal to get our business back."

Levien-Rich's staff of architects and engineers representing each discipline, do between 250 and 300 assignments per year advising commercial banks and savings institutions, real estate owners and developers, real estate investment trusts, law firms, insurance companies, pension funds, and Wall Street firms.

For the construction lender, the firm reviews plans, specifications, construction cost budgets and other pre-closing documents, then inspects the project monthly to insure adherence to contract plans and specifications, quality of workmanship, and accuracy of payments for draw requests. For the "takeout" or permanent lender, they check that the final construction is what it should be and that there are no potential problems. They review existing structures for refinancing and for purchase, representing the lender in the former and prospective purchaser in the latter case. Levien said they are currently providing a lot of litigation support for attorneys and helping banks complete their workouts.

"Anyone involved in real estate or construction is a potential client for us."

Levien-Rich has lent its expertise to such New York-area projects as Tower 49, 425 Lexington Avenue, 1155 Avenue of the Americas, the International Design Center of New York in Long Island City, 88 Pine Street, 100 Wall Street, a rehab of the former J.C. Penney Building at 1301 Avenue of the Americas.

The firm has consulted on many of the major new developments on the New Jersey Gold Coast -- 101 Hudson Street, Harborside Financial Center, Newport City.

Others around the country include: Turnberry Isle in North Miami, Embarcadero Center West in San Francisco (an office building, hotel and gut rehab of the former Federal Reserve Building, 9 Penn Center in Philadelphia, the 53-story Place St. Charles in New Orleans and Nikko Hotels in Chicago and Atlanta.

Among the major due diligence inspections are: 919 Third Avenue, the Parker Meridian Hotel, and a complete inspection and report for the purchase of the Plaza Hotel in New York City by the joint venture of the Bass Organization and Aoki of Japan. They were also consultants to Integrated Resources on the purchase of the 3 million-square-foot U.S. Steel Building in Pittsburgh.

While they work with most of the major banks in the United States and many pension funds -- Manufacturers Hanover Trust, Bankers Trust, Bank of New York, New York State Employees Retirement System, the American banks, Levien said, "are almost out of the market" and the foreign banks have taken over the scene.

"The American banks are so loaded down with bad loans so today they're concerned with their workouts," he said. "They're not looking for new loans."

Levien-Rich has worked with many of the biggest Japanese banks and institutions. Levien said each of the banks has a number of divisions that are players and there is actually competition between them.

"It's a whole new ball game now," he said.

The firm has worked with Sumitomo, Mitsui-Taiyo Kobe, Fuji, Yasuda Trust, Mitsubishi, and Dai-Ichi Kangyo. They are currently working on two sports arenas -- in Tampa and Phoenix -- for Fuji Bank.

Canadian institutions they have consulted for include: Bank of Montreal, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Toronto Dominion Bank, National Bank of Canada, and Bank of Nova Scotia.

European clients include: Union Bank of Switzerland, Swiss Bank, Barclay's, Banque Nacional de Paris, Banque Paribas.

Current projects are: Ritz Carltons in Marina Del Rey, McLean, Virginia, and Palm Beach, Florida; Hiltons in Minneapolis, Huntington Beach, California, and Pasadena; a shopping plaza at 2 Rodeo Drive; the Bell Data Center in Illinois; 225 Wacker Drive, a 35-story office building in Chicago; Sheraton Convention Center Hotel in Chicago.

The firm is now headquartered in Port Chester while maintaining a business development office in the Graybar Building in Manhattan, as well as offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.

The Port Chester location at One Gateway Plaza, Levien said, allows for the expansion and flexibility needed for their new environmental services. Environmental elements -- asbestos, air and soil quality -- are of greater concern today, Levien said. This will enable clients to do "one-stop shopping" and serve their structural and environmental consulting needs.

"We believe that our clients can be better served if we provide for all their technical needs, including asbestos investigations, Phase I and 2 environmental studies, underground storage tank closures, and removal supervision."

The firm, Levien said, has evolved from the general contracting firm started by his father Max in 1915. Max Levien later branched into the development of large apartments buildings in the boom of the 1920's. Maurice joined his father after World War II. In the 60's and 70's, the firm did a big architectural design practice. During that period, they designed about 90 shopping centers including most of the Korvettes stores in the metro area and the midwest.

Levien-Rich is happy to be restarting its seminars for the banking community. On June 13, in Beverly Hills at the Beverly Hills Hotel there will be a luncheon and afternoon seminar. And in New York on June 20, at the Hotel Macklowe they will sponsor a breakfast and morning seminar.

PHOTO : Maurine B. Levien, president
COPYRIGHT 1991 Hagedorn Publication
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Title Annotation:Levien-Rich Associates Inc.
Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:company profile
Date:Jun 12, 1991
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