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Developer looks forward to greener pastures ahead.


The project may be dubbed Harlem Green, but its developer is far from green when it comes to navigating projects through tough times.

Entailing a massive redevelopment of a series of buildings along the 125th Street corridor, the mixed-use project's first building is nearing 100% completion.

The 150,000 s/f building is now 80% leased, according to Scott Metzner, principal of Janus Properties. While Metzner remains "nervous" about the economy, he has every reason to believe the 500,000 s/f--once said and done--development will thrive, eventually becoming an "anchor" for West Harlem.

"We've seen steady improvement in this neighborhood and the rest of Upper Manhattan," Metzner said. "We're moving ahead--cautiously."

Metzner said that between Janus Properties' long history of redevelopment in Harlem and the fact this project's been in the pipeline for more than a decade, it will succeed during these tough times. The project, which dates back to 1997, has survived the Dotcom bust and 9/11, thus far, and now Metzner believes it will emerge from the country's biggest post-war recession.

And the redevelopment is a long time coming. The contiguous buildings have been underutilized for more than 50 years. Spanning a three-acre area, the existing buildings offer 300,000 s/f (including Harlem's Mink Building). If the area's rezone passes--which it is expected to--that would bring an additional 200,000 s/f to the project.

Pending the outcome of that rezone, the configuration of office and retail is still a work in progress. "We don't necessarily feel the first few floors have to be retail," Metzner noted.

Janus, a well-capitalized and long-time developer in the Harlem market, has already inked leases for tenants like Reflective X-Ray Optics, State Supply (a theatrical prop company), a mattress retailer and a non-profit arts group. While the scope of the development's retail has yet to be finalized, Metzner sees a variety of non-traditional uses in Harlem Green's future; he said the site is ideal for cafes, clubs and galleries.

"This is an exciting opportunity for tenants that have been historically located in Midtown or Downtown, or even outside the city, to be a part of one of Manhattan's most dynamic neighborhoods ... the property is well positioned for a broad group of users," said Newmark Knight Frank executive managing director Arthur Draznin, who's handling the retail assignment.

Once complete, Metzner believes the development, situated on 125th Street on Amsterdam Avenue and West 126th Street, could prove quite a bargain, piggybacking on Columbia University's major 17-acre expansion. With new student-driven amenities and rents that will surely rise after the school's new additions, Harlem Green presents tenants with affordable opportunities today--and that's one reason he sees the site finding success despite the troubling economy.

Asking rents start at $25-35 psf (higher for retail space) and qualifying tenants have a variety programs to take advantage of including, Relocation Employee Assistance, Commercial Rent Tax Abatement, energy programs, a foregoing of commercial occupancy tax and others.

The mixed-use project consists of office, retail and light manufacturing space. The developer, which is also working with the city on creating a masterplan, says some Harlem Green buildings are three to five years away from being fully rehabbed and operational.

But Metzner anticipates completing 65% of the project by next fall and he remains bullish on the leasing front; he expects to close two other deals with tenants in the next 60 days.
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Comment:Developer looks forward to greener pastures ahead.
Author:Turcotte, Jason
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Mar 18, 2009
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