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On-site developer finds best results.

The key to getting a project completed on time and within budget is for the developer himself to be on the job, says Alan B. Friedberg.

Being at his projects, explained Friedberg, the president of The Alan B. Friedberg Development Corporation, enables him to be available to and over-see his contractors and to be accountable to institutional investors. He can also be involved in the myriad of decisions that arise, many of them financial.

"Sometimes there's no money involved," said Friedberg, who has developed a number of residential high-rises in Manhattan and New Jersey. "Sometimes it's a design decision, but I want myself behind that too."

The veteran developer is able to devote so much time to his projects because he generally concentrates on one at a time. Friedberg spoke to REW from his on-site office at his latest pre-occupation, a 16-story apartment hotel he is developing on Manhattan's East Side.

Friedberg has worked closely with engineers, architects, and construction crews on the $15 million project, a rehab of the former Hotel Sutton built in 1928 that had been closed since 1982. He says he selected all the professionals associated with the project; assessed all costs and budgets; and supervised every facet of the construction process. And he coordinated with Brennan Beer Gorman Monk/Interiors, the interior designers for the venture, in selecting each piece of furniture, the fabrics and accessories.

"I feel that I'm needed on site," he said.

Few Competitors

When completed, The Sutton, at 330 East 56th Street in the Sutton Place district of Manhattan, will contain 84 totally furnished apartments, with kitchens, and offer the complete range of services found in a first-class hotel.

The units are being targeted to corporations and diplomats for a minimum of 30-day stays. Friedberg believes the units offer corporations flexibility because they don't have to tie up their cash in a co-op.

"It's an easy thing, from my perspective, for the corporation to handle," he said.

Rates range from $4,000 to $7,000 for a one-bedroom suite; $7,500 to $8,500 for a two-bedroom; and $3,500 to $4,200 for a limited number of studios.

That works out to roughly $150 per day for a suite, offering, Friedberg believes, a reasonable alternative to a full-service hotel in Manhattan.

"To get a suite for $150 a day |ain't' going to happen," said Friedberg.

Among the planned services are: a multi-lingual staff, fax machines, valet parking, two-line telephones, and a private health club for guests. There will be a restaurant/bar located off the lobby and room service will be available to guests.

The developer said he has maintained much of the building's original flavor. He redid the first two floors of the facade to blend with the existing limestone and added a bronze marquis. He also added 75 new windows to one side of the building that had faced another structure when built.

Friedberg said he decided to go with an apartment hotel because New York did not need another hotel and he saw few potential competitors for this product. The Bristol Plaza on 65th Street is one of the few dedicated apartment hotels in the city. And, while a number of hotels, such as the Waldorf and The Mayfair, have allocated a number of rooms for extended stay, they do not offer kitchens.

"I always smelt that there was a need for one so I wanted to do the whole building," he said.

The owner of The Sutton is 330 East 56th Street, Inc., a subsidiary of a Hong Kong and Shanghai-based developer and manager of hotels in the Asian and the United States, which acquired the property in mid-1990. The apartment hotel will be operated by Sovereign Management Corp., a New York-based management firm.

From Service To Development

After graduating from New York University, Friedberg got his start in real estate as a rental agent in 1955. In 1958 at the age of 25, he co-founded Charles H. Greenthal and Co., Inc. to do rentals and sales -- mostly rentals in those days, he says -- for major developers. This is where he learned the value of the "hands-on" approach, he said.

"I did this really on a very personal basis," he said. "I really watched it like my own."

In 1968, he resigned from Greenthal, as a principal, and formed a partnership team with one of his clients and went on to develop many high-rise developments on both the west and east sides of Manhattan as well as in new Jersey and Pennsylvania.

His first developments were the Brevard on East 54th Street with 455 apartments and The Colony, a high-rise in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Other Friedberg developments include: Nevada Towers on 70th Street with 415 apartments, Village Pointe on West 14th Street, 299 West 12th Street, 302 West 12 Street, 59 West 12th Street and 45 Christopher Street, and The Regency in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Prior to The Sutton, he developed New York's first ground-up English-style, 28-story condominium called Grosvenor House on 15th Street just off Fifth Avenue.

In addition to his residential development projects, Friedberg holds the ground lease for the soon-to-be Four Seasons Hotel on 58th Street between Madison Avenue and Park Avenue. He had acquired the leasehold of the former Hotel Blackstone that formerly stood on the site and subleased it to the Regent International Group in 1982. They demolished the structure to make way for their 52-story hotel, which is due to open in 1993.

Future development plans for Friedberg include: A large hotel near the Javits Convention Center, the renovation of a landmark hotel on Manhattan's East Side, and an affordable housing project in Litchfield, Connecticut.

Friedberg does steal away from his projects to be president of the Eastside Association and director of Safety City, a division of the New York City Department of Transportation.

The veteran developer also takes time to tour the streets of the Manhattan to get an idea of what projects work and what the market needs.

"There's not a development in the city I haven't been to," he said. "I guess it's in the blood to know what's going on out there."
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Profile; real estate developer Alan B. Friedberg
Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Biography
Date:Aug 12, 1992
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