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With new group, Meltzer works for urban renewal.

The very first time Private First Class Marvin H. Meltzer laid eyes on the gleaming towers of Lower Manhattan, he knew he was here to stay.

The year was 1962 and the young Meltzer had a view to envy. Already holding a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Minnesota, he worked assisting the Corps of Engineers in designing fallout shelters on a since-shuttered army base on Governors Island, a small bump in New York Harbor 1/2 mile off the Battery that offers some of the best views of downtown's chiseled skyline. When time permitted, he'd actually come into Manhattan and have a look around.

"It was, and is, a magical place to be," Meltzer said recently before a meeting on one of his many new projects. "In New York you have the most brilliant people in the world trying to make things happen. Often things no one else has tried before."

Stricken though he was, Meltzer noticed more than just the gleam of the Woolworth Building, 40 Wall Street and other seminal downtown towers as he looked across from his base. Below these, he saw a waterfront that had begun to rot.

"It was pretty much all piers then and a lot of them were run down and a lot of places were starting to look abandoned," Meltzer said. "Very little if any was for recreational use. It was all pretty crappy. The west side highway wasn't there yet, or Battery Park City or the [World Trade Center] towers."

Once out of the army, Meltzer set up shop in Manhattan as an architect. In the 1970s, he found the only way he'd get to build the buildings he wanted to build was to become a developer. He worked in this capacity until the late 1980s when the market went soft. In the 1990s, he turned his attention to building housing for nonprofits in previously written-off neighborhoods such as Harlem and the South Bronx. In 1995, he partnered with fellow architect and sometime collaborator David Mandl, forming Meltzer/Mandl Architects, P.C., a firm that has risen to prominence in the New York scene.

While Meltzer was out making his name, the waterfront continued in its decline. Shipping traffic to Manhattan and large swathes of Brooklyn and Queens all but ceased. Peers once teaming with commerce had their decks pulled up and sold for scrap, or simply slumped, rotted and then fell into brown river water below.

Today, Meltzer is once again considering New York's waterfront. He, along with David Mandl, recently partnered with principles from Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects (EEK), a firm known for site planning, to form EEK Residential.

EEK Residential focuses on large-scale redevelopment in what are often troubled areas. With Metro New York's population expanding, and with city and state officials eager to reclaim land along the region's long-dormant waterfront, 10-month-old EEK Residential is already involved in several redevelopment plans along the Hudson River.

"We have projects up in Yonkers and Peekskill and over in Coney Island," Meltzer said. "And we're looking at sites in Queens and further out on Long Island."

Meltzer said he, Mandl and the principles from EEK formed EEK Residential to be the go-to firm for large-scale redevelopment in the area.

"EEK is known for their planning work. They're really the firm to go to," Meltzer said. "As for us, [Meltzer Mandl] has a long history of building successful residential projects, even those with tight budgets."

Meltzer says he sees no shortage of work for either of his firms in a city determined to grow.

"In the years I've been here, what I've seen is the city always expanding," he said. "You will never ever satisfy the need for housing in New York City. The only thing that slows it is interest rates. But in terms of actual need: you'll never ever fulfill the need for housing here ... The borough of Manhattan has now packed residential development in every corner. It's unheard of [in other cities]."

The way he and many others see it, coming development along the region's waterfront will be the most significant change in operation the city has seen in many years.

"It's interesting how waterfront shave evolved over history. At one time, it was the least desirable place to be and now it is the most desirable," he said. "I was down by Battery Park a few days ago. I remember it when it was all trash ... Finally, New York can have a great waterfront to rival that of other great cities."
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Author:Moran, Tim
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Aug 2, 2006
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