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Moinian betting on Downtown

8:00 am, April 10, 2013

Pictured left to right: Stuart Eisenberg, Gerald Morganstern, Harry Zlokower, Phyllis Weisberg, Joseph Moinian, Lydia Sklar, Jeff Mitzner, Franklin Zuckerbrot and Misha Haghani.

By Orlando Lee Rodriguez

Downtown Manhattan is set to enjoy its moment in the spotlight, according to developer Joseph Moinian.

Hudson Yards developer Stephen Ross may have proclaimed the far West Side as the “new center of New York City” back in December, but for Moinian, Downtown will be the nexus of Big Apple action well before the West Side takes the title.

“You have a few “Next New York’s,”” said Moinian. “My first “Next New York”, is downtown. It’s ready, the buildings are there and you can have great pricing for rentals or condos.”

“Downtown is now. The West Side is the “Following New York” in 5 to 10 years and the Midtown re-zoning the “Ultimate New York”, but it’s 20 years away,” he said.

Moinian, making his remarks last week at the B’nai B’rith New York Real Estate Unit April luncheon at The Cornell Club in Midtown, said that absorption trends hit Manhattan neighborhoods in cycles and we are the midst of a Downtown wave.

“You have to fill Downtown, then the West Side, then you go to Midtown. Everybody has to get their turn.”

According to recent data from Cushman and Wakefield, Avision Young and Colliers International, Downtown leasing activity outpaced Midtown and Midtown South during the 1st quarter of 2013.

Forecasts by analysts are for that trend to continue as new class-A stock, particularly at the World Trade Center site, is set to come online.

Moinian has bet big on Downtown as the New York neighborhood of the moment, opening a W hotel on Washington Street one block from the Freedom Tower.

“The best and the highest use of any project today is a hotel,” he said. “On paper, if you really look at the property, in all aspects it looks the best. Hotel income, compared to office or apartment income, is bigger.”

As much as Moinian said he loves hotels, he did indicate that the city’s hotel industry needs to be mindful of oversaturation.

“For New York City I am a bit concerned that, as an industry, we are building too many rooms,” he said. “When that happens, rates fall.”

Overall, Moinian is pleased with the market as it stands in Manhattan, calling it “healthy.”

But no matter how well the market may be doing in Manhattan, or in all of New York City for that matter, do not expect to see the Moinian Group to expand into the outer boroughs.

“I love the boroughs,” he said. “If I was starting, I would definitely go there, put some chips down and be active. But for us it wasn’t a main focus to be in the boroughs.”

Moinian said while he can appreciate the youthful energy of the boroughs, they do not offer opportunities large enough for the experienced stage where his company finds itself.

That also goes for other cities at this point, even though he has national interests. Moinian said that cities that are not considered gateway or international cities do not have his interest.

“I love a lot of other cities, I enjoy travel to them, but I wouldn’t put a shovel in the ground anywhere outside [of NY],” he said. “The first thing I look at is the airport quality, what airlines go to that city and what does the city stand for. If it doesn’t have [certain] qualifications, I might enjoy my trip, but I would never build there.”

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