September 18, 2018
“We see the demand, but the market hasn’t gotten there yet.” That’s Youngwoo & Associates (YWA) partner Margarette Lee on the 39-year-old development firm’s modus operandi when it comes to identifying opportunities for projects—and where to locate them.
A case in point is Bronx Post Place, a reimagining of a circa-1937 post office in the South Bronx. The YWA team bought the property from the federal government in 2014, leased back 10,000 square feet to the U.S. Postal Service, and began transforming the 167,000-square-foot facility into a hub of retail/office space, with a rooftop restaurant added for good measure. It’s expected to receive its TCO from the city by the end of this year.
“We’re known in the industry as an innovative developer,” said Lee. “We go to where the location is a frontier. Four years ago, the Bronx was a frontier.” Today, as the dramatic uptick in investment sales figures for the borough demonstrates, the broader market has followed YWA’s lead and the frontier is now attracting homesteaders.
Lee will share further insights into YWA’s development strategy when she appears as one of the high-caliber panelists the Asian Real Estate Association of America’s Manhattan chapter has confirmed for its fourth annual East Meets West Real Estate Connect. The all-day event is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 26 at the New Yorker hotel in Midtown.
Other examples of YWA’s forward-looking approach abound. In the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis, for example, the company “took a chance” on redeveloping Pier 57 on the Hudson River waterfront. What looked like a calculated risk in 2009 has paid off with a major tenancy by Google and the Tribeca Film Festival’s commitment to the redeveloped space. More recently, the company acquired a development site in Northern Manhattan’s Washington Heights section, anticipating the current growing interest in the neighborhood.
“Some developers concentrate on specific property types,” said Lee. “Our specialty is a lot wider in concept. We look at a property and determine the best use for it, rather than go into a neighborhood with the concept and then look for where we can build it.”
YWA is also creating an Opportunity Zone Fund, targeting projects across the United States that fall under new tax-advantaged investment provisions created by the 2017 tax reform bill. The firm intends to find undervalued development sites where it can roll out its unique development strategy.
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