NYU Grad Students Propose Turning Passaic’s Tallest Building — Currently an Abandoned Eyesore — Into High-Class Apartments.

10 08 2008
Michael Stanco discusses a sales strategy for Passaic’s Bank Tower on Thursday as part of a final project in a real estate development class at NYU. (LESLIE BARBARO/Staff Photographer)

NYU students see future in Bank Tower

If a group of NYU students had it their way, they would convert the city’s tallest building, now filled with asbestos, pigeons and mold, into a luxury residential tower for yuppies.

Four graduate business students presented a redevelopment plan for the Bank Tower at 663 Main Ave. Thursday evening, as part of their final class project for professor Michael Zampetti’s real estate development class at New York University. The class is a requirement to graduate from the university’s Schack Institute of Real Estate.

The students proposed converting the dilapidated former bank and office building into 54-unit luxury one- and two-bedroom residential rental units with a 24-hour concierge, gym, library and recreation room. The ground floor of the 11-story building would include an anchor retailer, a fast-food restaurant and a dry cleaner.

The group’s project would target young professionals. After five years, the owners would sell the units as condos. Based on market research, the students estimated the units could rent for between $1,100 and $2,800 including utilities, and sell for $182,000 to $394,000.

Scott Masonis, 33, who works part time at Deutsche Bank, said out of the four sites in the tri-state area the students could choose to study, Passaic’s bank building seemed to be the toughest. Masonis is the group’s team leader.

“It’s rubble. How do you convert that into condos and rentals? It takes a lot of work,” he said.

One of the students, Michael Stanco, 27, who works as a full-time broker and developer on Long Island, said he was optimistic about Passaic’s potential for development.

“I feel it is one of those fringe cities of Manhattan that has potential for growth, starting with access to Manhattan,” he said. Stanco added that Passaic could not move forward without first remaking the bank building.

“I see this as a catalyst. Nothing happens until this building gets up and running,” Stanco said. “It’s such a central location and an iconic structure.”

At one time the tower, with its sleek art-deco facade, was a symbol of pride for Passaic. But, over the years, it earned a morbid reputation — with stories of suicidal residents jumping off the roof. Since the early 1990s, the 88,575-square-foot building has sat vacant on Main Avenue. Business owners complain the behemoth projects a negative image, with its broken windows and garbage scattered on windowsills.

In 2006, a developer proposed transforming the tower into 65 affordable housing units for seniors. But the city’s redevelopment agency rejected the proposal in the hope it could find someone to develop it for commercial purposes.

The students wrote to acting Mayor Gary Schaer asking if he thought the city would ever consider putting apartments in the building.

Schaer was skeptical, although he emphasized his appreciation for the students’ interest.

“The optimal use for the building from the city’s perspective is office space,” he wrote in an e-mail. “We have entertained proposals including mixed use retail/residential, medical offices/senior housing, governmental/school board offices, and a number of other ideas as well. None of the ideas have unfortunately progressed beyond an initial expression of interest.”

The city is trying to take the building through eminent domain and filed a condemnation complaint against its owner, New York City-based 460 Park Associates. The building is appraised at $1.86 million.

Masonis said he got special permission from the FAA to fly around the building this year to take an aerial video for the project. He posted the video on Youtube.com, describing the building as a “white elephant, dilapidated, defunct and distressed.” In the last scenes of the video, he interspersed pictures of architectural renderings of the proposed renovation, meant to appeal to the young and hip, with the song “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” as the soundtrack.

Masonis said an attorney for the building’s owner told him there was no interest in renovating the building because construction costs are too high and profits in Passaic would be limited.

The students proposed financing the project with federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives. Run by the National Park Service, the program gives subsidies for private businesses that will keep the facade in renovating a historic building. The program pays developers 20 percent of their construction costs if they keep the building for more than five years. The students also said the city would most likely need to take the building through eminent domain and give the building to developers at virtually no cost.

The city hired an architect and environmental consultant to do feasibility studies of the building, Glenn Carter, the city’s redevelopment director said. Carter said the consultants will provide cost estimates of what it would take to secure, stabilize and weatherize the building.

“If it’s too costly, we many not want to go forward with it,” he said.

But Carter, who attended the presentation in Manhattan, said he was impressed with the students’ hard work.

“I think the message was, without some kind of public money in the project, it doesn’t make sense financially, he said. “To have the project done privately, the numbers don’t work.”

Reach Meredith Mandell at 973-569-7107 or mandell@northjersey.com.

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3 responses

22 08 2008
shlomo

the herald news should have put in a picture of the bank building

4 11 2008
Jim Powel

what happened to the other two students, you said there was four

10 01 2009
Recent Links Tagged With "nyu" - JabberTags

Thanx for honest news

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