Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

Local developer scores A.I.g.

A Downtown developer has partnered with a Korean investment bank to purchase embattled insurance giant American International Group’s two Lower Manhattan office buildings.

West Village-based Youngwoo and Associates, with the backing of Korea-based Kumho Investment Bank, closed on the high-rises at 70 Pine St. and 72 Wall St. for a reported $140 million, or $100 a square foot.

The two buildings, which are connected by a skywalk, have a total of 1.4 million square feet that could possibly be converted into offices, apartments or hotel rooms.

Youngwoo and Kumho went under contract last week, and the acquisition is expected to draw participation from a group of international financial firms.

“The investment is based on our optimistic view on the future of Wall St., New York City and the U.S. financial services industry,” Y.C. Kim, director of Kumho, said in a press statement issued by commercial brokerage CB Richard Ellis, which arranged the deal.

Young Woo, the founder of the development/architecture firm, has strong ties to the Korean community and partnered with Kumho last year on a $191 million bid to redevelop Pier 57 in Chelsea. Youngwoo has projects in Asia, South America and locally in Chelsea, and the company is currently taking on real estate heavyweights like the Related Companies and the Durst Organization in the Pier 57 selection process.

“We are pleased to announce this important transaction and view it as a key stepping stone in our long-range plan to establish a major presence for Korean institutions in the U.S. property and capital markets,” added Youngwoo partner Greg Carney.

Depeche sold on B.P.C.

One of Battery Park’s City newest eco-friendly high-rises, The Riverhouse, just added another celebrity to its roster of residents.

Dave Gahan, lead singer of the popular electro-rock outfit Depeche Mode, reportedly closed on a $6 million penthouse at the building after selling his West Village apartment.

The Sheldrake Organization’s 32-story, LEED-certified development near Rockefeller Park already counts Oscar-nominated actor Leonardo DiCaprio as a tenant, so Gahan should be in good company. The 47-year-old rocker underwent surgery last month to remove a malignant tumor, and the building’s green amenities — including twice-filtered air, on-site water purification and non-pollutant-emitting paints — should serve him well during his recovery.

New rules

The Department of Buildings’ new plan for the public review process regarding building-permit applications has been extended to 45 days after the city agency initially proposed a 30-day challenge period.

The new regulations will take effect starting July 13, and “[t]he reforms will give New Yorkers a stronger voice in the development of neighborhoods, create greater transparency, and clarify the process for the public and for developers,” according to a statement issued by D.O.B. Commissioner Robert LiMandri.

Under the new initiative, architects and engineers will be required to submit a diagram of any new proposed building or major enlargement for the public to view the size and scale of the development before construction can proceed. After the D.O.B. determines that the application complies with zoning regulations, the diagrams will be posted online for a 45-day review period. The current process has no formal timeframe.

“New Yorkers have a right to know what’s being built in their neighborhood, and now they can easily find out by visiting our website,” LiMandri said in the statement. “This new, easy-to-read diagram opens the doors to the construction process like never before and will give more certainty to the community and developers on the future of any project in the city.”

However, some of those who were critical the original proposal still have doubts that the new process will prove effective.

“The bad news… is that D.O.B. did not address the myriad other issues we (and many others) raised about how the rule could actually shield inappropriate developments from challenge rather than help ensure that they are caught, as D.O.B. claims the rule change will do,” stated G.V.S.H.P. executive director Andrew Berman in an e-mail. “We fear that in many more cases, this may force members of the public to file a [Board of Standards and Appeals] case if they want to challenge the granting of a permit, as opposed to being able to bring it to D.O.B.”

Also on the offensive was Queens councilmember and mayoral candidate Tony Avella, who echoed the G.V.S.H.P.’s concerns.

“While Mayor Mike Bloomberg and D.O.B. Commissioner LiMandri are claiming that this will empower the public with greater oversight over new developments, they could not be further from the truth,” Avella said in a statement. “The implementation of any comment period, whether it is 30 or 45 days, will actually diminish the ability of residents to contest new construction by creating a de-facto statute of limitations to challenge a new development.”