By Holly Dutton
Modular construction and new design concepts were two of the hot topics at the “Women Who Design” panel at the Real Estate Weekly Women’s Forum today (Wednesday).
Belinda Schwartz, a partner at Herrick, Feinstein, LLP, moderateed the panel comprised of women involved in various aspects of design and constuction.
Panelists Melissa Roman Burch, senior vice president of Forest City Ratner Companies, Anita Konfederak, VP/senior project manager at Merritt Engineering, Highlyann Krasnow, a partner with MNS, Jill Lerner, a partner with Kohn Pederson Fox Association and president of AIANY, Dana Panazarino, managing director at VVA Project Managers & Consultants and Melissa Pianko, executive vice president of development, the Gotham Organization, agreed the real estate development market has cleared a hurdle.
“It seems we’ve finished with the really horrible bad times,” said Schwartz of the real estate industry. “One thing I’m really interested in is new design concepts.”
Resiliency after Hurricane Sandy and what that means for the future in terms of development was another item on the agenda.
“There appears to be much more liquidity in the market for major gut rehab projects,” said Schwartz.
“It appears lenders are more sensitive to things like environmental issues, amenities, resiliency, and they understand that’s going to become part of the cost of doing a project.”
Predicting emerging neighborhood hotspots, especially in the outer boroughs, was another topic for discussion.
“It used to be location, location, location — now there’s a lot more locations. It’s not just Manhattan-centric any more, even though it’s everyone’s dream, there are loads of other locations out there that are exciting,” said Schwartz, citing Long Island City as being especially attractive to developers due to the availability of land and convenient public transit.
Modular design, which has been in the news with the Atlantic Yards project, was discussed by Forest City Ratner’s Burch.
“I’m excited to talk about what we’ve done over the past two years with modular construction,” said Burch. “We are on the ground with B2, the first residential building at Atlantic Yards.”
The 32-story building will be the tallest building ever constructed using modular technology. “It’s a project a lot of people are going to be watching,” said Burch. “It’s a way to re-think how we do construction.”
Burch discussed the “intensive” prototyping phase Forest City Ratner has been undergoing, which involves staging modules at a Brooklyn Navy Yard site before trucking them to the Atlantic Yards site and stacking them with a crane.
“It really is taking pre-fabrication to the extreme,” she said.
Pianko, with the Gotham Organization, discussed Gotham West, a new project the company is bringing online in the next couple of months.
The LEED project will encompass nearly an entire city block in midtown west, and will have 1,238 rental units in four separate buildings when completed, with an additional 17,000 s/f of retail.