Jason Muss, principal of Muss Development, discussed four of his company’s biggest and best known properties before an audience of real estate professionals at the monthly B’nai B’rith Real Estate luncheon at the Cornell Club.
Each property was defined by one of four themes: renovate, retenant, build and buy.
To illustrate his company’s approach to “renovation,” Muss described the $43 million transformation of the New York Marriott at Brooklyn Bridge, the firm’s only hotel asset and the 19th largest in New York City.
Using some reserve funding, partner equity, and a contribution from Marriott, Muss performed the work in phases in order to keep the hotel open. It was finished in 2016 resulting in a virtually new hotel enabling it to be occupied at historically high levels.
Muss undertook a full marketing campaign to retenant Forest Hills Tower in Forest Hills, Queens, a 375,000 s/f Class A office building, knowing that FEMA, which came in as a temporary tenant after Hurricane Sandy, was about to depart.
They have succeeded thus far in retenanting 220.000 square feet with rents in the high $30 and low $40 per square foot. Among current tenants are Signature Bank, Cushman & Wakefield, and The Board of Elections.
Muss is building a yet-to-be-named 30 story tower with AvalonBay on 2.5 acres adjacent to the B and Q express trains in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, that is scheduled for completion in 2017.
“I believe in the condo market at that location,” said Muss, “so this presented a way for our firm to own the top floors for condos and for AvalonBay to have rental units below.”
For one of his latest acquisitions, Muss scouted out an off market deal and found what he wanted at 180 Franklin Avenue, in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn after determining that the firm and its partner could rent the apartments at their projected numbers. The deal closed in May. Eighty percent of the apartments have been leased.
In summary, Muss said he prefers New York City as the place to do business because there are so many deals available.
“We could be busy only in Brooklyn if we wanted to,” he said. “New York City is the best real estate market in the world as long as you don’t overleverage yourself. If you do the basic deals that are not crazy, it is a fantastic market.”