Washington Heights Development Site Goes to Auction The Saga of One Bennett Park Has Gone Through Some Twists and Turns

Rendering of One Bennett Park (image provided Keen-Summit Capital Partners)

After a lengthy foreclosure and bankruptcy process lasting nearly a decade, the auction of the site known as One Bennett Park, located at 29 Overlook Terrace in Upper Manhattan, will be auctioned. The auction was recently announced by New York-based real estate brokerage/advisory firms Ariel Property Advisors and Keen-Summit Capital Partners, LLC, and will occur no later than October 10th of this year. Bids for the auction must be submitted by noon on September 19th.

A Brief History

The site located at the intersection of West 184th Street and Overlook Terrace in the Hudson Heights section of Washington Heights—and which includes an additional parcel with frontage on Fort Washington Avenue—is unique in many respects.

Assembled prior to 2007 by Rutherford Thompson, Managing Director of Thompson Development Group, the property posed several natural barriers to development. The biggest of these was an extraordinary outcropping of rock that rose more than 10 stories from the site’s base, and which required excavation and removal before construction on the proposed 23-story, 114-unit residential building could begin. Additionally, the property abuts the entrance to the rear of the 181st Street subway station on the MTA's A line, which presented logistical challenges.

Thompson wanted to provide a Fort Washington Avenue address for the building, which is more desirable and commands a higher selling price than an Overlook Terrace address. Accordingly, he approached the Fort Washington Jewish Center, a venerable but declining Conservative congregation, to add its site to his project. They agreed to sell him their property with the understanding that they would be provided with a new synagogue space as part of the new property. This quid pro quo worked for the developer as well, as it satisfied the requirement for community space in the new project.

"The process has been designed to maximize sales proceeds for the debtors,” says Victor Sozio, Executive Vice President, Investment Sales at Ariel Property Advisors, “but also to find a suitable partner that can deliver new synagogue space to the Fort Washington Jewish Center."

Excavation of the rocky outcropping began around 2007 with much noise, amid a rising real estate market...but then came the Great Recession. Ultimately Amalgamated Bank, the construction lender, stopped funding the project draws. The project landed in court, and eventually in bankruptcy and foreclosure. Thus began a long, unfortunate state of limbo for One Bennett Park.

The Property

The property's lot size is around 42,441 square feet, with R7-2 zoning, which is defined as medium density residential use. The FAR for the property is 3.44 for residential development, and 6.50 for residential with a community facility. The allowable buildable square footage is 145,997 square feet as-of-right for residential development, and 275,867 square feet with a community facility. The original plans for the building included a 23-story building with an entrance on Fort Washington Avenue, where the synagogue building still stands. The proposed building would also have had direct in-building access to the 181st Street A train subway station from the Overlook Terrace side.

As the Overlook Terrace portion of the property is many potential stories below the ridge upon which Fort Washington Avenue sits, the building would only rise some seven stories above Fort Washington Avenue, blending in to the existing blockfront. At the same time, the property offers spectacular views across upper Manhattan and the Bronx toward Westchester from the Overlook Terrace side of the building.

The project will bring a new awakening to the neighborhood,” says Nick Rafello, an associate broker with Compass, active in the local market. “People know the area and they like it, but there are always questions from prospective buyers seeking newly-built units. Hudson Heights has mostly established buildings. This brings something new and unique. This opportunity will bring a new awakening and vibrancy to the market.”

The auction will be held on or before October 10, 2019. Sealed bids must be submitted by September 19, 2019 by 12:00 p.m.The long-awaited bankruptcy sale of One Bennett Park presents an opportunity for a sophisticated developer to secure a one-of-a-kind site, in one of the premier locations in Northern Manhattan," says Sozio.

For more information, click here.

AJ Sidransky is a staff writer at The Cooperator, and a published novelist. 

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