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Opinion

Raising the Bar for New York Real Estate


 hunters point south1

Hunter's Point South Living (image)


From iconic architecture to imposing size, there is no denying that real estate has defined New York for generations. But even the most forward-thinking developers of 50 to 100 years ago might not recognize the dizzying pace, shifting policies, and growing demands that dominate today’s industry.

Here is the hard truth facing developers these days: achieving excellence in one area does not always lead to success. In fact, it rarely does. It is no longer enough to just design a beautiful building, imagine a new public space, or revitalize an older structure. We are so often urged — and just as often expected — to accomplish all those things, or others, in a single project.

The Urban Land Institute’s mission to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide should remind us that these development challenges are not just results of market or zoning pressures. Meeting these challenges is just as much about thoughtful planning and building a dialogue with the neighborhood leaders and planning officials who play roles in advancing new development. Perhaps most importantly – as ULI has made clear – it is about providing added value through new transit access, sustainable design, environmental resilience, or other aspects. In its simplest form, it is smart city building.

For years, ULI has helped set the bar for responsible land use with its Global Awards for Excellence, which crowns winners in cities worldwide. But the changing face of New York real estate has made it clear that we also need a local competition — one focused solely on raising the industry bar across our state.

That is why we at ULI New York launched our own Awards for Excellence in Development — a statewide contest open to private, public and non-profit developers, whether or not they are ULI members. More than anywhere else, it is vital for New York’s real estate industry to meet and even surpass the responsible land use principles laid out by ULI and our members worldwide.  By recognizing and elevating leaders who take a truly holistic approach, we believe we can help increase the quality of development across the state for generations to come. 

At our inaugural awards gala this past March, the first class of winners showed just how far our industry can go to meet diverse needs in New York City and upstate.

In Queens, Hunter’s Point South Living created a mixed-use, affordable housing development that established a benchmark for a new workforce housing experience. In East Harlem, the Center for Living and Learning seamlessly combined affordable apartments, a charter school, and non-profit office space to create a true community hub. In Buffalo, Conventus brought together clinical, educational, and research components in a center for collaborative medicine on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. In Lower Manhattan, the National 9/11 Museum and Pavilion site carries with it both the power of its history and hope for the future in commemorating those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. These were just a few of the projects that inspire us all to reach greater heights.

On September 12, ULI New York opened the nomination period for our Second Annual Awards for Excellence in Development — and we hope to see even more submissions than we did last year. With two new award categories, we are now taking project submissions in a total of eight categories: office, housing, mixed-use, repositioning or redevelopment, hotel, retail, institutional, and civic space. Developers interested in submitting a project should visit our website for details on applying. Our Awards Committee will accept submissions until November 4, after which the finalists in each category will be announced in January. 

Our team is committed to finding the most outstanding developments in New York and helping our industry meet every challenge. But we can only do that if developers in every corner of the state are willing to participate and put their best new projects up for consideration. We know our next winners are out there — and we are excited to see what the future of real estate looks like.

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Marty Burger is CEO of Silverstein Properties and Chairman of ULI New York. On Twitter @ULINewYork.

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