The decade-long effort to refurbish the historic Battery Maritime Buildingmay soon resume, after years of inaction, thanks to a new investment by Midtown Equities, a real estate firm that is a partner in Larry Silverstein’s 99-year lease on the World Trade Center, and also purchased the nearby landmarked office building, One Broadway, earlier this year.
The firm’s participation in the Battery Maritime redevelopment appears to have been brokered by the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) — a non-profit corporation that negotiates strategic partnerships designed to harness private-sector resources to public projects, and thus foster economic growth. Under the terms of the deal, in a story first broken by Crain’s New York, Midtown Equities will lend $30 million to the project’s existing partners, with plans to convert that debt to a one-third ownership share in the property.
In 2017, the troubled Battery Maritime rehabilitation was taken over by a partnership between builder Centaur Properties and hospitality firm Cipriani USA. Centaur has a total of 35 properties scattered throughout Manhattan, but is primarily known for developing a condominium (now approaching completion) overlooking the High Line, designed by Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld. Cipriani is a legendary proprietor of food destinations and event spaces worldwide. The firm’s Lower Manhattan footprint includes two venues carved out of historic building lobbies: Cipriani Wall Street (in the former banking hall of the onetime headquarters of National City Bank) and Cipriani 25 Broadway(in the erstwhile ticketing hall of what was once Cunard’s New York office).
The EDC began trying to remake the Battery Maritime Building in 2007, when it recruited the Dermot Company and the Poulakakos restaurant organizationto create within the historic structure a 140-room hotel, that was also to have included a rooftop restaurant and bar, an event space, and an indoor market. This was, in some ways, an unsurprising choice, because the Dermot Company and the Poulakakos group were also also the partnership on a similar project nearby: the restoration of Pier A. EDC’s deal with Dermot required the redevelopment to be complete by December 2015.
But the real estate cataclysm of 2008, followed by design changes necessitated by 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, caused the project to fall years behind schedule and its budget to swell by tens of millions of dollars. The EDC’s deal with the Dermot Company finally collapsed in mid-2015, after which point the agency negotiated a new partnership with Stoneleigh Capital, a real estate firm that operates ski resorts in Colorado and California, as well as luxury hotels and spas around the world. This arrangement called for Stoneleigh to complete the project by December, 2017. But the company proved unable to obtain the necessary financing, and never began work. By the close of 2016, Stoneleigh had left the Battery Maritime project.
Centaur has hired Mexican architect Ismael Leyva to design the remaining spaces in the structure, which EDC estimates to be more than half complete. Mr. Leyva is known locally for having collaborated on the design for River House in Battery Park City. Revised plans now call for a hotel with approximately 40 rooms.
The publicly owned structure, located at 10 South Street, next to the Staten Island Ferry terminal, is a landmarked Beaux Art ferry terminal built in 1909. It served as the gateway for boats taking passengers across the East River for three decades, but after commuters and vehicles gained direct access to Manhattan with the advent of bridges, tunnels, and subways, ferry usage declined and the building fell into disrepair. (Today, its sole use as a berth is for ferries taking passengers to and from nearby Governors Island.) For decades, developers and community activists have proffered competing visions for the building, with the former advocating commercial uses and the latter pushing for civic amenities, such as a school or museum. Among the building’s more notable features is its Great Hall, a majestic 8,500-square foot space, with ceilings 34 feet high, lined with Gustavino tiles. Originally slated to house an indoor market, this space is envisioned in the newest version of the EDC’s plan as an event venue and community facility.
EDC now hopes that construction will resume at the site before the end of this year, and that the project will be complete sometime in 2020.