December 8, 2021

Q&A with MAG Partners’ head of development Susi Yu

PincusCo connected with MAG Partners’ head of development, Susi Yu, to discuss MAG’s topping out at 241 West 28th Street, their recent new development plans just around the corner at 335 Eighth Avenue, and more.

MAG Partners is a woman-owned, urban real estate company whose principals have designed, built, and operated over seven million square feet of office, residential and mixed-use projects, including over 2,000 units of housing. On December 7, the firm topped out their project at 241 West 28th Street and provided PincusCo Media with the following photos of the event.

This interview is part of a new series of Q&As with industry thought leaders who invest, develop, broker, or provide professional advice related to New York City real estate.

Check out PincusCo’s recent interview with Grubb Properties’ vice president of development, Paul O’Shaughnessy.

Atticus: Just this week MAG topped out their project at 241 West 28th Street, could you tell us a bit about the development?

Susi: This is our first ground-up development. It is a 480-unit multifamily rental unit project and 30 percent of the units are affordable. We closed on the site in 2019 and started working with COOKFOX as the architect. We’ve been working on this now for close to two and a half years. We closed on the project financing in November of 2020 and started the foundation shortly thereafter and topped out December 7th. We will bring the project online in January of 2023, and are currently on schedule to meet those deadlines, so we are super excited.

Were there any unexpected elements that facilitated development, or others that slowed it down?

COVID was a huge curveball. We had to close on our construction financing in order to start construction and the pandemic made us take a different route to get that done. Before the shutdown we were speaking to traditional banks about getting a construction loan and after the shutdown we had to pivot and look at different sources of capital. It took us about four or five months to find the right partner, which ended up being Madison Realty. Interestingly, because of the pandemic we were able to buy the project with favorable economics. We had awarded 60 percent of the project when the market was very competitive and relied on local sourcing to avoid supply chain issues.

Earlier this fall MAG filed plans for another Chelsea project, a 128-unit mixed-use development at 335 Eighth Avenue, could you talk a little about the project and how the deal with Penn South to develop it came to be?

MAG Partners was fortunate to be on a list of selected developers that Penn South asked for proposals from in early 2020. We submitted a residential building, designed very contextually by COOKFOX, and at the end of 2020 we were selected. We worked through the business issues with Penn South and executed the LOI earlier this year and we are now working on the ground lease and designing the building. Penn South is one of the few thriving NORCs (naturally occurring retirement communities) in NYC and it is an affordable cooperative housing with a long list of people wanting to live in the development. The revenue produced by commercial buildings, including our site, offsets the operating expenses and is critical for Penn South’s ability to keep the co-ops affordable.

According to an analysis of DOB filings since the start of 2018, Chelsea was among the most active neighborhoods in Manhattan for new development both in terms of number of new building plans filed and total dwelling units filed for. What has made this neighborhood so appealing for new development in recent years?

I think it depends on what your boundaries are of Chelsea. A lot of people push it far west, more than I would, and much further north than I would. But what I think is interesting about Chelsea is there are very few sites and I think a lot of the projects that were filed since 2018 were probably for condominiums, not multifamily rentals, given where the market was in terms of land value, like the Edison projects sold to HFZ. Companies like Facebook relocating to, I’d call it Penn Station west area, and Google literally taking over Chelsea Market, I think it makes the existing neighborhood fabric of Chelsea that much more attractive to potential tenants or condo buyers. The neighborhood also has fairly contextual zoning, so you can’t really build a tall building. So it’s an interesting neighborhood with very few available sites and then what you build has to fit in the zoning of the neighborhood. You can also walk everywhere, to Union Square, Madison Square, Meatpacking, Hudson Square, it’s very accessible but still feels like a neighborhood.

MAG’s website states that construction on the new project at 335 Eighth Avenue is expected to begin in 2022, do you have an estimated completion date?

Likely the beginning of 2026 or the end of 2025.

Do you have any other projects lined up? How are factors such as Covid-19 and the expiration of 421-a impacting development decisions?

We have another residential project that we’re working on to beat the 421-a deadline, it’s a 200-unit, multifamily rental building with 30 percent affordable. We also have a boutique office building that we have been working on for the past year and a half or so. It is about 200,000 square feet and it’s in a very strong location. We are also looking at other projects outside of New York City in order to increase our footprint. New York City is becoming a harder and harder place to develop so we are looking elsewhere, some are pretty large scale projects.

Looking even further into the future, what is the biggest change you anticipate in NYC’s development market by 2031?

I think what you’re going to see is a market where there is a dearth of rental housing because of expiring 421-a. You’re going to start to see a shortage of housing. I hope the city really focuses on how to deal with the homeless situation, in terms of providing supportive housing for the homeless population. As the city gets wealthier and wealthier, those at the bottom of the economic ladder continue to suffer because of the lack of good and safe affordable housing.

MAG Partners is a woman-owned firm, do you want to speak about the significance of that?

70 percent of our firm is made up by women, which we are very proud of. We are very committed to diversity and it is something we practice not just with our team but also with other partners we deal with. For example, we demand with our consultants that there are women who are interfacing with ownership representing their firms. You know they’re at the office doing all the work but they’re not getting the opportunity to interface with ownership or developers, and that’s how you grow business, so that is something that we do demand of our consultants. It is the same with our equity partners, our LP partner out of Australia, Qualitas, is an investment firm that was started by a woman named Carol Schwartz. We want to make sure that everyone who we work with understands what our goals and values are. That’s something that is really important for us.

View Source
December 8, 2021
Real Estate Weekly

MAG tops out Chelsea tower

MAG Partners has topped out construction on a 480-unit rental residential building at 241 West 28th Street in Chelsea. The development is expected to be complete in late 2022.

The first development project of MAG Partners, founded by MaryAnne Gilmartin, is being designed by celebrated architects COOKFOX Architects. The building will include approximately 8,000 s/f of ground floor retail. 

Developed under the Affordable NY program, 30 percent of the project’s units are reserved for low- and middle-income New Yorkers. Urban Atelier Group is the construction manager for the development.


The exterior of the building is designed with contextual masonry inspired by the rich historic architectural fabric of the neighborhood, while the residences will incorporate biophilic design strategies that connect its residents to nature. A landscaped canopy will welcome residents at the 28th street entrance and a central courtyard and garden will unite the amenities and lobby areas. Above, alternating piers of hand-laid, angled brick and expansive windows allow light and shadow to dance across the façade. A series of outdoor terraces offer residents rooftop gardens and panoramic views of midtown, downtown, and the Hudson River.

The project is a joint venture between MAG Partners, Safanad, Atalaya Capital Management and Qualitas.

MAG Partners previously announced that it has secured a $173 million construction loan from Madison Realty Capital for the project.

Pictured top are project team members MaryAnne Gilmartin, Jeff Rosen and Susi Yu of MAG Partners, Rick Cook and Brandon Specketer of COOKFOX, Andy D’Amico, James Palace, and Tom Alaimo of Urban Atelier Group, and Jon Mechanic of Fried Frank.

View Source
October 5, 2021
New York YIMBY

241 West 28th Street’s Reinforced Concrete Superstructure Climbs Over Chelsea, Manhattan

Construction is rising on 241 West 28th Street, a 22-story residential project in Chelsea. Designed by COOKFOX for MAG Partners, Atalaya, Safanad, and Qualitas, the 248,000-square-foot two-tower development will yield 479 units with 30 percent reserved for low- and middle-income households. King Contracting Group is doing the brick work and Urban Atelier Group is the general contractor for the complex, which is located between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.

Progress has been swift since our last update in June, when work was still progressing below grade. Now the reinforced concrete superstructure has reached the ninth floor, and could feasibly top out sometime this winter.

241 West 28th Street. Photo by Michael Young
241 West 28th Street. Photo by Michael Young

241 West 28th Street. Photo by Michael Young

241 West 28th Street. Photo by Michael Young
241 West 28th Street. Photo by Michael Young

Crews are also about to assemble a construction crane tower.

241 West 28th Street. Photo by Michael Young

MAG Partners acquired the Midtown, Manhattan property in December 2018 and established a 99-year ground lease with Edison Properties. The exterior of the building will showcase a richly textured brick façade and a tight grid of recessed windows. The property will yield 214,000 square feet of residential space and about 10,500 square feet of ground-floor retail space. Residential amenities include lounges, a fitness center, a children’s playroom, and an outdoor lounge with a swimming pool and adjoining terrace.

Below are additional aerial and street-level renderings of the project showing how the two towers are spaced out with what will likely be a private central courtyard, while the upper setbacks make way for numerous landscaped terraces for a select number of units. Depicted around the center of the flat inner walls are dark gray panels running down the middle, highlighting the core of each tower. These extend toward a pair of mechanical extensions that contrast with the lighter brick color facing the street. A metal canopy topped with shrubbery will protrude above the main entrance along West 28th Street.

241 West 28th Street. Rendering by COOKFOX
241 West 28th Street. Rendering by COOKFOX

241 West 28th Street is slated for completion in July 2023.

View Source
June 23, 2021
New York YIMBY

Excavation And Foundations Progressing At 241 West 28th Street In Chelsea, Manhattan

Below-grade work is progressing at 241 West 28th Street, a 22-story, 479-unit residential project in Chelsea. Designed by COOKFOX for MAG Partners, Atalaya, Safanad, and Qualitas, the two-tower development recently acquired $173 million in construction financing arranged by Maverick Commercial Properties. MAG Partners acquired the Midtown, Manhattan property in December 2018 and established a 99-year ground lease with Edison Properties. 241 West 28th Street is located between Seventh and Eighth Avenues and will have 30 percent of residential units reserved for low- and middle-income households. Urban Atelier Group is the general contractor.

Recent photos show numerous heavy machinery onsite and steel rebar protruding along the perimeter of the foundations awaiting work on the first level of the superstructure. We also spotted the first segment of the construction crane tower around the center of the rectangular lot.

241 West 28th Street. Photo by Michael Young

241 West 28th Street. Photo by Michael Young

241 West 28th Street. Photo by Michael Young

241 West 28th Street. Photo by Michael Young

YIMBY also spotted another COOKFOX rendering of 241 West 28th Street. The illustration is looking east above the streets toward the two buildings that are separated by what could likely be a central courtyard, and gives us a much better idea of the final appearance and tight grid of windows. The rendering also highlights the upper setbacks that make way for numerous private landscaped terraces. The inner walls appear to be completely flat with gray panels running down the center, highlighting the core and mechanical extensions of each tower.

241 West 28th Street. Rendering by COOKFOX

The rendering below is from ground level across the street, and highlights the metal canopy topped with shrubbery above the main entrance along West 28th Street. Dark stone panels will line the walls at the ground-floor retail frontage, above which the main fenestration begins with its warm-colored brick masonry surface arranged in varying horizontal and vertical running bond patterns, metal railings, and dark gray spandrels.

241 West 28th Street. Rendering by COOKFOX

Permits filed with the Department of Buildings in September 2019 listed 241 West 28th Street to yield just over 248,000 square feet divided into nearly 214,000 square feet of residential space and about 10,500 square feet of ground-floor retail space. Amenities include residential lounges, a fitness center, a children’s playroom, and an outdoor lounge with a swimming pool and adjoining terrace.

A completion date of July 2023 is stated on the construction board.

View Source
June 3, 2021
The Real Deal

MAG Partners to redevelop Chelsea corner

MaryAnne Gilmartin’s development firm struck a deal to redevelop a corner site on Eighth Avenue in Chelsea. 

MAG Partners signed a long-term lease with a sprawling, multi-block affordable housing complex for a dilapidated retail building at 335 Eighth Avenue, The Real Deal has learned. The firm plans to redevelop the site into a mixed-income apartment building with a grocery store and community space. Construction is expected to start in 2022.

The seven-story project will qualify for the Affordable New York program, with 30 percent of the approximately 200 set aside as affordable.

The Penn South complex in Chelsea was facing a conundrum as its 60-year-old retail building on the northwest corner of West 26th Street and Eighth Avenue needed significant repairs that the low equity co-op could not afford.

At the same time, leases with current tenants — Gristedes, McDonald’s, a tennis center and other services — were set to expire, meaning the co-op was facing a substantial drop in income. As a result, its 2,820 apartments would be due for a $500 monthly increase in maintenance fees.

The board had hired Paul Travis of Washington Square Partners as its real estate advisor in 2008 and he provided several options. Earlier this year, the co-op’s 5,000 residents voted to create a 99-year lease on the property so the rent payments would replace the lost income.

“The top priority for the Board of Directors is to preserve the affordability of Penn South for current residents and future generations,” Ambur Nicosia, the board’s president, said in a statement. “We needed a solution that does not require our shareholders to pay major increases in monthly maintenance fees. The stores are supposed to subsidize the apartments, not the other way around.”

After interviewing and getting bids from seven developers who specialize in such projects, the board agreed to lease the site to the woman-owned MAG Partners.

“They want to build affordable housing and do the right thing,” Gilmartin, CEO of the firm, said of the co-op board. “They were concerned about the views [of current residents] and space around the new building.”

Her company is currently constructing a similar but larger project at 241 West 28th Street, on land owned by Edison Parking. “The [board was] watching from afar and saw how we designed the building,” Gilmartin said.

The architect of the West 28th Street building, Rick Cook of COOKFOX Architects, will also design the Penn South project with an eye on the red brick of the 10-co-op buildings and the historical character of Chelsea.

“Obviously, it’s an incredible perch,” said Gilmartin of the site and the possibility of a roof deck for the occupants. “It’s something we will study and also the placement of the building, and then go back to show it.”

During her tenure at Forest City Ratner, Gilmartin oversaw the development of the New York Times Building on West 41st Street, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the Frank Gehry-designed 8 Spruce Street residential tower in downtown Manhattan. She also recently helmed the real estate investment trust Mack-Cali through a transition period.

Gilmartin announced the launch of her firm in December 2019. In addition to the 28th Street project, MAG is the development partner on a 6-acre development in Long Island City.

View Source
June 3, 2021
Commercial Observer

MAG Partners Selected to Develop Residential Co-op in Chelsea

MaryAnne Gilmartin’s MAG Partners has been tapped to redevelop 335 Eighth Avenue into a mixed-income apartment building with ground-floor retail space, the developer announced Thursday.

Penn South, an affordable housing cooperative based in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, selected MAG Partners for the 200-unit development that will be built under New York state’s affordable housing program, with 30 percent of its units reserved for low- and middle-income residents.  

MAG Partners will develop and operate the seven-story building under a long-term ground lease with Penn South. A grocery store and other retail stores are planned on the ground floor, with construction slated to commence in 2022.

The Real Deal first reported the selection of MAG Partners. 

“It is an honor to partner with Penn South and join their long legacy of community-building in Chelsea,” Gilmartin said in a statement. “We are committed to building in a way that enhances this beautiful neighborhood and provides value to the co-op’s long-term sustainability.”

Paul Travis of Washington Square Partners provided real estate advisory services to the co-op. Susi Yu, principal and head of development, led the deal for the MAG Partners team. 

MAG Partners chose Rick Cook and COOKFOX Architects to design the building with plans to bridge the historical character of Chelsea. The developer is also currently working with COOKFOX on the nearby 241 West 28th Street, a 480-unit apartment building slated to finish construction in late 2022.  

Ambur Nicosia, president of the Penn South co-op board, said in a statement that the deal will replace a commercial building that required huge repairs and provide revenue “to preserve the affordability of Penn South. We needed a solution that does not require our shareholders to pay major increases in monthly maintenance fees. The stores are supposed to subsidize the apartments, not the other way around.”

View Source
May 18, 2021
Commercial Observer

#50 MaryAnne Gilmartin

MaryAnne Gilmartin gives new meaning to the term “multitasking.”

In the space of nine months, the seasoned real estate developer entered and exited as Mack-Cali Realty Corporation’s interim CEO; launched her own firm, MAG Partners; got a development deal in Chelsea off the ground; and formed a strategic partnership targeting $3 billion in future deals.

Gilmartin earned her stripes at Forest City Ratner, climbing the ranks to CEO, a position she held for four years, and then formed L&L MAG with David Levinson and Robert Lapidus in 2018.

In July of last year, after a shakeup at Mack-Cali during which the CEO resigned, Gilmartin, who was on the board, took over as interim CEO. Gilmartin was confident she could turn things around at the company before handing it off.

“It’s not what I wanted to do when I grew up,” Gilmartin joked. “It’s not what I saw myself doing because of my partners, and my team, and [MAG Partners] being my first love.”

During her time as CEO, in her words, Gilmartin “upskilled the talent,” “pruned the organization,” and “revamped the leasing strategy” on Mack-Cali’s massive Jersey City waterfront project, bringing in a new leading head, and Mary Ann Tighe to consult on the project.

But lest we forget about MAG Partners, Gilmartin completed the buyout of her L&L partners in 2020, and made moves on her first standalone deal: a 479-unit multifamily development in West Chelsea, a site acquired and planned during the L&L days.

Gilmartin was actually close to closing on a construction loan for the site in early 2020, but the lender pulled back once COVID hit. Gilmartin decided to push ahead and find other sources of capital. She brought in foreign investors Atalaya Capital Management, Safanad and Qualitas as partners, and closed on a $173 construction loan in October. “It was pretty binary,” she said. “It was like, do you believe in New York City?”

That being said, Gilmartin is beginning to look to other cities where she can replicate some of her previous work in “placemaking” projects — large, mixed-use, urban development — such as Barclays Center and MetroTech in Brooklyn. “We like to say we’re placemakers, not developers,” Gilmartin said.—C.G.

View Source
January 26, 2021
Crain's New York Business


MaryAnne Gilmartin

Co-founder, chief executive officer, MAG Partners

After leading the efforts to build the Barclay’s Center, MaryAnne Gilmartin is now running her own firm. Gilmartin is the founder and chief executive officer of MAG Partners, which she spun off from L&L MAG last year. MAG Partners is creating a 480-unit residential building in Chelsea. Gilmartin was previously the president and chief executive officer of Forest City Ratner Companies, where she oversaw a period of game-changing development. In addition to the Barclay’s Center project, at the center of the $4.9 billion, 22-acre mixed-use Pacific Park development, Gilmartin was in charge of the construction of the New York Times Building, designed by architect Renzo Piano, and the Tata Innovation Center at Cornell Tech, among other projects.

View Source
December 8, 2020
The Real Deal

MAG Partners, Safanad form new joint venture

MAG Partners will bring the development experience, and Safanad will bring the capital.

That’s the setup of a new joint venture between the companies, which is targeting $2 to $3 billion worth of deals, the firms told The Real Deal. Eventually, the joint venture will pursue ground-up development, but in the short-term, it is looking at distressed properties and projects, as well as building conversion opportunities.

The companies are already working together on a 479-unit rental building at 241 West 28th Street in Chelsea. The firms, along with partners Atalaya Capital Management and Qualitas, secured a $173 million construction loan for the project in October.

MaryAnne Gilmartin launched MAG Partners, a spin-off from the firm she formed with L&L Holding’s David Levinson and Robert Lapidus, in December 2019. Gilmartin noted that while her priority since leaving Forest City Ratner in 2018 has been new development, the pandemic has shifted her focus. She described the new arrangement —which will acquire sites and pursue deals as a general partner — as “MAG Partners fueled by Safanad.”

Safanad, a private equity firm that launched in 2009, tapped Oxford Properties Group’s Andrew Trickett in 2018 to help grow its New York real estate operations. Trickett called the joint venture with MAG a “convergence of capital and expertise.”

View Source
December 7, 2020

Gilmartin confirms ‘interim’ CEO tag, says there will be new day-to-day leadership at Mack-Cali in 2021

Mack-Cali Realty Corp. interim CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin talked about the past, present and future of the real estate investment trust Monday during a webinar. And, while she said she will continue to have a major role in the company, Gilmartin made it clear that she does not intend to remove the “interim” tag from her title.

“I’m not 100% clear on the timeline, but in 2021 there will be new day-to-day leadership inside of Mack-Cali and I will go back to being chair of the board,” she said.

Gilmartin, who has stepped away from her job as founder and CEO of MAG Partners in New York City to run Mack-Cali, talked about where she saw the Jersey City-based REIT going during a lunch-and-learn webinar moderated by Mary Ann Tighe, CBRE’s CEO for the tri-state area. It was hosted by CBRE Vice Chairman Jeffrey Dunne and CBRE Executive Vice President Jeremy Neuer.

“My decision to serve as interim CEO was not something I anticipated doing,” Gilmartin said. “I was convinced of it when I was asked by the board to do it because it had a timeline associated with it.

“I knew that it was a bit of a rabbit hole and would require substantially all of my time, but that it wouldn’t be something like Hotel California — you can check in, but you can’t check out.”

Gilmartin said she remains committed to Mack-Cali — and that serving as interim CEO will allow her to do a better job as chair.

“My commitment to the company is solid,” she said. “I’m deeply loyal to the team. And I believe, as chair, I will be able to serve people and the shareholders effectively and mightily because I’ve been the interim CEO.

“The nice thing is, I’ve had the opportunity to do this. I will be able to stay with the story and see it out through its completion, and I also get to go home again to my team at MAG Partners, where we have a capital source, we’ve got a building on 28th Street that we’re coming out of the ground building in West Chelsea and we see lots of opportunity through the pandemic.”

Gilmartin said she sees similar opportunity at Mack-Cali.

“I guess the safest thing I can say is that changes are afoot and that we are not going to look the way we look today in three years, if we have anything to say about it,” she said.

And, while it’s no secret that the firm wants to sell off its suburban assets, Gilmartin said there will not be a fire sale — regardless of what public pressure the company may face to do so.

“Selling segments in the business or (joint venturing), or bringing in new capital, just for the sake of satisfying the rally call for change, is not wise,” she said. “You can’t run the company based on what the analysts are saying has to happen. You basically have to look at the company and say, ‘We definitely need to change it up a little bit.’

“Selling suburban is a strategy to make the balance sheet simpler and to produce proceeds so that we can shore up the balance sheet and increase liquidity and reduce debt — those things make a ton of sense. And I believe, all through 2021, we will sell a billion dollars of assets and that will make a meaningful difference on the company’s bottom line.”

That would make for a different company, too.

“You’re left with a residential business that is robust and has extraordinary value,” she said. “And we can keep doing that. We can supersize that portfolio and be a bigger, better version of ourselves. And/or we can be a commercial company that extracts the value that we know exists on the waterfront and we could JV with other commercial operators and owners and be a bigger, better version of ourselves as a commercial landlord. I think either of those two things are possible.

“Having two businesses — a residential business and a commercial business — is a really nice story of diversification, particularly if it’s mostly urban. So, I don’t see it impossible that the company is a commercial and residential landlord. But it has to have a healthier balance sheet, has to have better execution and it needs to have access to greater sources of capital.”