#45, MaryAnne Gilmartin, Founder and CEO at MAG Partners
By: Larry Getlen
Last year’s rank: 50
Two years into the company’s existence, MAG Partners spent 2021 constructing a massive development empire, a feat that, to founder MaryAnne Gilmartin, shows the company’s strength and resilience.
“We were able to put together a billion-dollar development pipeline, and secure those projects in a way where we have site control,” Gilmartin said. “We will have footings in three of the residential buildings in time for the expiration of [development incentive 421a], and we have capital partners committed to everything included in that pipeline. That’s an extraordinary accomplishment during one of the most challenging times in the history of New York City real estate.”
Two of the already capitalized projects in the pipeline include 335 Eighth Avenue, a 200-unit redevelopment to create an apartment building designed by Cookfox with 30 percent reserved for low- and middle-income residents, plus ground-floor commercial space; and 300 East 50th Street, a 194-unit multifamily building also with 30 percent affordable and with ground-floor retail, designed by BKSK.
On the commercial side, MAG has raised the equity for a bespoke 200,000-square-foot office in Hudson Square at 122 Varick Street.
“It will be a building of the future, a building that recognizes what’s important for corporate America as we all return to work,” Gilmartin said. “We’re going to capture all the elements of design and operating principles that we learned through the pandemic are important: lots of collaborative spaces, outdoor space, and a beautiful building that’s healthy inside and out.”
In a confirmation of the company’s strength, MAG has doubled its employee roster in recent months, now boasting 10 employees that make the company 50 percent female.
Looking forward, in May MAG made a major announcement regarding a project called Port Covington which is part of Sagamore Ventures and Goldman Sachs’s Port Covington development in Baltimore.
“We will be stepping into a very large master-planned development of 250 acres outside of New York with a blue chip, high-quality sponsor, and a partnership with another developer that together will make us among the largest and most prolific minority development partnerships in the country,” Gilmartin said. “It’s about 14 million square feet of development in partnership with a local municipality, in a city that needs the kind of placemaking we bring.”
Sagamore Ventures and Goldman Sachs Asset Management Announce Expansion of the Port Covington Development Team
Unique partnership between leading national woman-owned and Black-owned development firms, MAG Partners and MacFarlane Partners, will bring new investment to the Port Covington development and focus on the development of future phases
Weller Development Company will continue driving construction of the first phase, which is already delivering promised benefits to MBE/WBE businesses, the SB6 communities and the City of Baltimore
Sagamore Ventures and the Urban Investment Group within Goldman Sachs Asset Management (Goldman Sachs) today announced an addition to the development and investment team for Port Covington that brings together two of the leading woman-owned and Black-owned development firms in the country, MAG Partners and MacFarlane Partners. The addition of the MAG and MacFarlane team brings national experience that will focus on leasing, marketing and placemaking campaigns. Weller Development Company (WDC) will continue to focus on the construction of Chapter 1B, the 1.1 million- square-foot phase currently underway.
The MAG Partners and MacFarlane Partners team will lead the future development efforts outside of Chapter 1B and continue with the vision and transformation of the 177-acre South Baltimore project, with an approved master plan consisting of up to 14 million square feet of mixed-use development and 40 acres of open space across 45 new city blocks. The new development teams are direct investors leading all leasing, as well as future development and construction.
“With a dynamic and unsurpassed waterfront location, including direct access to I95 and unparalleled corporate branding opportunities, Port Covington is perfectly positioned for brands looking for more than a headquarters location, and are instead focused on community and impact. As the first phase of Port Covington springs from the ground, we are thrilled to grow our development team with the national, proven experience and scale of MAG Partners and MacFarlane Partners who will support the ambition and vision we have for the project. Getting the project to this point has been nothing short of herculean by Weller Development Company and the entire Port Covington Development Team,” said Kevin Plank, Principal and CEO of Sagamore Ventures. “With the support of Goldman Sachs, a catalytic anchor in Under Armour, and additional, innovative development partners in place, Port Covington is poised to attract top-tier commercial tenants and fulfill its potential for Baltimore and continue creating a new model for equitable and impactful urban development.”
“Port Covington is a transformational project that will help define and advance our renaissance by generating thousands of jobs and economic opportunities for the City and our residents for generations to come,” said Mayor Brandon M. Scott. “I am encouraged by the latest, premier additions to the development and investment teams and look forward to working with them to ensure that this project continues to benefit the South Baltimore community, especially its residents, equitably and inclusively. I am grateful to Sagamore for their demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion that they have achieved to date.”
MAG Partners and MacFarlane bring national experience and acknowledge the growth opportunities in Baltimore, having delivered some of the most complex mixed-use developments across the country, with a shared mission of bringing architecturally significant, equitable and sustainable development to America’s urban centers. Led by MaryAnne Gilmartin who has decades of experience leading complicated organizations to deliver impactful projects, the MAG Partners team has successfully designed, built, leased, and operated over seven million square feet of office, residential and mixed-use projects. MacFarlane Partners is led by Victor MacFarlane, a pioneer in urban development with a 40-year track record of investments that promote smart growth, urban revitalization, and sustainability in urban and high-density suburban submarkets. Both developers have also created and implemented innovative plans around community engagement, workforce development and local hiring, and affordable housing, and will bring that experience to Port Covington.
“Community and purpose are at the core of everything we do. Coupled with the vision and stewardship of Kevin and his team at Sagamore Ventures and Weller Development Company, we are excited to join the great work already underway which is uniquely focused on impact,” said MaryAnne Gilmartin, Founder and CEO of MAG Partners. “We are grateful to have had the opportunity to ground our team in the long-term vision for Port Covington and are looking forward to implementing new strategies to bring innovators to Baltimore City and ensure the neighborhood is built for all its constituents – particularly local residents.”
“Our business is focused on high-impact investments in key gateway cities and Port Covington perfectly aligns with our vision of smart, urban growth,” said Victor MacFarlane, Chairman and CEO of MacFarlane Partners. “Port Covington is a model of sustainability, inclusivity and forward-thinking development that is vital to the lasting success of our urban communities nationally. We are excited to partner with MAG Partners and Sagamore Ventures to advance the next chapter of Port Covington’s story.”
“Goldman Sachs invested in Port Covington because we have great confidence in the vision, and the opportunity to create something that delivers true community benefits for the city of Baltimore. As such, the Sagamore Ventures and Goldman Sachs teams proactively sought the support of nationally-experienced development partners that are uniquely qualified to enhance our mission,” said Michael Lohr, Managing Director, Goldman Sachs Asset Management. “The growing development team reflects both our ambition for Port Covington and commitment to delivering a world-class project that will drive renewed community investment and revitalize South Baltimore’s waterfront. Building on the achievements of the talented team at WDC, we are poised to deliver on this commitment.”
“We are so thankful to Goldman Sachs and Sagamore Ventures for their commitment to Baltimore; together, we exceeded expectations and delivered on the promises and commitments made to the community and the City. As the project evolves, we are excited to pass the reins to MAG Partners and MacFarlane Partners to develop future phases,” said Marc Weller, Founding Partner, Weller Development Company. “Building on the momentum of the project and the ongoing efforts with the City’s community partners will be an important priority for the Weller Development Company construction team.”
Port Covington is expected to deliver robust community benefits, including $19 million already funded to support Baltimore City and South Baltimore communities. To date, Port Covington has committed more than $110 million in contracts to MBE/WBE firms, exceeding its initial goals with 35 percent participation for MBEs and 12 percent for WBEs, and 500 Youthworks positions have been funded for Baltimore City youth.
Mike Middleton, Chair of the South Baltimore Seven (SB7) Coalition said, “From the onset, the community partnered with the Port Covington Development Team to ensure that the project will have a long-lasting, positive impact on South Baltimore and the City as whole. The collaboration between the community and Sagamore Ventures, Goldman Sachs, and Weller Development has been unprecedented. They have lived up to their promises and delivered as they said they would. The progress we are seeing and this latest milestone gets us one step closer to reaching our goals and realizing a brighter future for our communities.”
Last March, Port Covington celebrated the start of vertical construction and more than 1.1 million square feet of development is underway. This phase includes 586,000 square feet of residential, 440,000 square feet of office,116,000 square feet of retail, over 1,000 parking spaces, and ten acres of parks and public space.
About Port Covington
Port Covington is a 235-acre redevelopment project located on Baltimore City’s prime waterfront, featuring investments from Sagamore Ventures and the Urban Investment Group within Goldman Sachs Asset Management. As one of the largest urban revitalization efforts in the United States, the neighborhood of Port Covington will have a fundamental and far-reaching impact on Baltimore’s future. At completion, this transformative project will include: up to 14 million square feet of new, mixed-use development; 2.5 miles of restored waterfront; and 40 acres of parks and green space. The Port Covington redevelopment is expected to generate fresh opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship for Baltimore City residents and its local workforce.
For more information on Port Covington, visit www.pc.city.
May 10, 2022
Two high-profile developers join Port Covington team to take over next phase of development
By: Lorraine Mirabella
Two developers of high-profile urban projects in major U.S. cities have joined Sagamore Ventures’ effort to create a mini-city in South Baltimore’s Port Covington and will lead the next phase of development.
As five buildings near completion in the waterfront neighborhood south of Interstate 95, Sagamore and investment partner Goldman Sachs on Tuesday announced new partner firms, both of which invested undisclosed amounts in the project.
MAG Partners, a New York-based woman-owned firm, and MacFarlane Partners, a San Francisco-based Black-owned development and institutional investment firm, will leverage decades each of national experience in taking the reins from Weller Development Co. for leasing, marketing and “placemaking” campaigns for the current $500 million, 1.1 million-square-foot phase, Sagamore said.
MAG and MacFarlane will lead all future development outside that initial phase. The vision for the massive project, which spans 235 acres along Cromwell Street, includes up to 14 million square feet of shops, restaurants, office space and housing, plus 40 acres of parks, across 45 new city blocks.
Weller, which has led development thus far, will complete the construction of the current buildings, which include the centerpiece Rye Street Market with a food market, restaurants, retail, office space and a rentable events venue, as well as four additional buildings for apartments, offices, parking and retail.
Under Armour founder Kevin Plank, whose private investment firm, Sagamore Ventures, began carving out and acquiring parcels for Port Covington in 2014, touted the new development team members’ proven national experience and scale.
“Getting the project to this point has been nothing short of herculean by Weller Development Company and the entire Port Covington Development Team,” Plank said in the announcement. Now, “Port Covington is poised to attract top-tier commercial tenants and fulfill its potential for Baltimore and continue creating a new model for equitable and impactful urban development.”
No leases have been signed yet for any of the first phase buildings but tenant negotiations are underway, officials said.
Sagamore and Goldman sought out nationally-experienced developers to direct future phases, said Michael Lohr, managing director of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, which includes the investment bank’s urban investment group.
“The growing development team reflects both our ambition for Port Covington and commitment to delivering a world-class project that will drive renewed community investment and revitalize South Baltimore’s waterfront,” Lohr said in Tuesday’s announcement.
The heads of both MAG and MacFarlane, neither of whom has worked in Baltimore before, said in an interview that they were attracted to the project through personal ties and because of a belief in the untapped potential of U.S. cities and Baltimore in particular.
MaryAnne Gilmartin, founder and CEO of MAG Partners, and Victor MacFarlane, chairman and CEO of MacFarlane Partners, said they each found a niche pursuing against-all-odds types of development work.
The developers acknowledged Baltimore’s challenges but said they were impressed with accessibility along I-95, a strong labor pool, relative affordability for an East Coast city and expansive undeveloped waterfront land, all in an urban setting. That’s a recipe to draw companies, small businesses, residents and visitors, they said.
Key benefits, they said, include Under Armour’s commitment to build a five-story global headquarters for 1,700 employees on 50 acres it owns across Cromwell Street in Port Covington, along with a track and field facility and a flagship retail store. Port Covington also has buy-in from the city and the community after it funded a community benefits agreement that has funneled $19 million to South Baltimore neighborhoods.
“When we thought about all these ingredients, we thought there’s real possibilities here,” Gilmartin said. “We believe in cities as a company. … We started MAG partners so we that could demonstrate that you could build beautiful buildings and create value not just for partners and investors but for the communities in which we build.”
The Port Covington project, valued at an estimated $5.5 billion, is backed by $660 million in tax increment financing, which means property taxes generated by the project will repay city bonds sold to pay for its infrastructure. It is Baltimore’s largest such deal in history.
MacFarlane, who first went into business as an institutional investment manager in 1987, said his company looks for high-impact investments in key gateway cities. He is considered a pioneer in urban development for investments in inner-city Los Angeles after the 1992 riots and has led urban revitalization projects both in urban and high-density suburban submarkets.
“Port Covington perfectly aligns with our vision of smart, urban growth,” said MacFarlane, calling it a “model of sustainability, inclusivity and forward-thinking development that is vital to the lasting success of our urban communities nationally.”
His firm was a development partner in the mixed-use Time Warner Center along Central Park in New York. MacFarlane is partnering with another developer on a $2 billion, twin-tower luxury hotel project in downtown Los Angeles. Over the past decade, he said, he has focused on large urban projects “that can make an impact.”
“I’ve never really had an opportunity to do much in Baltimore, and the attributes that MaryAnne discussed about this project are very compelling,” he said during an interview. “We think with Port Covington we can place-make, which will not just cannibalize, as a lot of these projects are doing to themselves, but create an expansion of the employment base in Baltimore and make it more attractive overall.”
Gilmartin started her career as an economic developer under former New York Mayor Ed Koch and worked as an executive for Forest City Ratner Cos. before founding her own firm in 2020. She said she was brought into the Port Covington project by Jody Clark, Sagamore’s chief real estate officer, and first met with Plank just over a year ago at his Sagamore Farm in Baltimore County, site of Plank’s former thoroughbred racing operation.
While at Forest City, Gilmartin spearheaded the development of some high-profile New York City projects, including theBarclays Centerin Brooklyn. In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks, Gilmartin worked on the New York Times building in Times Square.
“We built a very safe, beautiful building we designed before 9/11,” she said. “We took some precautionary steps but we did not build a fortress, and it was really a vote on the future of New York City.”
Gilmartin said her first step after signing on to Port Covington was to reach out to MacFarlane, who she met years ago while doing work in San Francisco for Forest City.
The developers say they intend to capitalize on Plank’s talent for brand building with Under Armour and promise he will be a “strong voice” in selling the Baltimore story and re-branding the project.
“It was super important to us that we be able to call on Kevin,” Gilmartin said. “He is such a believer in Baltimore. He is very much going to be an active part of this endeavor.”
Port Covington is a “canvas,” she said, and the construction so far “really allows us now to start talking about Port Covington as a place to be, a place to go, a place to have fun, a place to raise a family, a place to grow your business. Yes the city has challenges … but it’s a very affordable alternative to some expensive bigger cities.”
Future development will be market driven, with design of office and residential buildings influenced by new ways of working that emerged during the pandemic, the developers said. They see Baltimore’s multi-family, for-rent market as healthy, with demand for both market-rate and affordable housing. Residential leasing is expected to start by the end of this year when model apartments will be available.
And commercial leasing, after a disruption during the pandemic, is getting back on track, with about 100,000 square feet of office space and 60,000 square feet of retail under negotiation and buildings expected to be ready for occupancy later this year and into early 2023. Developers said they expect the project to appeal to a diverse sector of businesses and will cast a wide net for tenants.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott said in the announcement that he was encouraged by news of the latest partners. Port Covington is expected to be transformational, he said, generating “thousands of jobs and economic opportunities for the city and our residents for generations to come.”
Marc Weller, founding partner of Weller Development, said the work to date on the site has “exceeded expectations.”
“As the project evolves,” Weller said in Tuesday’s announcement, “we are excited to pass the reins to MAG Partners and MacFarlane Partners to develop future phases.”
N.Y. developer MAG Partners co-leads team pitching for Diamond District project
By: Jonathan Spiers
An East Coast developer and a West Coast peer are teaming up in a bid to score Richmond’s Diamond District project.
New York-based MAG Partners and Seattle-based MacFarlane Partners are driving one of the six teams that remain in contention for the mixed-use redevelopment of city-owned land that would include a replacement of The Diamond baseball stadium.
MAG is led by MaryAnne Gilmartin, whose development credits include Brooklyn’s Barclays Center arena and surrounding Pacific Park Brooklyn mixed-use development. Other projects include the New York Times headquarters building and the 76-story New York by Gehry skyscraper.
Gilmartin, who founded MAG in 2020, helped drive those efforts during her years as an executive with Forest City Ratner Cos., the last five as its CEO. (Forest City worked on Barclays with David Carlock of Machete Group, a venue advisory firm that’s leading a separate Diamond District contender team).
MacFarlane Partners – not to be confused with the similarly named Richmond firm led by local developer Charles Macfarlane – is a 35-year-old company whose development work includes a 54-story hotel and condo high-rise at L.A. Live, an entertainment complex in downtown Los Angeles.
Led by Victor MacFarlane, the company is one of the largest black-owned development firms in the country, according to Gilmartin, who said they’ve collaborated on other projects.
Also on the team is Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners, a D.C.-based development firm that was one of the 15 respondents to the Diamond District’s initial request-for-interest solicitation. Gilmartin said Jair Lynch joined their team in recent weeks after its RFI response didn’t make the latest cut. The company has a focus in multifamily residential development.
Another recent addition is MSquared, a real estate development and investment firm led by Alicia Glen, a former New York City deputy mayor under the Bill de Blasio administration.
Rounding out the team are architecture firms AtelierTek and Woods Bagot; engineering firm Kimley-Horn, which has an office in Richmond; sports venue developer CAA Icon, whose stadium-related work includes Chicago’s 1060 Project and Guaranteed Rate Field; placemaking and workforce firm C Space; and structural engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti.
With its team, Gilmartin said in an interview this week, “I would submit that we have to have among the most diverse group of talent in the mix for this RFP response, just because I know how hard it is to put a team like this together.
“We really like what the government’s done by way of organizing this RFP. It’s ambitious, it’s got scale, and as a result, we put together a team that goes far beyond just the resumes and credentials of MAG Partners,” she said.
Gilmartin said her firm had identified Richmond as an emerging market it wanted to do business in when the Diamond District RFI showed up on its radar, leading to discussions with MacFarlane and Jair Lynch. She said Richmond’s culture, food scene and evolving demographics make it ripe to become one of the country’s next hot spots.
“We have a lot still to learn, but what we do know about Richmond is super-exciting to us. We think it’s a city to watch, for sure,” she said.
“As my team particularly was part of the renaissance of Brooklyn – we spent a lot of time helping to create a place in Brooklyn at a time when it really didn’t have the halo effect that it has today – we learned a lot along the way, and what we see in Richmond really lines up with what we are doing in our careers.”
While different in market and scale, Gilmartin said the 67-acre Diamond District project is similar to the 8-acre Pacific Park Brooklyn development that’s anchored by Barclays Center, home to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and WNBA’s New York Liberty.
“It really was the cornerstone to kick off the overall large-scale development, because it’s got public purpose and delivers a ton for the community. We see the Richmond RFP in a very similar way,” she said.
“It was a controversial project in its inception. One of the reasons why I think it’s been widely accepted by people in Brooklyn is that it is a very good neighbor, in terms of the way it’s been planned, the way it was constructed, the way that it operates. All of that was due to the work we put in for years and years.”
Gilmartin said her team would take a similar approach to the Diamond District, bringing with it lessons they learned from over a decade working on Barclays and Pacific Park Brooklyn.
“The only way to really know how to do it is to have done it,” she said. “All of that experience will be brought to bear in Richmond. The public trust that underlies that commitment needs to be honored, and that’s something that I think we are uniquely capable of doing.”
MAG’s team is one of six that the city is considering for the next stage in the process: an invitation for development proposals. After getting picked among the initial 15 RFI respondents, the teams were asked to provide additional information about themselves and how they would approach the project. The deadline for those details is this Monday, April 25.
An evaluation panel would then select a shortlist of finalists, who would be invited to submit proposals by early June. A final selection is targeted later that month.
In addition to a new, 10,000-capacity stadium to replace the 37-year-old Diamond, which has been deemed unfeasible for renovation, the Diamond District project calls for a mix of development including office, residential, retail and a hotel, as well as upgrades to infrastructure such as water, sewer and roads. The residential component would consist of rental and for-sale homes that would include some units targeted to lower-income households.
While local efforts to position the site for redevelopment have ebbed and flowed for over a decade, Gilmartin said the project’s history gives her team confidence that this latest attempt will be seen through – as does Major League Baseball’s deadline for the Richmond Flying Squirrels to find a facility that meets new pro baseball standards by the start of the 2025 season.
“I have a joke that sometimes things have to die three times before they live,” Gilmartin said. “Part of what I like about this is the process has been super-thoughtful, and because it has certain built-in timelines, there’s a certain amount of commitment around this RFP, because of the needs of the Squirrels and some of the other requirements that make us pretty sure something’s going to happen here.”
She added, “It feels right, it feels ready, and it feels highly credentialed on the part of the government.”
Declining to discuss her team’s vision for the project in detail, Gilmartin said they’ve shared more with the city than just their qualifications, and are open to potentially expanding or modifying the team’s makeup as needed for the project. City administrators have said the final selection for the project could be one or more developers or teams for all of parts of the development.
“While I can’t talk about the details, I can tell you that this submission that we’re doing is so much more than introductory,” Gilmartin said. “The level of work and the level of thinking that’s being asked of us is significant, and in my mind, while it’s a ton of work, it also speaks to the legitimacy of the planning organizations, the seriousness of the government to actually do something.”
Regarding arguments over whether the project should be awarded to primarily local or out-of-town teams, Gilmartin added, “We should be always thinking local, but there’s a certain amount of ideas and excitement that can come from opening the team up from beyond just the borders of Richmond and Virginia. It should be inclusive, and it should also have a local lineup.
“If our lineup is not local enough, because we need to bring in more local expertise, we’re completely open to that, and we’ve made that very clear,” she said. “But I also think, having run a company that had 26 offices around the country, we can all learn from each other.
“Obviously Richmond is not Brooklyn,” Gilmartin added, “but at the same time, we think we can contribute in a way that is highly beneficial to the process, and the ideas are probably going to be new. There has been a local effort on this district for quite some time now, and I think that there’s a desire for some new ideas and new thinking. But that doesn’t have to come at the expense of local expertise.”
The other five teams that remain in contention are:
• Diamond District Gateway Partners, consisting of local real estate investment firm Capital Square, D.C.-based developers Dantes Partners and Hoffman & Associates, Maryland-based real estate firm The Velocity Cos., local architecture firm Baskervill and Missouri-based architecture firm Pendulum.
• Richmond Community Development Partners, led by Houston-based Machete Group and consisting of developers JMA Ventures and Sterling Project Development, construction firm Gilbane, hotel management and advisory firm Retro Hospitality, architecture firm Hanbury, engineering firm VHB and planning nonprofit Storefront for Community Design.
• RVA Diamond Partners, team members unknown.
• Vision300 Partners LLC, includes developers Freehold Communities, Greenstone Properties, KDC and Spy Rock Real Estate Group; local building firm Hourigan; housing nonprofit Better Housing Coalition, construction firm Canterbury Enterprises, Shamin Hotels, YMCA of Greater Richmond, Brookfield Asset Management, and Richmond-based Sports United Ltd.
• Weller Development Co. and LMXD, consisting of Weller, a Baltimore-based developer, and LMXD, affiliated with New York-based L+M Development Partners.
Andrew Staniforth and MaryAnne Gilmartin Plotting a Modular Empire with Assembly OSM
By: Cathy Cunningham
Andrew Staniforth and MaryAnne Gilmartin first saw the potential for modular construction in Brooklyn years ago. Now, Staniforth, as CEO of Assembly OSM, is taking it to new heights coast to coast.
Assembly (n): A group gathered together in one place for a common purpose.
If there’s one thing the past two years have taught us, it’s that just because things were done in a certain way for a long time, it doesn’t necessarily mean the old way was the right way.
The commercial real estate industry has been a sometimes reluctant beneficiary of change and innovation. But, one firm is pushing the boundaries when it comes to an age-old process that was previously, quite literally, set in stone.
Modular construction startup Assembly OSM was founded by Chris Sharples and Bill Sharples, two of the founders of SHoP Architects, in 2019. While the Sharples brothers continue to oversee the company’s strategic direction, Andrew Staniforth took the reins as CEO late last year.
Its mission is clear: Assembly aims to turn the preconceived notion of modular construction on its head through the delivery of architecturally beautiful, high-rise buildings that are greener, cheaper and faster to construct.
The new modular
Think of modular construction and what comes to mind may be stock Lego pieces, put together in an impersonal manner. Right?
Wrong. Just ask MaryAnne Gilmartin, who serves as an adviser to Assembly.
“We don’t want to make people think about prisons and dormitories when we think modular,” Gilmartin, the founder and CEO of MAG Partners, said. “We want to go back to [architect, inventor and futurist] Buckminster Fuller, and recognize that when you have controlled environments, you can deliver unbelievable beauty.
Utilizing the technical know-how of former engineers from the automotive and aeronautics industries, Assembly utilizes cutting-edge technology in every step of its building delivery process, from digital twin manufacturing models — or, real-time virtual representations of the physical construction process — through to eventual on-site installation
Sustainability is a crucial part of its business plan. On the construction front, its buildings have 30 to 40 percent less embodied carbon and a reduction of 60 to 70 percent of on-site emissions. Assembly has also designed its properties to be upgradable and disassembled as markets change, or at the end of their useful life. Further, drawing from a preapproved supply chain allows developers to track the sustainability of each product.
“We feel that attacking this problem from all angles is the only way we will be successful at moving the industry forward,” Staniforth said.
In addition to its eco-friendly approach, Gilmartin said the key void Assembly is filling today centers around innovation.
“It’s a connect-the-dots void,” she said. “As developers, we accept the fact that the way we do things is inherently inefficient, and there has to be a better way. What Assembly is doing is pushing the bounds of that conversation to a place of saying, ‘We can do it better, we can deliver it cheaper, and we can make it beautiful.’ I don’t think that trifecta has been demystified by the development and building community, and I actually don’t think there are many competitors trying to solve that same problem.”
As this article was going to press, Staniforth was focused on getting Assembly’s first deal locked down, a 130,000-square-foot multifamily building in Manhattan. Details on the property are still under wraps but — to give eager eyes a taste of what automated architecture can look like — the company put a prototype of a completed one-bedroom unit on display in Harrison, N.J., in late October 2021.
“We’re at a point where what Bill and Chris have built over the last three years at Assembly is now ready to release into the world,” Staniforth said. “Over the last few weeks, we’ve had people come out to our facility in Harrison and see our first units being built. MaryAnne was one of them, and I jokingly said we need one of those roller-coaster flashes that go off when you walk into the unit because everyone’s reaction is, ‘This is amazing,’ because the preconceived notions of modular and prefab just aren’t applicable to that first unit — at all.”
Gilmartin described the apartment as “stunningly beautiful.” She added: “What hit me was the absolute upgrade in every way to the original thought of a ‘modular unit.’ It has evolved significantly in its application to high-end, luxury condominiums, and you can now produce that luxury look and feel at a price point that allows renters at all price points to experience a level of luxury. That’s very, very difficult to achieve presently in construction.”
Assembly buildings are delivered in about half the time and allow developers to reduce both interest and carrying costs, and hold less contingencies, all of which result in an overall less expensive building. Thanks to the cutting-edge technology utilized in their prefabrication, Assembly buildings are also higher quality and more sustainable, making it a win-win for both the developer and the end user.
Technology is the backbone of Assembly, and the company has added engineers from Boeing, SpaceX and Tesla to its team, including Boeing’s former chief technology officer, John Tracy.
Those engineers know how the advanced manufacturing industry has operated most efficiently within the aeronautics and automotive industries, and have helped Assembly implement two fundamental concepts applicable to real estate construction: a single source of product information (or digital twin) and a widely distributed supply chain, where subcomponents — for example bathrooms and kitchens — are manufactured by different suppliers across the country and are ready to roll without delays when it comes time to deliver the building.
Bringing all of these capabilities together, Assembly has also built its own software and combined it with products like Catia, used for computer-aided engineering, and 3D technology so that custom-made buildings can be digitally modeled and manufactured like cars and airplanes have been for decades.
As a developer, “My end of the business is never really going to be on the forefront of innovation,” Gilmartin said. “I think that in some ways this discussion around modular and process innovation and delivering quality in a more efficient way is like a war cry for intelligence in real estate.”
And those who understand the true benefits of that intelligence are the ones who’ve been watching the construction space for a very long time, Gilmartin said.
It started deep in the Forest
Modular construction isn’t a new concept to Gilmartin or Staniforth. In fact, the construction of Brooklyn’s Pacific Park, which included Barclays Center as well as the erection of a high-rise modular tower, was a bonding moment for the two at Forest City when the young Staniforth joined the firm as an intern in 2011, his first job out of the University of Pennsylvania.
On Staniforth’s very first day, Gilmartin handed him a set of plans for Tower B2, now known as 461 Dean Street, the first modular tower next to the arena, and said, “We’re trying to figure this out. Can you take a look at it?” He’d never received a set of plans, let alone looked at anything like it.
“I think that the baptism by fire that we had at Forest City really allowed me to be involved in things that most 20 year olds wouldn’t have exposure to,” he said.
Staniforth wasn’t the only one thrown into the deep end when it came to the project, though.
“None of us had ever built an arena before,” Gilmartin said. “It was about getting the best and the brightest people around the table, including the architects, and figuring out how to do this in a way that was different and lasting. Andrew was a big part of that. The arena process confirmed that he’s a superstar, and then he just needed additional time and exposure.”
Gilmartin described herself as an “episodic mentor” in Staniforth’s career since then, available for counsel when big moments or career opportunities have come his way. Or, from Staniforth’s perspective, “at every pivotal moment.”
A pull toward technology and innovation during his time at Forest City presaged his next move — to urban infrastructure, planning and innovation firm Sidewalk Labs (a subsidiary of Google) — and, after Gilmartin created L&L Mag in 2017, she brought Staniforth over there, where he began working on Terminal Warehouse, the firm’s reimagined former shipping warehouse in West Chelsea. (It should be noted that while Staniforth was working on that project, Commercial Observer named him to its Top Young Professionals in commercial real estate list.)
Staniforth credited Gilmartin with steering him to the places that held learning opportunities. “Sidewalk was a big shift,” he said. “But MaryAnne has always been this force of, ‘Find things that challenge you professionally, and find where you can add value to the industry, to the company, to the ecosystem,’ and for the past 10 years, that’s the way I’ve approached everything.”
Looking back in the context of what Staniforth is now doing at Assembly, Gilmartin described their Forest City modular accomplishments as “important, but not enough. We demonstrated that a building could stand up if 60-plus percent of it was built in a factory — and that’s not an insignificant contribution. What’s now been taken to a much more sophisticated level, is that you can build modules and not sacrifice aesthetics and architecture.
It’s a new dawn
Staniforth’s new role requires many problem-solving skills in an industry resistant to change.
“Understanding the benefits that stem from changing the way that we build buildings — for more affordable housing, and all of the benefits of having a much broader, inclusive workforce who participate in construction — and then being able to keep those benefits at the forefront as you do something that changes the way that stuff has happened for generations is a very clarifying process in terms of what I have to focus on,” he said.
As CEO, his first task was setting a very clear and concrete internal mission at the company. “Once you establish that North Star of values, everything centers around that,” he said.
One of his core leadership philosophies is being transparent with both his team and the broader real estate community to drive home the things for which Assembly stands. Cultivating a diverse and inclusive workforce at every stage of the construction process is one prime example.
“Transparency empowers people to make decisions, and I’m transparent about needing to have a more inclusive workforce and pull different pockets of populations into the construction field, because they’ve been traditionally cut out,” he said. “It’s really important to codify that internally, and then everyone, as they analyze the decisions in their own day, consent around that, and my leadership team doesn’t have to be involved in those decisions. Everyone knows what we’re optimizing for. And that’s part of what I’ve been doing over the past six weeks — getting those concepts just on the table and talking about them very openly.”
One of the big exercises as Assembly grows the team is hiring people that match its values and its mission, and can help it continue to achieve those goals.
Time is money
Developers may take some convincing along the way, but Gilmartin is confident the argument for modular is ready to be made.
“It’s a case of trust and verify in doing these early projects and taking a group of doubting Thomases and converting them,” she said. “You don’t have to be on the higher plane in the world of developers, you can actually be a bit of a lunkhead — and I say that affectionately. As developers we want to get the job done, and make money.”
The benefits should be easy enough for the lunkheads to grasp: Assembly’s building delivery methodology eliminates the potential for human error, shortens project timelines and removes the guesswork from construction costs, thanks to the prefabricated advance pipeline of materials involved.
“We all know that there’s a dire need for housing, and the market is there for it. But as a developer, you don’t know what it’s going to cost,” Gilmartin said. “The innovation that Andrew is working on is going to allow us to be much more certain about cost and time. Time is money and there are so many things that can go wrong when there’s a bigger human factor involved. And I think that this idea that Andrew is going to use the automotive industry and the aeronautics industry to do a better job of delivering for the built environment is something that’s just next level, and beyond anything we were thinking about when we built B2 as a modular building.”
What’s also key — perhaps especially in New York, where buildings’ outward appearances’ are judged like dogs at Crufts — is that design aesthetics won’t be sacrificed along the way.
“The ethos of our company comes from ShoP. And design is so important,” Staniforth said. “At the end of the day, people want to live in places that are beautiful and safe and healthy. When you put that at the forefront of how you approach a manufactured product, you get around some of the preconceived challenges of modular and prefabricated work.”
Breaking down those walls — no pun intended — the company is already in conversations with several of the industry’s starchitects.
“COOKFOX or Norman Foster will be able to design an Assembly building,” Staniforth said, adding that beauty will be one thing that differentiates his firm from others in the modular space. “You don’t have to pick out a building from an assembly line. On the back end, we’ll make it super efficient to execute. But on the front end, it’s going to look beautiful and custom-made with your architect’s stamp on it.”
Staniforth expects Assembly to complete three deals in the next year, likely in New York City and California, where the company has already completed a lot of the pre-approval processes and is ready to rock.
“We started at Forest City with an idea, and it was a hairy, crazy idea that was a jumpstart on this whole idea of doing things better, faster and more progressively in the built environment,” Gilmartin said. “For me, it’s deeply gratifying to see that very early idea turned into something as sophisticated and as promising as what Assembly has put together today.”
MAG Partners, Safanad, Atalaya Capital Management and Qualitas, with Urban Atelier Group, top out 241 W. 28th St.
By: Owners Developers & Managers
Manhattan, NY MAG Partners topped out construction on a 480-unit rental residential building at 241 W. 28th St. 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 8,000 s/f of ground floor retail. Developed under the Affordable NY program, 30% 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 project is a joint venture between MAG Partners, Safanad, Atalaya Capital Management and Qualitas.
MAG Partners previously announced that it had secured a $173 million construction loan from Madison Realty Capital for the project.
The exterior of the building is designed with contextual masonry inspired by the 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 St. 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.
MAG Partners Rings in 2022 With New Hires, Including Rob Willis From Mack-Cali
By: Andrew Coen
MaryAnne Gilmartin’s MAG Partners rang in 2022 with the addition of construction industry veteran Rob Willis, Commercial Observer can first report.
The hiring serves as a reunion for the two commercial real estate executives. Willis was most recently senior vice president of construction at Veris Residential (formerly Mack-Cali Realty Corporation), and first became acquainted with Gilmartin while working alongside her at Forest City Ratner Companies 19 years ago. The two also intersected briefly at Mack-Cali.
Gilmartin tapped Willis for the head of construction role at MAG as the developer gears up to tackle large-scale multifamily and office properties throughout Manhattan.
“When MaryAnne gave me the call I thought about it for about one second,” said Willis, who was vice president at Forest City Ratner from 1998 to 2004 and became senior vice president of construction at Mack-Cali in September 2020. “I admire her so much as she is so talented and has so much experience, and the rest of the team is really good at what they do.”
Gilmartin rose through the ranks at Forest City Ratner Companies to become president and CEO, before forming L&L MAG in 2018 with L&L Holding Company’s David Levinson and Robert Lapidus. She founded MAG in July 2020 while simultaneously spending nine months as an interim CEO at Mack-Cali on the heels of a leadership shakeup at the real estate investment trust, where she had served on its board.
During his time at Mack-Cali — which was rebranded as Veris Residential in late 2021 — Willis oversaw a construction department that was responsible for the $100 million repositioning of Harborside 1 in Jersey City, N.J., a 4.3 million-square-foot office campus. He previously led the design and construction team at HEI Hotels & Resorts and was managing director of the John Hardy Group’s New York City office.
“When we started the company we knew that we were going to have to grow and grow strategically and lean on the life cycle of a ground-up development company where the construction piece is back ended and it takes sometimes years to put buildings together,” Gilmartin said. “Now that we are several years in, we are building things and because of that we can get a great talent to help us deliver the construction part of our business.”
A year and a half after completing the buyout of her L&L partners and launching MAG Partners, the firm is tackling four development projects in Manhattan including a 480-unit residential development at 241 West 28th Street slated for completion in late 2022. Another rental project with an affordable component that Willis will help spearhead is 335 Eighth Avenue, scheduled to break ground this spring, and a new boutique office development also slated to launch this year at 122 Varick Street.
In addition to the hire of Willis, Gilmartin added Lizzy Zevallos as assistant vice president of development. Zevallos arrives at MAG after serving as vice president of portfolio management at Maverick Real Estate Partners, where she helped underwrite more than $3 billion of CRE loans. Zevallos, who is also a professional dancer and choreographer, also interned under Gilmartin at L&L MAG from January 2020 to June 2020.
Gilmartin also hired Arion Alku as an accounting manager, bringing MAG’s staff up to 10. Alku previously worked as a senior accountant at Marx Realty, where he conducted audits and internal controls for some of the largest real estate owners in the New York City metropolitan area.
MAG’s expanded 10-person team now consists of six women and four men. Boosting diversity has been a core focus of Gilmartin since launching MAG in addition to constructing projects that intersect well with their neighborhoods.
“We’re building a different company where we’re creating a new model for development and we’re focusing on diversity,” Gilmartin said. “We want to bring the community into our process and do that while delivering the highest-quality buildings.”
MAG Partners celebrates topping out of first NYC project; COOKFOX-designed rental to bring 480 mixed-income apts to Chelsea
By: CityRealty Staff
Just south of the slow-as-molasses and desperately needed metamorphosis of Penn Station, the area once known as the ‘Fur District’ is transforming into a vibrant mixed-use community. 2021 began with the opening of Moynihan Train Hall, the transformation of Farley Post Office into an airy, welcoming train station. Plans are moving forward for the Penn District, the transformation of the area around the much-maligned Penn Station that will also bring aesthetic and infrastructure improvements to the station itself.
A few blocks south, construction has topped out at 235 feet high and 22 stories at 241 West 28th Street, a 400,000-square-foot through-block development between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. MaryAnne Gilmartin, Jeff Rosen, and Susi Yu of developer MAG Partners, as well as Rick Cook and Brandon Specketer of designer COOKFOX Architects, were on hand to mark this milestone, which puts the building well on its way towards its target completion of late 2022.
The project will comprise two 22-story towers, individually fronting West 28th and West 29th Streets, and a private courtyard in between. There will be approximately 8,500 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, and apartments on all floors above. As part of the Affordable NY program, 30 percent of the units (or approximately 144) will be permanently affordable to low- and middle-income New Yorkers. Permits filed in September 2019 show that amenities will include a children’s playroom, pet spa, fitness rooms, bike room, lounge, and pool.The project is targeting LEED Silver certification, and COOKFOX is well known for its work relating to sustainability and occupant wellness. Released renderings showing details of 214 West 28th Street’s facade show the building will have a planted canopy above the entrance, beautifully-articulated brickwork, and deeply-inset windows with chamfered surrounds to augment views. Additional outdoor offerings will include a central courtyard and garden, as well as a series of terraces and rooftop gardens with views of Midtown, Lower Manhattan, and the Hudson River. Examples of the firm’s commitment to biophilic design include 550 Vanderbilt Avenue, 150 Charles Street, Google’s expansion in Hudson Square, and a nearby condo development at 39 West 23rd Street.
“We have never met a surface we haven’t wanted to plant green” — Brandon Specketer, COOKFOX
The new building is being developed in a joint venture between MAG Partners (led by Ms. Gilmartin), Safanad, Atalaya Capital Management and Qualitas. The lot was previously owned by major parking landlord Edison Properties and was acquired by MAG Partners in December 2018 by way of a 99-year ground lease.
The property had long been slated for development, and a 2011 rezoning allowed for new residential uses to breathe new life into the shrinking Fur District. Fast-forward nearly a decade later, the acquisition of a $173 million loan from Madison Realty Capital allowed construction to proceed.
“As true believers in the future of New York City, we are thrilled to be able to begin construction on this innovative project that will bring mixed-income housing and hundreds of jobs at a critical time for the City.” — MaryAnne Gilmartin, Founder and CEO of MAG Partners
“This marquee 480-unit multifamily rental building, located within a few blocks of Hudson Yards and other prominent tech tenant expansions on the west side, will be one of the only new multifamily rental projects built in Manhattan in the next few years,” said Josh Zegen, Co-Founder and Managing Principal of Madison Realty Capital. “We were pleased to fill a void which would customarily be financed by conventional banks, and provide our flexibility, certainty, and conviction.”
241 West 28th Street is taking shape in what is rapidly becoming a central live-work-play community. The site is a few doors west from Maverick Chelsea, an eye-catching new building where current availabilities start at $1.5 million. Around the corner, MAG Partners and COOKFOX have teamed up again to transform 335 Eighth Avenue, an affordable housing cooperative, into a 200-unit building with commercial space, including a grocery store.
These projects will provide much-needed affordable and market-rate apartments to a central Manhattan location within walking to distance to thousands of office tenants in Midtown, the Garment District, Chelsea, and Hudson Yards. Facebook is set to occupy the office space in the James A. Farley Building, and industry giants like Apple, Google, and Amazon are among the firms embarking on expansions nearby. The area has also seen a commercial building boom over the past few years with developers undaunted by the pandemic and growing work-from home arrangements. Around this building alone, Fashion Institute of Technology is planning a multi-layered glass academic building designed by SHoP Architects across the street, and construction is winding down on 28&7, a sleek new commercial tower designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill.
“As a firm, we continue to believe in the future of cities as places where the world’s most talented and creative minds congregate – we expect New York City to continue to lead the way on that front and the Chelsea neighborhood to strengthen its attributes as a highly desirable place to live, work and play. We are excited to commence building this project.” — Mark Fischer, Global Head of Real Estate at Qualitas
The site is also a stone’s throw from the new Penn District plan set to transform the decrepit Penn Station and the surrounding area. Andrew Cuomo called for a new business district of 10 skyscrapers to be built, and for using the money from those buildings to finance much-needed infrastructure upgrades. More recently, Governor Hochul has called for revisions of the plan, saying, “It’s time for a Penn Station that meets the needs of New Yorkers.” Her vision calls for the same number of buildings, but not as dizzyingly high as the supertalls previously proposed. It also calls for 540 permanently affordable housing units among the 1,800 new ones proposed in the plan, as well as eight acres of public space and a plaza that would limit car traffic.
It is unclear how Madison Square Garden would fit into all this. The arena was granted a 10-year permit in 2013 so the owners could find a new home; eight years later, ownership has not revealed plans for that, but did announce that they had signed a lease for a 428,000-square-foot corporate headquarters at Penn 2, one of the new office towers in the Penn District. Some critics say that moving Madison Square Garden would let natural light into Penn Station and improve conditions from a safety standpoint. Governor Hochul’s plan calls for keeping Madison Square Garden where it is, but requiring the Hulu Theater to be demolished to accommodate a grand entrance to Penn Station.
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.
IMPACTGilmartin is chairwoman emeritus of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, an executive committee member of BAM, a board member of New York Public Radio and an executive committee and board member of the Real Estate Board of New York.
ONCE, TWICE, four times a CEO.
At 56, MaryAnne Gilmartin has already been at the helm of four high-profile development firms in the city. She bought out her partners at L+L MAG to start MAG Partners in 2019. The company now controls a pipeline of three residential ground-up developments, as well as one commercial, in New York City.
While working on the new company, she was tapped to serve as the interim chief executive of New Jersey–based real estate investment trust Mack-Cali after investment group Bow Street partners ousted its previous leader, Michael DeMarco. Gilmartin has since relinquished the role and is back at her firm.
When she served as chief executive of Forest City Ratner Cos., she was a driving force behind some of the city’s most important developments including the Barclays Center and Pacific Park, which transformed Brooklyn, as well as the New York Times Building.