“Five Minutes With…” Matthew Rosenbloom, Senior Development Associate at GFI Development Company – developer of The Beekman Hotel & Residences, winner of the 2017 ULI NY Awards for Excellence in Hotel Development.
In your opinion, what distinguishing features contributed to your project’s selection?
The Beekman is truly a special project. The uniqueness of the architecture of the historic building including The Beekman’s signature turrets and character-defining atrium set the building apart from its peers. The ability to repair and restore the Landmarked structure and marry it to the neighboring 51 story ground up tower was a monumental accomplishment for our entire team. There were many challenges along the way but to see the hotel and restaurants pulsing with activity and be so well received is very fulfilling. It’s always exciting to see a landmark come back to life, and it’s particularly satisfying when you’ve played a role in restoring it to greatness.
What is one positive lesson your team gained during the project’s development?
Patience. Several times throughout the course of the development project, we encountered challenges that could have been a cause for panic from both a financing and development/construction standpoint.
Regarding financing, the project qualified and generated a significant amount of historic tax credits. The historic tax credit investment was a critical part of the development’s business plan. However, shortly after the project broke ground, there was a freeze on historic tax credit investments as a result of the Boardwalk Hall ruling. After almost 2 years of uncertainty, we found a historic tax credit investor who was able to provide us with much better economics than we originally underwrote.
From a construction standpoint there were many challenges that tested our patience. During the restoration, a portion of the mansard roof of the historic building partially collapsed. Our entire team had to reset, regroup, and assess the situation. Through a concentrated coordination effort with our design and construction team, we were able to fix the roof and get the project back without jeopardizing the rest of the project.
The project was a tremendous undertaking but patience, hard work, and dedication has allowed us to achieve some amazing things.
What is one challenge your team overcame during the project’s development? How did you overcome the challenge?
The building’s atrium is unique from not only an architectural standpoint but from a building code perspective as well. The atrium was not code compliant in that there was no heating, ventilating or air conditioning (HVAC) systems nor any smoke control or smoke purge systems, as none were required when the building was originally constructed. In order to restore the building into a hotel, we had to provide a smoke management and control system for the atrium that would allow occupants to safely egress the building during a fire event. This had to be done while also maintaining the original historic fabric of the atrium in accordance with the New York State Historic Preservation Office’s (SHPO) wishes.
Through a coordinated effort with the FDNY, our design team developed a smoke curtain system that supported the mechanical smoke exhaust system by acting as a barrier to keep smoke within the atrium opening and out of the balcony areas. The smoke curtains are conspicuously hidden underneath the balconies on each floor and descend from the ceiling to the floor, forming a full barrier if there is a smoke event. It was the first type of system ever implemented in North America. Multiple model runs were required with the FDNY and the system was ultimately approved allowing us to overcome the challenge of maintaining and preserving the atrium’s original historic fabric while also achieving safety and compliance.