L+M’s Ron Moelis Talks About Essex Crossing

Essex Crossing Site 2; view from the intersection of Delancey and Essex streets. Credit: Handel Architects.

Essex Crossing Site 2; view from the intersection of Delancey and Essex streets. Credit: Handel Architects.
Essex Crossing Site 2; view from the intersection of Delancey and Essex streets. Credit: Handel Architects.

Commercial Observer sat down for an interview with Ron Moelis, CEO of L+M Development. His firm, along with Taconic Investment Partners and BFC Partners, is building the 1.9 million sq. ft. Essex Crossing project on the Lower East Side.

The developers started preliminary work on the first phase of Essex Crossing several weeks ago, just about a year-and-a-half after gaining the coveted city contract. In the interview, Moelis said, “I think it’s a miracle that we broke ground so quickly.”  The project includes one-thousand apartments, half of them affordable to low- and middle-income families. Moelis said the housing part of the development in relatively easy compared with everything else that goes around it:

What’s really difficult is building the neighborhoods and the ancillary aspects of it: the retail, the security, the education, the food, the infrastructure, the transportation… Essex Crossing is a great example, where you’re getting a mix of housing, a rebuilt Essex Street Market, you’re getting the food, getting family entertainment, a school (which we’re not building but it’s reserved for the site), improvements to the transportation system. It was just a very thoughtful plan—that took 48 years, granted, but I think they got it right. You can’t necessarily take that kind of land in Brownsville (where L+M is building another big project) and do the same thing. But we do have a million feet in Brownsville, we’re trying to do the same thing on a scale that works.

Moelis acknowledged that Delancey Street Associates, the consortium building Essex Crossing, is under the microscope to make the project in the former Seward Park Urban Renewal Area work on a lot of different levels:

It’s the most visible project we’ve done. It’s also an enormous commitment of capital. In phase one alone we have $150 million of equity and $415 million in debt in the project. There’s going to be a lot of political visibility on how we do it. And there will be a lot of criticism as well as accolades. To me what’s most important is how these uses are integrated and how it’s perceived by the people who live there. I’m sure there are people there who will say, “It should have all been affordable housing,” and I’m sure there are people who’ll say, “You should have brought more entertainment in,” but I think the goal at the end is to have the vast majority of voices say, “You really integrated this well. You didn’t just bring in $50 million apartments.”

You can read the full article here.