Property Group Partners has developed an office building at 860 Washington Street in Manhattan’s meatpacking district in partnership with Romanoff Equities.
Mr. Sussman, 70, is the founder and president of the Property Group Partners, which develops and manages office buildings.
Interview conducted and condensed by
Q. How did you decide on a new name after your separation in 2011 from Louis Dreyfus?
A. The Louis Dreyfus family changed ownership and didn’t want to be associated with real estate anymore in the U.S., and so it was very amicable.
Property Group was what we had been known as when we were Louis Dreyfus. It’s a little generic. The only other alternative was to put a name on it, but I think we’re all in this together on this team.
Q. You founded the Louis Dreyfus Property Group more than 40 years ago. Any plans to retire soon?
A. Absolutely not!
Q. How is business these days?
A. We have never been busier. We have more projects under way than we’ve ever had at any one time.
We have three new projects. One is in Washington, D.C., which is called Capitol Crossing, and it’s about 2.2 million square feet of office space. The second is here in New York in a venture with the Romanoff family, at 860 Washington Street. And we have a building at 52 Lyme Street in London, which is right next to Lloyd’s of London.
Q. Is 860 Washington your sole holding in New York?
A. Yes. In 1985 we finished 527 Madison Avenue at 54th and Madison. And 148 Lafayette Street we sold just over a year ago, which was a complete renovation and rehab of the building, an office building. One Forty Eight Lafayette Street was owned in a fund, and the fund had a finite life, so that’s why we disposed of that.
We would like to increase our holdings in New York.
Q. Let’s talk a little bit about the Washington Street development, which is expected to include 120,000 square feet of office and retail space.
A. We’re on the east side of the High Line and the new Whitney Museum is on the left side.
It’s a 10-story building. We are breaking ground on and about Oct. 1. There’s a dinner theater on the site right now, and they leave on the 28th of September. All of our plans have been submitted to the building department, and we’re moving forward.
It’s going to be a green building — hopefully we’re going for gold.
Q. Sustainable development has been your focus.
A. It’s wise to do things as environmentally acceptable as you can. We also found that the biggest economic driver were users. Law firms in Washington want it. There’s an emphasis on long-term sustainability. We’re looking at doing a cogeneration plant for the buildings on our site in Washington. It’s a higher first cost, but you’re able to control your long-term power costs.
Q. Any early interest from potential tenants for 860 Washington?
A. We’ve gotten inquiries.
This may be an opportunity for a single user for the entire building who may be interested in it not as just a location but as a branding opportunity. We are abutting the High Line. Our first floor is 25 feet high — the retail space — which brings us to pedestrian level of the High Line. And our second floor is 17-feet high.
Q. What kind of company could you see leasing there?
A. There are a couple of industries. One would be fashion and the other would be tech; we’re in talks with people in those industries.
Q. And rental rates?
A. I think we’re a little early to say, but certainly the office space will have spectacular views. The windows on the east have views of the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. The windows on the west have great views of the Hudson, and south we have all of Lower Manhattan.
Q. This building would probably sell out quickly if it had a residential component?
A. Thank God it wasn’t allowed to have residential — otherwise we can’t compete for the pricing.
Q. How do you see the meatpacking district evolving?
A. It’s going through what a number of new areas go through. When people originally moved there, mostly retailers, pricing was relatively inexpensive compared to the then-established areas, like SoHo and the West Village. Over time as it became more popular and landlords wanted to get increased rents there was some turnover. That happened when the meatpacking district wasn’t very mature, and I think it’s getting very mature. There have been some terrific new renovations.
Q. What do you do for fun?
A. I love the real estate business.
Q. Do you have any other family members in the business?
A. No. I have a 5 ½-year-old grandson who goes to bed at night with a brick — it’s plastic — and he is remarkable with Lego. So there’s hope.