Troubled Washington Heights Site Finally Sells; Developer Left Bankrupt - The Jewish Voice
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Friday, August 19, 2022

Troubled Washington Heights Site Finally Sells; Developer Left Bankrupt

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By Hadassa Kalatizadeh

Developer Rutherford “Ruddy” Thompson has finally unloaded the troubled Washington Heights site which cause so much turmoil in his life and dragged his business into bankruptcy.

As reported by Crain’s NY, the One Bennett Park condominium project has been sold, trading hands for $12 million.  The new owner, Sumaida + Khurana and Bizzi Partners, is gearing up to build a residential building, which will include community facility space. The synagogue at the site will be demolished.  The site can normally allow 145,000 square feet of development, said Victor Sozio, a broker at Ariel Property Advisors who represented the seller, Amalgamated Bank, in the lengthy foreclosure.  If community space is incorporated, then the allowed build up jumps to 275,000 square feet, he explained.  “It’s an amazing location,” Sozio said, referring to its position near Bennett Park. “It offers a good amount of buildable square feet that developers are attracted to.”

The site didn’t bring much good to its former owner, Thompson, however.   Back in 2006, he had borrowed $95 million to finance the construction of the planned tower.  Environmental and construction complications, coupled with a global recession turned the project into a nightmare for him.  The development site at 524 Fort Washington Ave., which includes the former Fort Tryon Jewish Center, has thick bedrock under it, as well as elevation challenges.  Also it is on top of a subway line, making it challenging and costly to develop on.

Thompson started construction in 2007, but in 2008 when the Great Recession hit, the bank stopped funding it, forcing him to halt the construction.  The bank started foreclosing but Thompson fought the process in court, spending a cool million just on legal fees.  In 2014, the court gave him a victory over the bank, but development was still at a standstill.  He eventually struck a deal with Amalgamated to cut the balance of his loan down by 30 percent, and to sell the property, hiring Ariel Property Advisors to do so.  No buyers were taking, however. In February 2020, Amalgamated Bank foreclosed again and seized the property’s deed valued at $17 million from Thompson.  To top it all off, Thompson had to sell his Westchester home and lost his wife in a divorce.  “I’m worth less than zero if I get nothing from the site,” Thompson told Crain’s. “I’ll probably move to China.”

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