Cover Feature Newswire Mann Report

On the Waterfront: Dynamic Star Brings Wellness to the Boroughs

Fordham Landing (Courtesy of Perkins Eastman)

Think waterfront living, working and recreation are attainable only for New York City’s wealthy? Think again, as Dynamic Star is building mixed-use communities on the city’s rivers.

With projects in the Bronx, Long Island City and Newark, New Jersey, Dynamic Star’s partners are determined to create affordable, healthy communities that embrace the metropolitan area’s many waterways.

“New York is probably the most valuable island in the world, yet we have so few marinas, or docks or boats. We do have great esplanades, but we rarely let people actually get in the water,” said Brad Zackson, co-founder of Dynamic Star. “We think we have an opportunity here.”

Dynamic Star was formed about in 2017 by Zackson, head of Dynamic Group, and Gary Segal, who had been the owner of and had recently departed construction giant Five Star.

“I’d wanted a partner who had the same vision to do large-scale development,” Zackson said.

Within a year, the two found the Bronx site, what’s now known as Fordham Landing South, an almost four-acre site located just south of the University Heights Bridge, and saw the potential for a massive development.

“That is where Phase 1 is today,” he said. “Then, when we met the then-borough president, Ruben Diaz Jr., who now helps us, he asked if we had looked at sites on the other side of the bridge. We started to look at the sites there and got lucky. We bought all three, totaling 14 acres. Somehow, we ended up with all of this amazing waterfront property. The more we learned, the more we realized we were buying something special.”

The timing worked well, with Inwood in the midst of rezoning and the redevelopment of nearby Roberto Clemente Park.

“And the neighborhood of University Heights is so charming, with a lot of homeownership,” he said.

The two began assembling a team, bringing Penny Lee, a veteran urban planner on board in 2018.

“We want to do something special,” Zackson said. “We’ve all had individual careers that helped us come together for something visionary.”

Initial plans filed in 2021 called for a 17-story residential tower with some affordable units, as well as community space. Not surprisingly, COVID-19 delayed the project — but made the need for it even more apparent. Oddly, the pandemic prevented the team from building something that wasn’t needed yet.

“COVID-19 knocked us on our heels — there are a lot of people still suffering, especially small businesses,” Zackson said. “We had our dark moments. We were thinking of a much larger project — over five million feet and we were going to rezone everything. Instead, we said, ‘Let’s do this and get it up and running so we wouldn’t lose the 421a we had.

“COVID-19 was an amazing education for all real estate developers. Office buildings are not healthy. We were not ventilating appropriately. People were getting sick. And the newer generations are really into being healthy.”

The first phase of One Fordham Landing, on the other hand, consists of a 350,000-square- foot community facility building on the Harlem River just south of West Fordham Road. Targeted at medical and educational institu- tions seeking healthy, modern space adjacent to a waterfront promenade, the property has 360-degree views overlooking Midtown Manhattan, with asking rents on par with the national average.

“The area has been rezoned and the neighborhood has been waiting for things to happen,” Zackson said. “So, we brought in one of the most brilliant architects, Stan Eckstut of Per- kins Eastman. He was so excited that we had so much infrastructure on the waterfront.”

Dynamic Star and its building and systems design team of Perkins Eastman, MG Engineering, MPFP Landscape Architects, Lemay + Escobar Interiors, LIVunLtd, and CBRE’s Energy and Sustainability Services team are designing an amenity-rich community facility building consistent with the Well Building Standard, developed by the International Well Building Institute. In fact, all future Dynamic Star buildings will be constructed to the Well Standard.

“COVID-19 put us back over two years,” Zackson acknowledged.

The building will boast 28,000-square-foot floorplates with 18-foot ceiling heights in the building base and 10,000-square-foot floorplates in the tower, well-suited for medical and educational tenants. Tenants will also enjoy a fresh air-based ventilation system, enhanced filtration, UV air treatment, moisture and humidity management and control and touchless building systems, including doors and elevators.

Unlike older buildings, where air is flushed twice a day, Well buildings are constantly turning over the air, Zackson observed. The goal is to attract young professionals back to the office by providing wellness and amenities they enjoy.

“Millennials like trees on a wall rather than a painting,” Zackson said.

Other amenities will include a 20,000-square-foot on-site landscaped outdoor roof, including community gardening space and use of a pickleball court, lap pool, basketball court and fitness center located in the adjacent apartment building.

“These buildings are vertical communities. We’ll have the health club, a pool and cooking classes, even ping pong tournaments,” Zackson described. “That’s where the office is now.”

But the real amenity is the river itself. The project will offer an 810- linear foot landscaped public waterfront esplanade, programmed with ample seating, shade cover, a Harlem River overlook, a paved walking path and exercise stations. The company has also worked to connect with a greenway to Roberto Clemente State Park, further helping to activate the greenway. In Phase Two, look for dinner boats and more programming for the river.

Embracing public transit is also key. One Fordham Landing is located adjacent to Metro North’s University Heights station and is within a 10- to 15-minute walk to the Number 1 207th Street station and the Number 4 Jerome Avenue station.

“We are excited to offer The Bronx a new standard in community facility buildings,” said Dynamic Star’s CEO Gary Segal in last year’s announcement. “One Fordham Landing is designed to promote the health and wellness of our tenants and their clients. We believe that a healthy environment, combined with a rich mix of tenant amenities and a spectacular waterfront location, is essential for productivity and overall well-being.”

The company also is working on Opus Point, a new office building being developed at 23-10 Queens Plaza South in Long Island City. The project will launch a 3,420-square-foot YMCA program space for local youth, a 2,410-square-foot space for local artists and cultural groups, a 15,000-square-foot LIC Food Innovation Hub and location for the Queens Tech Incubator Program and a 520-square-foot exhibit space devoted to the history of the Eagle Electric Company, the former owner and occupant of the building.

This mix of food, tech, arts and cultural, youth programming and exhibit spaces will establish a local, entrepreneurial hub to activate and anchor a new 321,000-square-foot office building to be developed at the foot of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge in Long Island City, Queens.

Zackson said the neighborhood has more than 30,000 apartments, making the need for convenient workspaces even more critical.

“I’m an advocate for the middle class, which has been priced out of Manhattan,” he added. “We have amazing cultures in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. And the Bronx has such amazing cultures and food. The marina is not about the rich just as the office is not about the boss anymore. It’s about getting employees to want to come to work because they are part of the community. We need more mixed-use all over the city.”

The company is also working on two mixed-use projects in Downtown Newark. So, with seven million square feet in various stages, Dynamic Star is content for now. After all, it has one very specific criterion for its properties, Zackson said.

“We only look for special projects,” Zackson said. “It’s satisfying to do things the world needs, servicing younger people. I want to see more people enjoying the great New York, and we want to build things to keep them here.”