NAREE Panel Says Skyscraper Concept Here to Stay
June 11, 2002

By Staff
Appeared in

NEW YORK CITY-The skyscraper concept is not about to be relegated to the scrapheap of real estate history. In fact, tall buildings will continue to rise as the style of choice in metropolitan areas and our cityscapes will be the better for it. Such were the opinions at yesterday's NAREE panel discussion, If We Build It, Will They Still Come, moderated by John Salustri, National Online Editor.

"Skyscrapers will continue to play an important role in our urban landscape," said Michael D. Brown, Founding Partner, Ohrenstein & Brown. "Land is valuable and we will continue to build up." While 110-story buildings have probably seen their day, at least in the US, they have fallen out of favor not because the specter of terrorism suddenly looms large, but for economic considerations and practicality issues.

"It's not viable to build 110-story-buildings [in this country,]" agreed Boston Properties senior vice president Robert E. Selsam. "You see more of that in the Pacific Rim."

Syska Hennessy Group vice president and principal Terrence J Gillick concurred that our fascination with reaching for the sky is inbred. "We will still continue to see very tall buildings," he said, adding that going forward, skyscrapers will average around 70-stories. He noted that buildings of that height would are a sensible design goal because they are "practical, in terms of evacuation."

The tenant side will also remain receptive to sky-high space, according to Cushman & Wakefield head of Manhattan brokerage Kenneth Krasnow. "Many companies are committing to high space in high-rise buildings, he noted.

"It's not an issue I'm losing a lot of sleep over," quipped Boston Properties Inc. senior vice president Robert E. Selsam, noting that it would be "a challenge to find the room" to build a skyscraper in Manhattan.

The group was unanimously bullish on the future of Lower Manhattan as a global financial center. "When I have a piece of business that I am trying to close, there is nothing as effective as going to see the person face to face," said Selsam. "E-mail doesn't do it; telephone doesn't do it."

The panel saw building security as a concern rather than a responsibility. "Our role is not to defend the public," said Stephen Budorick, senior vice president at Trizec Properties Inc. "We are not equipped or licensed to be a police force."

Mark Smith, managing partner/real estate services for Ernst and Young said that building security is the role of the government, not that of building owners or managers. "Nonetheless," he added, "it's up to us to take reasonable steps."

"My bottom line is that I need my tenants to feel secure," said Selsam. "If they need a higher level of security, that's okay."