From the Jody Kriss Blog: 3 Cool Gowanus Canal Happenings

Although the Jody Kriss Blog tends to cover real estate news, things affecting housing market, and developments by Jody Kriss and East River Partners, from time to time it also covers news and info related to New York City. Right now there are some really exciting things happening with the Gowanus Canal, and they affect everyone in the surrounding areas.

Background on the Gowanus Canal

Most New Yorkers learn about the Gowanus Canal very quickly upon arrival to the city, but it is one of those things tourists don’t often get to see. Like the rest of New York City, Brooklyn was booming in the 1800s, and the area around Gowanus Creek was surrounded by farms and mills. To help further development in the area and make it easier for companies to transport goods, officials decided to widen the creek into a canal. There were a lot of different plans proposed to ensure that the nearly two-mile stretch of water would remain fresh and clean, but ultimately officials settled on the plan that would save the most money- simply hoping that the tides would keep the water fresh. Construction was completed in 1869 and the companies that congregated on the banks of the Gowanus Canal immediately started dumping waste into the water, including things like mercury, lead, and coal tar, and even raw sewage found its way in. Since then, many proposals have been made for cleanup efforts, but all have failed. The water remains one of the most polluted areas in the entire United States, filled with dangerous pathogens and so low in oxygen that it cannot sustain life or a healthy ecosystem.

1. The Floating Garden

Last fall, a “floating garden” of sorts was unleashed on the Gowanus. The garden is built from numerous materials, including bamboo and coconut matting, with various plants carefully potted inside wide metal pipes that are filled with plastic water bottles. Part of it is solar-powered, as it desalinates water from the canal and also collects rainwater. The designers hope it will help scrub the canal clean, but it’s still very much an experimental project.

2. The 2,000 Gallon Project

Rainwater is an ongoing issue, as it tends to push more sewage into the Gowanus. Although there is a sewage tank below the canal to collect rainwater, there are times it cannot handle the deluge and it overflows. In an effort to catch the water before it hits the tank, developers have started the 2,000 Gallon Project. The concept is very simple. They’re filling several dumpsters with soil and plants and placing them in areas around the Gowanus. Each one should be able to hold 2,000 gallons of water.

3. The First Street Basin Restoration

Between Carroll and Third Streets, and behind the abandoned Brooklyn Rapid Transit Powerhouse (aka the Batcave), is an area that was once a basin attached to the Gowanus. Although no one is quite sure when it fell into disuse and was filled in with dirt, experts believe it was around the 1950s.  As part of the overall cleanup plan for the Gowanus, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that they plan to restore the basin. They expect to remove around 1,000 truckloads of contaminated dirt and will add 475 more feet of water onto the Gowanus. The catch is, nobody is quite sure what’s down there below the layers of dirt, and the EPA has archaeologists on staff to help them manage any interesting finds, including shipwrecks, according to DNA Info.

The Gowanus Canal cleanup projects are staggered out over a period of several years. Construction on the basin isn’t even slated to begin until 2018, and they plan to keep it blocked off from the main canal until cleanup is complete to avoid recontamination. In the meantime, keep checking back with the Jody Kriss Blog for future updates on the Gowanus project, real estate news, updates on Jody Kriss and East River partner projects, and more.

From the Jody Kriss Blog: Study Shows Airbnb Still Hurting NYC

Jody Kriss and East River Partners often choose to restore buildings throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, simply because there is a huge need for housing in the area. With a bit of TLC from Jody Kriss and East River Partners, the older buildings can be brought back to life and modernized, so that they suit the needs of people today. A study that was just put out by the Housing Conservation Coordinators (HCC), a tenant advocacy group, as well as MFY Legal Services and BJH Advisors has just uncovered another reason why it’s so difficult for people to find decent housing in the prime boroughs- Airbnb.

HCC Says Airbnb is “Short Changing New York City”

The study, entitled “Short Changing New York City,” reveals that Manhattan and Brooklyn are the boroughs that have been hit the hardest by Airbnb’s short-term rentals. According to their research, about 60% of New York City’s housing is split between the two, but of Airbnb’s more than 51,000 rentals, in excess of 90% are within Manhattan or Brooklyn. The researchers went so far as to declutter the data and only look at “Impact Listings.” In order for a rental to be included in their data, it had to either be a rental of a full house (versus single rooms in a home), be commercial (fit criteria that suggested owners were using it as an income source), or be a regular rental (met frequent booking guidelines).

5 Neighborhoods are Taking the Brunt

Not only are Manhattan and Brooklyn being massively affected by the rentals, but five “macro-neighborhoods,” in particular, account for 53% of all New York City Airbnb listings.

  1. East Village/ Lower East Side
  2. Chelsea/ Hell’s Kitchen
  3. West Village/ Greenwich Village/ SoHo
  4. Williamsburg/ Greenpoint/ Bushwick
  5. Bed Stuy / Crown Heights

Airbnb Contributes to the “Housing Emergency”

When rental vacancy rates fall below 5%, the city considers it to be a housing emergency. Once it hits this point, people become displaced and face hardships. Right now, the vacancy rates are somewhere between 3.4% and 3.6% and they have been below 5% for decades. However, if just the high impact Airbnb listings were put on the market for actual residents to rent, it’s estimated that housing stock would increase by 1%.

To be clear, they aren’t talking about the average citizen who goes on vacation and rents out their home while they’re away, or the person who sublets a room, or even the people who occasionally sublet a room to someone on vacation. These stats are only related to the people who are using their homes to gain a regular income by doing short-term rentals. In the West Village/ Greenwich Village/ SoHo area, vacancy rates currently sit at 2.9%. Reintroducing just the impact listings in the area, back into the rental market, would bring the vacancy rate up to 5%. In the Chelsea/ Hell’s Kitchen neighborhoods, it would climb from 4.2% to 5.7%.

For many, these statistics will be no surprise. It was uncovered back in 2014 that more than 70% of all NYC Airbnb listings were illegal. When Airbnb was finally willing to part with their data in 2015, they culled more than 1,500 listings beforehand. It’s clear there is no quick and easy answer for the city’s housing issues. However, Jody Kriss and East River Partners will continue working to revitalize neighborhoods and restore historic buildings, adding much-needed housing stock back into these hard-hit areas.

From the Jody Kriss Blog: 2 Big Reasons to Buy NYC Property Now

From the rates in Brooklyn, where Jody Kriss and East River Partners commonly work, to the Brexit, there’s a lot going on and affecting New York City right now. Numerous economists and real estate experts say it’s the best possible time to make a purchase in the Big Apple, but it may also be a challenging time to get into the market for those who could benefit the most. Here’s a quick look from the Jody Kriss Blog at two big things affecting the market, and why you may want to grab a property now if you’re able.

1. Values are Expected to Climb, Especially in Brooklyn and Queens

Ingo Winzer recently put together a great piece for Forbes Magazine that highlights the changing market in NYC. While we all love Manhattan, it has become difficult people to enter. This one of the major reasons why Jody Kriss and East River partners routinely select development projects in Brooklyn. It’s no longer a fallback plan when Manhattan doesn’t work out. Rather, it’s a premier option, with business professionals and families seeking out iconic brownstones throughout the borough. Winzer points out that the healthcare industry is booming as well and drawing people into the area. He estimates that Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx will see a 20% population increase in the next three years alone. He’s advising people to invest in entire residential buildings and commercial spaces, but the population increases will raise the value of property as a whole, making now the ideal time to purchase.

2. Brexit May Bring More Foreign Investors In

Right now, it’s very difficult to say just how Brexit will affect the global economy. In the immediate aftermath of the announcement of Brexit, the British pound dropped 20% overnight and many experts think the economy will be slow to recover. This makes American properties all the more tempting to foreign buyers because of America’s stability. Primarily in NYC, where property values are increasing. It’s expected that many of those who might have otherwise invested in the UK will be looking to the US for more constancy. The caveat to this, however, is that many have their funds tied up in pounds, which will make purchasing more challenging now that their money doesn’t go as far. As Brexit continues, the demand for property will increase due to these foreign buyers, which will also drive the cost of NYC property up.

Whether you’re considering buying one of the homes that Jody Kriss and East River Partners has thoughtfully restored or are looking for property elsewhere in the Big Apple, it seems that all sources are saying now is the time to make a purchase. It’s ideal for investors, as property values are expected to drastically climb, and a great time for individuals to obtain a new home, simply because the prices may well be as low as they’re going to be for many years to come.

Jody Kriss Featured on Real Estate Weekly

East River Partners Co-Founder Jody Kriss discusses the renovations of a historic East Village synagogue in an on-site interview with REW TV’s Dan Orlando.

March 17, 2016 NEW YORK CITY—Jody Kriss, Co-Founder of East River Partners, has been working tirelessly to restore one of NYC’s timeless treasures. Dan Orlando of Real Estate Weekly met with the project developer Jody Kriss, at the historic Synagogue site, and revealed some key features of the project, as well as when its expected completion date is. The interview is available to watch on Real Estate Weekly’s website.

The Adas Yisroel Anshe Mezritch Synagogue, originally built in 1910 by Polish settlers, was only one of hundreds that served the area in its heyday. By the time it was discovered by East River Partners, the synagogue was the last of its kind. The congregation had dwindled and the building was so dilapidated that it narrowly escaped demolition. As East River Partners began the process of acquiring it, the entire neighborhood became landmarked. They took great care to preserve its historical integrity, and their efforts are clear throughout the building.

“We painstakingly and meticulously restored all of the original stained glass,” Mr. Kriss explained in the interview. The exterior façade, as well as the copper doors which adorn the synagogue’s main entry, have also received extensive TLC, allowing the building to return to its initial state of grandeur.

The lower floor will remain a fully-functional community synagogue, while the upper floors have been renovated into exquisite condos.

415 East 6th Street is expected to be completed in just six weeks, according to Jody Kriss, and it’s already creating quite a stir. Mr. Kriss previously spoke with Jacquie Hart of Downtown Magazine, and the condos have been discussed on major sites like Street Easy and the New York Times. While the public was once concerned about what would come of the beloved synagogue, with its livelihood no longer in question, attention has turned to what treasures the interior may hold for homebuyers. Condo owners will be treated to a perfect pairing of modern conveniences and sophistication with old-world charm. The expansive spaces have oak flooring, as well as well-appointed bathrooms and kitchens designed for an avid chef. Lucky homeowners will also have a wide variety of shops and entertainment opportunities within walking distance.

About Jody Kriss and East River Partners

Jody Kriss is a developer in NYC who specializes in renovating some of the city’s oldest buildings and restoring them to their original charm. His projects are varied, though he, along with East River Partners, tend to focus their efforts on creating luxurious living spaces designed for the needs of today’s modern New Yorker, while preserving the historical integrity of each building. 415 East 6th Street is one of the group’s many successful projects, with more in the works. For more information on the condo conversions, visit the 415 East 6th Street website, or check out the East River Partners website for details on the company and its other projects.

Historic East Village Synagogue Preserved by Jody Kriss and ERP

Jody Kriss and East River Partners have been quite active in NYC development. While their usual focus is on revitalizing the city’s beloved brownstones and preserving the Big Apple’s aging properties and energizing them with modern touches, the latest project is truly one-of-a-kind. The developers are working in the Lower East Side restoring the last remaining synagogue in a one-time Jewish shtetl.

Saving the East Village Synagogue

Before Jody Kriss and East River Partners came upon the Adas Yisroel Anshe Mezritch Synagogue, it was a far cry from its original luster. Founded by Polish settlers in 1910, the synagogue fell into disrepair over the years and was slated for demolition in 2012. Somehow, the building and its occupants muddled through, though the brickwork was left crumbling and the once stately building exposed to the elements due to broken windows. When the locks broke as well, worshippers put their faith in a higher power, and secured the doors with rope. Then, Rabbi Pesach Ackerman and Jody Kriss worked together to come up with a very unconventional plan.

Jody Kriss and East River Partners’ 415 East 6th Street

The building at 415 East 6th Street needed a lot of help to be restored. As a landmarked structure, it required an experienced and knowledgeable team to handle the renovations, while preserving the historical integrity. With numerous successful condo developments throughout NYC under their belts, Jody Kriss and East River Partners stepped forward to create a one-of-a-kind development. The synagogue remains intact for its small base of worshippers, who will have full access to its amenities on the lower floor. Moreover, Kriss and his team have pledged to provide the funds to cover maintenance on the shul for a full 200 years following the renovation, allowing its iconic stained-glass windows with the Star of David to shine like a beacon on 6th street for generations to come.

Three Luxury Condos Top The Building

Though the main floor will remain a place of worship, the upper floors were converted to condos with all the lavish amenities people have come to expect from a Jody Kriss and East River Partners project. This enables the synagogue to be restored, and provides much-needed housing in the East Village. The second and third floor each host a two-bedroom unit of about 1900 square feet, while the uppermost two floors make up a three-bedroom duplex penthouse, and spans more than 2,500 square feet. The building boasts electronic keypads and video intercoms, as well as high-end appliances. The floors are of oak, with marble donning the bathroom floors, walls, and counters. The kitchens are designed with a chef in mind, featuring thoughtful touches like custom-cabinetry. Residents are also treated to all the area has to offer, such as shopping, cultural activities, and dining.

Downtown Magazine recently interviewed Jody Kriss, and spoke a bit about the East 6th Street preservation, as well as what’s happening with East River Partners and developments across NYC. While there is a lot happening in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and the group has numerous successful projects completed, Kriss can’t pick a single achievement that he’s most proud of. “Creating terrific homes for folks to live in and enjoy,” he explained. “That’s the joy of doing what we do.” If the 6th  Street synagogue revitalization is any indication of things to come, it’s clear his list of achievements to choose from will only grow larger.

Legislative Fail May Halt New Development Across NYC

Developers like Jody Kriss and East River Partners rely on certain legislative codes in order to keep up with demand and to make performing neighborhood renewals more affordable. One of the most-notable is referred to as the 421-a, which offers developers tax breaks for including affordable housing into their projects. Now that lawmakers have failed to renew the policy, developments all over NYC could come to a screeching halt. This isn’t just bad news for developers- it could cause serious issues for millions of people in a city that’s already strapped for general housing, let alone affordable housing.

The 421-a has Been in Effect Since the 1970s

The Pratt Center for Community Development explains that the 421-a was created in 1971 when more people started moving to the suburbs and residential construction stalled. Although the agency tried to claim that the incentive was unnecessary, as a low percentage of developers took advantage of it, their own document showed that an average of 530 new buildings were added every year in Brooklyn alone between 1985 and 2002. The actual number for all of NYC exceeds 4,000 building per year. The city is already facing a housing crisis. Imagine if those 68,906 total buildings didn’t exist because developers couldn’t afford to create them.

The 421-a Originally Expired in June, but was Extended Until January 15

Renewal of the legislation hinged on an agreement between the Building and Construction Trades Council and the Real Estate Board of New York. The Trades Council has been fighting aggressively for higher wages and bigger benefit packages for construction workers. When the two could not reach an agreement back in June, Governor Andrew Cuomo decided to give them until January 15, at which point the 421-a would be suspended until the matter was settled. No agreement was reached. DNA Info published some numbers crunched by the Independent Budget Office. If the Trades Council gets its way, construction costs will go up by about 13 percent, or $45,000 for each and every unit built. On a grander scale, this means that the 80,000 units that are part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan will cost about $2.8 billion more to come to fruition.

Developers Scrambled to Qualify Before Time Ran Out

As the New York Law Journal points out, the loss of the 421-a doesn’t hurt anyone right now, but experts agree that future development around the city could seriously suffer in the long run. The Wall Street Journal tallied up all the permits that were applied for in the month preceding the anticipated loss of the incentive. Nearly 300 permits were issued, affecting 7,781 housing units. More than half, a whopping 59 percent, were for buildings in Brooklyn, and about one-quarter of them were from Queens. The uncertainty over the possibility of losing the 421-a led developers to have a record-breaking year for applications. While the previous chart-topping year was 2008, with 33,11 permits, 2014 blew it away with 56,248.

Jody Kriss and East River Partners tend to focus on restoring historic properties. Unexpected and luxurious touches are integrated into their projects, while maintaining the integrity of the architecture and honoring the neighborhood appeal. Because of the types of properties East River Partners is involved in, the loss of the 421-a will leave their ongoing work largely unaffected. However, Jody Kriss explained in a statement, “We are fortunate that our condo projects are largely unaffected by the expiration of the 421-a program. But the program is extremely important to the development community in the city and the uncertainty surrounding its extension has made it very difficult to build new homes since developers are operating in and uncertain regulatory environment”

3 Outstanding Brooklyn Neighborhoods Chosen By Jody Kriss

Brooklyn is arguably the most charming of the five boroughs in NYC. It’s close enough to Manhattan for easy commutes, but it allows for a slower-paced lifestyle. It’s comprised of more than 30 neighborhoods, each one offering something a little different. When Jody Kriss and East River Partners set out to restore and renovate some of Brooklyn’s historic homes, they largely focused on a few of the borough’s most outstanding neighborhoods. If you’re considering a move, these are 3 outstanding Brooklyn neighborhoods chosen by Jody Kriss:

1. Park Slope

For several decades, Park Slope has been earning a reputation for quality, though nowadays it tends to draw young professionals who want a family-oriented neighborhood to raise their kids in. It’s a very picturesque area, with Prospect Park’s lush greenery providing a safe and inviting place for gatherings. It is one of the very few places in all of NYC that offers a small-town feeling. There’s even a year-round farmer’s market just off of Prospect Park. Park Slope is also home to two prestigious schools, Public School 321 and a private institution, the Berkeley Carroll School. Many iconic brownstones, such as the ones that Jody Kriss and East River Partners worked on, line the avenues. Park Slope has historically been one of the more expensive neighborhoods in Brooklyn to move into. The latest market trends from Trulia indicate that the median sales price sits at about $1.2 million, whereas Brooklyn, as a whole, is closer to $700,000.

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2. Carroll Gardens

Near Brooklyn’s central-west waterfront sits Carroll Gardens. Due to its proximity to Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill, locals often throw all three together and call them “BoCoCa.” It has become a hotspot for urban professionals, though people who move there tend to put down roots. One local resident told the New York Times that it’s the kind of place where strangers will invite you in when they see you out for a walk. Generally, it’s a simple offer of coffee or a pastry, but, “Sometimes they would invite us to dinner,” he added. Public School 58 and the New Horizons School are also performing fairly well, with both earning an “A” on recent progress reports. As with Park Slope, brownstones are a popular draw, though Trulia reports that the median home price now sits slightly above Park Slope, at about $1.3 million.

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3. Fort Greene

Fort Greene is often recognized for its brownstones as well, though newer developments include mixed-use towers. During the 1950s and 1960s, the area was largely populated by artists and musicians, though few of the original inhabitants remain today. According to the New York Times, around 85% of the homes have changed hands since 1985. The housing crisis caused a large number of foreclosures and, as the area improved, many others left for less-expensive areas. Fort Greene is often thought of as an up-and-coming neighborhood, as it has come a very long way in recent years, though it still holds a lot of its ethnic and cultural roots. Residents take advantage of the sprawling Fort Greene Park, and  enjoy an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants, though fresh additions, like the Polonsky Shakespeare Center, are providing more refined alternatives. The schools are still developing somewhat, with the Academy of Arts and Letters on Adelphi Street earning a “B” on its latest progress report. According to Trulia, the median price for a home is about $1.24 million, though it’s likely to increase as more developments are made.

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It’s fairly easy to see that, although there are some dips and rises, these three neighborhoods are following the housing trends seen across all of Brooklyn. The hard work that developers like Jody Kriss and East River Partners have put in have helped increase housing stock, but the areas remain in high demand. Now is a great time to get into the neighborhoods, though experts expect market trends to continue, which means it will only become more difficult to grab a property.


East River Partners on the History, Lore, and Love of Brooklyn Brownstones

When people think of NYC, one of the first things that they picture is Brooklyn’s historical brownstones. The iconic rowhomes that line the streets of some of Brooklyn’s more affluent neighborhoods have become synonymous with the city over time, and have won the hearts of Americans everywhere. We’ve seen them in Hollywood hits like “You’ve Got Mail” and a Manhattan home once even disguised itself as a Brooklyn brownstone for “The Cosby Show.” Celebrities, like Neil Patrick Harris and Sarah Jessica Parker, have proudly displayed their brownstones in feature articles, forever cementing in our minds that these timeless residences are reserved for an elite class. Are they truly unattainable for the masses, and if so, how did they come to be?

Brooklyn Brownstones Rose to Popularity During the Romantic Era

While most people call any kind of rowhome a “brownstone,” the term technically refers to townhomes that have a brownstone facade. Prior to the mid-1800s, Brooklyn was largely deserted. It’s said that the famous Dakota Hotel was aptly named as such because the area it was built in resembled the Dakota Territory- barren and uninhabitable. As new developments crept in, rowhomes began to pop up everywhere, but simple brick would not do for the new affluent crowd. As the New York Historical Society points out, brownstone was the ideal façade, largely because of price. Other popular choices, such as granite, limestone, and marble, were very expensive and difficult to obtain. A brown sandstone quarry, which sat on the Connecticut River, proved to be an excellent source. Because the sandstone could be carved easily and transported by water, it helped improve the aesthetics of buildings all over NYC.

East River Partners, LLC and Jody Kriss Focus on Brownstones

Quality brownstones are in short supply, and those that hit the market these days can sell in a single day. Even though America and NYC have been in love with brownstones since they first appeared, they have struggled to remain in top form. Early builders rushed the masonry, which meant that residents were trying to manage cracking and crumbling facades within a decade or two of the buildings rising. NYC’s constant battle with affordable housing also left building owners will no funds to make necessary renovations and repairs. Over the years, the problem has only gotten worse, across all of NYC’s buildings. Finally, developers like Jody Kriss and East River Partners are coming in and restoring the buildings to their original splendor.

Brownstones are Now the Ideal Choice for Brooklyn Families

There’s a huge movement in Brooklyn right now to restore the iconic buildings. East River Partners tends to focus more on buildings that were largely dilapidated before renovations. As Jody Kriss has explained, they often clear out much of the interior of the brownstones, and start from scratch. This enables them to create stunning homes, with the modern touches today’s buyers want. In an interview with Samantha Rowan, Kriss explained, “In Brooklyn, the public schools tend to be better, so you see parents going there because private schools in Manhattan are so prohibitively expensive.” Between quality education and affordability, Brooklyn is seeing a major boom in families. This is in line with a NY Post report that indicated more than half of those buying in Brooklyn right now are in their 30s. Even though about 40 percent of them are Brooklynites already, nearly one-in-five are coming in from Manhattan.

Due to the hard work of developers like Jody Kriss, many of the brownstones in Brooklyn have already been thoughtfully restored and renovated. Going forward, we may be seeing more of what NY Daily News calls “Brownstone 2.0.” Kriss gives a nod to this in his Rowan interview explaining, “The brownstone type of building is so well-received, that we’re actually looking at building a whole bunch of new ones.” Without a doubt, they’re sure to be as popular as their historical cousins.


East River Partners 415east Project Update

Progress from East River Partners LLC 415east project Jody Kriss.

Progress from East River Partners LLC 415east project Jody Kriss.
Progress from East River Partners LLC 415east project Jody Kriss.

Progress from East River Partners LLC 415east project Jody Kriss.

Progress from East River Partners LLC 415east project Jody Kriss.

East River Partners LLC is pleased to show the incredible progress of this project.  Jody Kriss is the cofounder of East River Partners.

East River Partners 272 West 86th Street

272 West 86th Street is a project where East River Partners purchased three landmarked row houses on the Upper West Side. ERP created plans to combine all three buildings into one, luxury doorman building. The combination of the buildings required preserving the front facade, which is preserved as a landmark but demolishing virtually everything else behind the front facade and building anew. In order to do that, ERP along with its contractor, Ross & Associates, designed a temporary steel bracing system that would support the exterior walls while the remainder of the three buildings were demolished.

In the picture below, you can see that the complicated demolition work has successfully been completed and now the work of building a brand new building behind the front wall may commence.

Jody Kriss East River Partners Project

Jody Kriss East River Partners Project

The “new-building-with-a-landmarked-facade” makes this project unique among all the condominium projects currently available on the UWS. There are projects that are ground up new construction but lack the intricacy of the landmarked facade. There are also landmark buildings that are being converted to condo but lack the elegance and modernity of the layouts afforded this project by building a brand new structure. None of the other condo offerings combine the elegance of the historic architecture and a brand new building.

The construction is more complex than if the building were developed from the ground up since the facade must be carefully preserved and restored.

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