New York is a challenging landscape for architects. Few other places in the US have so many geographical, historical, and practical considerations when renovating or constructing a building. Their permit consultants must be organized, knowledgeable, experienced, and have good relationships with city and agency officials. Most of New York City's buildings are over 100 years old, so even simple projects can involve multiple agencies. Even a slight change has to take into account subway lines, water mains, and the historical conditions of the building.
The opportunity and challenges draw some of the country’s most creative architects to the city.
Holiswood Development has been buying and redeveloping properties in Manhattan and Brooklyn for over ten years. Over this time, they’ve accumulated a portfolio of over 12 properties in Manhattan. While many companies focus on new construction, Holliswood has specialized in acquiring properties to redevelop, sell, or retain in their portfolio as rentals. The company focuses on multifamily, mixed-use, and development sites, particularly those with tax-protected assets. Their experience and portfolio have helped them consistently yield excellent returns for their capital partners.
Ambitious developers in New York City need the guidance of an expert when managing their permits. Holliswood's success depends on getting their permits approved quickly and without delays. The company's owner, Dana Lowey Luttway, had been cycling through new permit consultants for over five years with each one of her projects to find someone with a process and communication style that worked.
Holliswood Development needed a reliable building code consultant who would help her obtain DOB and other city agency approvals for her latest project. On previous projects, Luttway found that a lack of transparency ended with her learning about permitting problems and delays on her own instead of having them communicated in advance. The lack of communication meant that she lost the opportunity to work through problems faster and finish her projects on time. She found that every consultant she worked with advertised a quick and transparent process, but none had delivered.
The first project that Luttway contacted Nexus Consulting about was an Upper West Side Manhattan brownstone that was used as single-room occupancy housing. She wanted to convert it to a one-family house, which would entail a renovation and an expanded cellar. The back of the building would be extended, and the brick structure replaced by a solid glass wall.
Since the project involved a historical building, it would need approval from the Department of Buildings and landmark approval to begin construction. Expanding the basement into a wine cellar meant they would also need zoning approval. These approvals would all have to be coordinated with general construction, plumbing, sprinklers, mechanical, and structural applications.
Despite the multitude of applications, each one has to be approved individually. However, any good consultant will tell you they also need to be coordinated so they’re consistent with each other. There's an art to the order in which you submit applications. When structured properly, the approvals can cascade in a way that lets the project flow rather than leaving interdependent steps waiting on each other.
With the project's tremendous scope and the client's need for efficient permitting approvals, there was a lot at stake. The project had to be broken down in order to be handled properly.
Nexus Consulting kicked off the project with a meeting to understand the entire scope of the project. The goal is to answer one question: What does the client want approval to build?
First step: Understand the scope of work
After getting all the details of the project, the next step was to create a filing strategy that will efficiently gain approvals and work applications without wasted time. Nexus Consulting's experts got to work on defining what exactly this project would need and then outlined the order in which their applications would be submitted. All of the construction documents and drawings would have to be reviewed for compliance before any documentation could be submitted. After developing their plan, they prepared the applications, reviewed the documents, and then submitted the applications to DOB, landmarks, and other city agencies.
How the Pros Expect the Unexpected
When dealing with this many applications, part of the plan must include dealing with rejections. Nexus Consulting kept Holliswood Development in the loop every step of the way, even responding to emails to confirm they were received. Nexus Consulting granted Luttway and her team to the project management system, so they received email updates from the team as soon as a task was completed. With a project like this, time is of the essence, so Luttway and her team were notified of news from Nexus the same day the updates were received.
The team kept Holliswood prepared for the next steps, so once rejections were received, Holliswood Development and their design team met with Nexus to discuss how to resolve the objections. After a smooth revision process, the team proceeded to the next step of resubmitting applications to the DOB and agencies to receive approval.
It's easy to look at this partnership and think the top priority was permit approval. However, that assumption is wrong. The top priority is trust. That's what led Luttway to choose a new permit consulting firm for every one of her projects. Up until now.
Since this renovation, Nexus Consulting and Holliswood Development have completed seven projects together.
Like all of Holliswood’s other projects, Nexus Consulting obtained the permits needed to finish the project. The difference was Nexus Consulting's transparency and speed.
Thanks to their workflow and method, Nexus’s expertise helped Holliswood Development get the approvals faster than the other permit consultants. Why? The method is made to predict and plan for everything that could happen during the process. The team's planning anticipates snags and moves through them as part of the plan.
Now, Holliswood Development and Nexus Consulting look forward to their next projects together. After five years of looking, they had finally found the consultant they needed.