Location: Let’s start with 100 Church Street. You announced major improvements for it in 2006. Why the need for improvements?
Mr. Sapir: Well, the building was built in 1958. We bought it in 1997. Over 10 years’ time, things deteriorate and technology comes into play. So we’re bringing the building up to what a Class A 2008 building should be. We’re modernizing all the elevators, the electrical upgrades, HVAC—all the necessary things to compete with the best buildings downtown and in the immediate area.
What’s the timeline on the improvements?
We should be done in less than 12 months. Certain aspects may be done a little later, but as far as HVAC, mechanical, electrical—all the real necessary things for tenants—[they will] be there. The building is already advertised—[Mr. Sapir’s cellphone rang.] Let me put that on vibrate. Just a second … It was Ivanka.
Back to 100 Church.
New York City Law Department has been there since the 1970’s. And Niche Media just signed, and they’re going to be moving their headquarters there, and that’s a really exciting deal for us.
How much space are they taking?
Forty-five thousand feet—a whole floor.
And that will bring occupancy up to what?
It’ll bring occupancy to 40 to 45 percent. So, right now there’s a lot of activity. We’ve hired CBRE [CB Richard Ellis].
I wanted to ask about that. You originally hired Cushman & Wakefield to handle leasing at 100 Church. And then, in June, you switched to CB Richard Ellis and Stephen Siegel. Why the switch?
CBRE, they’re the best.
What’s the goal at 100 Church? Obviously, you want 100 percent occupancy, but what about rents?
We’re asking for the lower floors, the lower part of the building, the lower $40’s [a square foot annually]. The upper part of the building we want the high $40’s.
The Freedom Tower’s going up right next door to 100 Church. Does that bother you at all?
No. I actually think it’s good. You know, originally, the World Trade Center site’s office space was supposed to be for the city and for governmental agencies. Now, because of the demand for downtown, the city and the governmental agencies might not even move in at all because there’s so much demand for that space.
I think it’s great. I think that after the tragic event, we really showed the world what New York is made of, and we’re building it bigger and better. And then we’ve seen an amazing market—not only in the commercial, but in the residential side as well. This summer was the best residential market New York City had ever seen.
Now, Trump SoHo. Some people say it’s a condo in the guise of a condo-hotel. In other words, the people who will buy there will live there year-round—
Why do people assume that, though?
I think that people like to make their comments, for whatever reason. I think some people don’t like the idea of a 45-story building anywhere in the world. I think it’s great for SoHo; I think it’s great for the neighborhood. It’s a hotel. … I mean, you’ve stayed in a hotel and you’ve lived in an apartment. Do you live in an apartment?
So, you’ve lived in an apartment and you’ve stayed in a hotel room. Would you live in a hotel room? Not by choice, right? So, we’re building hotel rooms, and I don’t know why people think people would want to live there year-round.
What was it like to work with the Trumps, the co-developers on Trump SoHo—specifically, Donald?
Great. I think the whole organization—I think the father’s great, I think Ivanka, Don, Eric, even down to their personnel—is great. My father and Donald Trump have been friends for a long time; they live in the same building. Our other partner, Bayrock Group, is also partners with Trump on one or two projects which we’re not involved with. But, collectively, we all said, ‘O.K., let’s do this.’ And Trump is obviously the most recognized name in real estate. It’s more recognized than any Blackstone or Related or anyone else.
How old were you when you first met Donald? Do you remember the circumstances?
I probably met Donald, I would say, probably when I was around 17 or 18. I remember once going to Donald’s office with my father. At that time, I was even celebrity-stricken.
My father was saying hello, and they talked about some business.
What’s the status of Trump SoHo as far as construction?
We’re on the 13th floor. By next week or the week after [late September], we should be pouring two floors a week.
Your father bought the Duke Semans mansion across Fifth Avenue from the Metropolitan Museum in January 2006 for $40 million. What are the plans for the mansion?
He has one of the largest private European ivory collections in the world; and he is going to showcase it there, like a museum.
What’s the timeline on that?
A couple of years out. He wants to really do it right.
So that entire mansion will be a museum for the public?
Right—an expensive museum. Again, we try to do things that are really unique and one of a kind.
Can you explain your relationship with your father? How often do you talk?
Thirty-eight times a day. I call him, he calls me; we’re like best friends. He’s got more energy than I do; he can’t stand still.
How old is he?
He just turned 60. We celebrated his birthday in Monaco. We threw a huge party for him—it was a huge event, from six in the evening to six in the morning.
What sort of advice did he give you business-wise?
He taught me something that’s really interesting, which I’m really learning: The pioneers are always called ‘the crazies.’ When my father bought 2 Broadway, he was called ‘the crazy Russian.’ If they’re calling you crazy, it means you’re doing something different that’s going to end up being good.
When we bought William Beaver House, 15 William Street in the Financial District, people said, ‘What are you doing? It’s a $900-a-foot neighborhood.’ They were projecting a lower number than what we’re selling at today. I think it’s one of the best neighborhoods in the city. It’s getting better; there’s major retail coming down there. A Hermes has opened; Tiffany’s is coming down there; the BMW store is, I think, the highest-grossing in the country. It’s the financial capital of the financial capital.
They called us crazy for doing the project, and you know what? Now, it’s great.
Is there anything else quote/unquote crazy that you’ve got planned?
Everything I’m going to do for the rest of my life is going to be crazy.