J.T. Magen & Company Inc.

JT Magen

J.T. Magen & Company Inc. draws on its decades of industry experience and on-staff expertise to manage two notable, large-scale New York City projects.

By Knighthouse Editorial Staff

J.T. Magen & Company Inc., a leading general contractor with nationwide offices, is currently constructing two high-profile New York City projects – the largest retail store in Manhattan and the largest prewar building conversion ever done in the city. These two projects – Nordstrom and One Wall Street – add to the company’s credentials that are a result of its 26-year track record for high-quality and complicated construction and renovation projects. 

In the New York metropolitan area, J.T. Magen has built headquarters, flagships, interiors and facilities for major brands like Nike, Microsoft, National Football League, adidas, LinkedIn, NASCAR, Snapchat, The New York Times, Nasdaq, Apple, Capital One, Diageo, and much more. The built spaces have generated industry awards, publicity, client value and repeat business. Company projects won 21 industry awards in the past year alone. JT Magen info box

CEO Maurice Regan started the company in 1992 to provide hands-on client service with on-staff expertise and accountability as so many firms at the time were operating on a brokerage model, he explains. Now the company is ranked among the top 100 contractors in the U.S., and the top 10 contractors in New York in industry publications. J.T. Magen was recently named Engineering News-Record’s 2018 New York Contractor of the Year. And it was ranked New York’s number one renovation contractor in The Real Deal. 

With offices in Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as New York, J.T. Magen currently has $1.6 billion worth of work in progress. The company is best known for corporate interior fit outs, but also builds massive data centers, LEED certified facilities, and projects in financial, law, broadcast, technology, hospitality, nonprofit and healthcare sectors, in addition to multi-unit residential and retail projects. 

“I attribute the company’s success to a couple of basic things: a highly qualified staff, commitment, teamwork and accountability back to the client to service all their needs,” says Regan. 

“One Wall Street and the Nordstrom flagship are large-scale and challenging projects to undertake,” says Regan. “But we were confident in our expertise in new construction environments and prewar building renovations to commit to delivering them on aggressive timelines with all the technical and logistical problem solving that is required.”  

New York’s Biggest Prewar Conversion Ever

Multi-unit residential is one of J.T. Magen’s 12 industry sectors served, and a majority of the projects have been prewar building conversions. “J.T. Magen has completed more prewar building renovation work than any other contractor in New York City,” says Regan. The company’s 17 most notable prewar building conversions total 5.4 million square feet, and include projects like 55 Wall Street, 502 Park Avenue and 981 Madison Avenue. 

“We understand how these old buildings are built, how the passage of time affects them, and how to uncover the hidden conditions so we can forecast and plan,” says Regan. “Our wealth of prewar building knowledge gets passed on from one project to the next.”

A prior prewar building conversion completed, One Hundred Barclay Tribeca, helped clinch the One Wall Street contract, says Sean Murray, J.T. Magen executive vice president overseeing the project. “The client walked through One Hundred Barclay prior to completion, and liked what he saw in terms of finish quality and the logical phasing of the work,” he explains. 

That building was originally designed by the same architect, Ralph T. Walker, in the same style and era, and now features 166 luxury residential units. “The client came to us initially – they knew we had the artillery to take on the project successfully,” Murray adds.   

J.T. Magen’s prewar building renovation team understands the nuances of working in tight existing spaces and low ceiling heights, says Murray. There are currently more than 50 full-time project staffers on site at One Wall Street. Although it is New York’s largest prewar conversion to date totaling 1.1 million sq. ft., the project will take four years to complete, so it doesn’t encumber or overwhelm this veteran team at all, he notes. 

One Wall Street

One Wall Street most recently served as The Bank of New York Mellon Corp. headquarters, and includes the landmarked Art Deco-style north tower opened in 1931, plus the south annex tower built in 1963. SLCE Architects designed the building’s conversion from office space to a mixed-use development that tops out at 55 stories, plus a rooftop deck with views of New York Bay and the Statue of Liberty.

The new building will feature 566 luxury condominiums ranging from studios up to four bedrooms; 100,000 square feet of amenity services; and 174,000 square feet of commercial space hosting up to eight retail tenants, including a 44,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market. J.T. Magen is managing the complete exterior and interior renovation, and adding a seven-story-high extension to the annex tower. 

“It’s a challenge to turn an old landmarked building into residential luxury condos,” says Steve Mallick, J.T. Magen project manager. “But we are conquering it while maintaining the schedule and cost. It’s a huge project and we’re glad to be doing it.”

Meeting the Challenges

Converting One Wall Street from office space to primarily residential units requires a complete gut of the interior. “With over a million square feet of space, there has to be a strategic logistics plan in place for taking demolition debris out and bringing construction materials in,” Murray says. “We’re removing structural steel, slabs and 30,000 square feet of floors. The sequencing has to be carefully considered.”

On the exterior, J.T. Magen is managing demolition of the non-landmarked limestone façade peaking at eight stories fronting Broadway, Exchange Place and New Street for the new retail exterior curtain wall. This creates a massive debris removal operation that utilizes hoists, Murray says. “The quantity of material and the logistics of getting it out of there is a challenge,” he notes.

On the interior, J.T. Magen is removing all, leaving just the bare shell. The team already removed 28 existing elevators, eight sets of existing escalators and 10 staircases, explains Mallick. The new plans call for 24 new elevators, two sets of new escalators and seven new egress staircases, some of them extending all the way up to the 56th floor rooftop terrace. JT Magen 2

The construction company will add a new, seven-story structure to the annex tower, extending it to 38 floors with a private rooftop terrace and glass solarium, says Mallick. This requires reinforcement of the existing structure, with lifts of heavy structural steel beams to upper levels. It also requires foundation work, digging down to bedrock to install shear walls. Further structural work requires installing a transfer girder to enable column removal to create a three-story atrium in the retail space. The vertical transportation strategy is critical to scheduling and manpower efficiency, he explains.

“Currently we’re about 85 percent completed with the structural demolition and 60 percent completed with the structural reinforcement,” says Mallick. The team has been working with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to ensure materials and procedures comply with their stringent rules, he adds. 

Complicated Logistics, High-Tech Systems 

J.T. Magen is installing all-new MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) equipment on high level floors, another logistical challenge. “We have to lift mechanical equipment into various floors throughout the building and some has to be lifted by cranes,” Mallick says. “We need to get permits to close Broadway at night to bring in a crane to lift the equipment.”

The complicated installation includes two 750-kilowatt generators that weigh 23,713 pounds each, four cooling towers that weigh 885 tons each, two 510-ton chiller plants, four switch gears and one steam plant, according to Mallick. 

J.T. Magen took the lead to develop 3D models of the building to saving time, money and change orders down the road, according to Mallick. “Building Information Modeling (BIM) has been critical on the One Wall Street project,” he says. “Our team laser surveyed the entire building structure with a 3D scanner to give us the building skeleton to build models with floor-to-ceiling and side views for every floor,” he explains. “We layered in the architectural drawings, and then dropped the subcontractors’ trade drawings into the 3D model. We review the model for system clashes, and meet regularly to find workable solutions before shop drawings are finalized and before any work is done.”

Murray adds: “The degree of detailing might seem extreme, but when you can work through clash detection and conflict resolution in the digital realm as opposed to doing it on-site, it eliminates work stoppage points. The project runs like a smooth machine, efficient and productive. That’s important on a complex job like this – in the past clash resolution was done by hand in the field. Labor is one of the more costly elements in a project, so we aim to ensure minimum work stoppages due to design conflicts. And we have our completion date always in mind.”

The BIM model is also a robust tool for owners and building managers after handover, says Murray. Every RFI is digitally imprinted, every change order and photo is tagged, all of the history is embedded into the model, valves are labelled for maintenance. End-users have real-time info on the building and all systems.

Scheduling and Security 

With the number of subcontractors involved, complicated logistics, technology coordination and the sheer scale of the volume of work, ensuring productive work flow and schedule adherence is another challenge. J.T. Magen implemented Procore Technologies construction project management software for all team members and the client to ensure real-time plan updates, change orders and communication. 

Since One Wall Street is located next to the New York Stock Exchange, job site security is an issue, requiring heightened security measures. Safety poses its own issues on such a large, complex project. Safety managers and fire safety directors are on site daily to eliminate risks, according to Mallick.  

The sales model for the luxury condominiums is nearing completion for marketing use, and Murray says it is impressive. Expected completion of One Wall Street is summer 2021. 

New York’s Largest Retail Project  

J.T. Magen is one of the largest retail store builders in the country, completing luxury and specialty flagships and stores across the U.S. and Canada. The company has handled national rollouts for brands like H&M, Primark, Tiffany & Co., adidas, Microsoft and Apple. The company has also won prestigious awards for its work – 14 in the past year alone – including Best International Store from RetailWeek, Best Mixed Retail Store from Interior Design, and Best Special Store Conversion over 10,000 square feet from Visual Merchandising & Store Design. 

“The retail sector is one of the most challenging to work in because of the pace needed to meet the deadlines that have zero flexibility,” says Vinny Ryan, J.T. Magen executive vice president, retail division. “Quality has to be perfect; punch lists have to be complete at hand-over.” 

In New York City, J.T. Magen has built 25 flagship stores just in midtown Manhattan. And it has built over 35 exclusive retail stores along Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue. Now Nordstrom is helping to create a new shopping epicenter in the Columbus Circle area, says Regan. “I give Nordstrom credit for having the foresight about this location, and we’re happy to be part of it,” he says. 

Ryan says the Nordstrom New York flagship is one of the most exciting and challenging retail projects he’s been involved in over his 20+-year career at J.T. Magen. “Retail projects at this size and budget don’t come up that often,” he says. The connectivity issues for the fire, lighting and other systems between the new and existing structures add to the challenge, he adds.

“Thanks to J.T. Magen’s outstanding retail track record in New York City, Nordstrom approached us about taking on their massive flagship near Columbus Circle,” Ryan says. “We shared our previous projects with them and how we would handle this complex build-out, and they handed us the keys to deliver their vision.” He adds that it was the team’s camaraderie that helped land the project contract. “One of J.T. Magen’s strengths is staff longevity, and that results in strong working relationships that benefit a project through teamwork,” says Ryan.

Nordstrom’s NY Flagship

The 320,000-square-foot retail space will incorporate four buildings that are connected inside for shopping convenience. The four buildings range from prewar structures at 1776, 1780 and 1790 Broadway, to the new out-of-the-ground tower at 225 West 57th St., known as Central Park Tower. Topping out at 1,550 feet when completed, Central Park Tower will be the tallest residential tower superstructure and the second-tallest skyscraper in the United States. 

“We’re working side-by-side with Extell, one of the largest New York developers, completing the storefronts and interior fit-outs while they construct the tower above us,” says Ryan. “The rest of the buildings present completely different challenges, since we are retrofitting buildings nearing a century old. Our remit is to blend the old with the new in terms of construction methods, materials and building systems, and make it all seamless.” 

The lead architect on the Nordstrom project is CallisonRTKL, Seattle office. J.T. Magen launched into pre-construction activities in 2016. The team began construction at 1790 and 1776 Broadway in November 2017, and Central Park Tower in March.  

At the base of Central Park Tower, Nordstrom’s retail space spans seven floors – two below street level and five above, plus an eighth corporate level floor. One of the most iconic features of the entire project is the glass waveform façade at this location. Designed by James Carpenter Design Associates, it was completed before any other work commenced in this building. 

“The waveform façade on 57th Street brings light through all levels of the store and will entice people to gravitate in through the architectural feature,” says Trevor Willis, project manager. “Nordstrom is at the forefront of design, and understands that the wow factor will generate interest and curiosity. The entire glass façade becomes a display window to the street.” 

Facades to Entice Shoppers

A separate glass storefront designed by James Carpenter Design Associates is in process of installation at 1776 Broadway. J.T. Magen was involved in the design approval process, and started installing it in late September, with completion due by the end of November. “The glass is spectacular,” Willis says, adding J.T. Magen sourced the glass from BGT Bischoff Glastechnik AG in Bretten, Germany. 

At 1790 Broadway, the J.T. Magen team is applying its prewar building expertise to restore the landmarked building façade to its former glory. The facade was originally constructed of Vermont marble, the same stone used on the New York Public Library. “Mimicking the old marble to make it look like it did in the 1930s required extensive material sampling and consultation with the Landmarks Preservation Commission,” Willis says. 

“We took our due diligence seriously, hauling sample slabs of material over to the library, and holding them up to match the color, tone and texture exactly,” explains Willis. “The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved production in April, and installation is planned by early March. The 88-piece façade is going to be gorgeous.” J.T. Magen will structurally reinforce the building exterior at 1790 Broadway to accommodate the new façade materials and precast, Willis adds. 

A stand-out interior feature for the flagship store will be the custom staircases throughout the retail spaces, says Willis. Nordstrom store design and their consultants designed staircases fabricated from a special stainless steel alloy to achieve superior strength with curved glass and reflective aesthetic qualities. “The staircases are unique for their locations, but feature a common design theme and materials – they’re impressive,” Willis says, adding that the six-story escalator wall is equally impressive. 

Collaboration is Key

The Nordstrom flagship store has required extensive coordination and planning among the developer, three landlords, three building management groups, two residential community boards, the Department of Environmental Protection, BEST Squad, the Landmarks Preservation Committee and the Nordstrom team. Use of Procore Technologies construction project management software has been a key tool to keep everyone abreast of scheduling, project updates and changes, Willis says. 

Assistance from the owner’s rep/investment management company, JLL, has helped keep development on track, too. “The JLL team led by Steve D’Iorio and Joe Greco has been invaluable and underscores the importance of partnering on projects of this scale,” Willis notes.

“With a massive project like this where a million things can go wrong, it’s the relationships and collaboration that get us to where we want to be – on time, on budget and at the highest quality levels,” says Willis. “When you have a true collaborative process with great partners, you can move mountains.”

A focus on safety from all subcontractors and those on site during construction also requires cooperation. Safety managers from J.T. Magen and an independent third-party firm are a strong site presence. “We have zero incidents on site; we take safety seriously,” Willis says.

The Nordstrom NYC flagship store is expected to open in the fall 2019. “Nordstrom is intent on the best possible showcase for their products; they don’t take shortcuts,” Willis says. “J.T. Magen is happy to facilitate their strategic move and bring their vision into reality.”

 

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