Gorton & Partners is not the sort of firm that seeks awards, Partner Patrick Muldoon says. “The thing that we’re proud of is we are well respected by professionals in this industry,” he says.
Developers and designers that Gorton & Partners has worked with regularly recommend them to potential clients. “We feel that speaks well enough for us,” Muldoon says, noting that the company also enjoys strong repeat business.
Based in New York City, Gorton & Partners provides project and development management services for owners and developers. Partner Robert Gorton started the company in 1994. A longtime veteran of the industry, his career began in construction management when he worked for a major New York City-based owner/builder in the mid-1970s.
“He went to work for another developer for about six years, and he realized he was taking a holistic approach to the development process,” Partner Raymond Del Savio explains. Gorton’s approach involved managing and overseeing the entitlement and pre-construction processes, as well as construction and closeout procedures.
When Gorton realized there was a market for this service, he launched his new company. As momentum started to build for Gorton & Partners, “We added more staff of varying specialties,” Del Savio says, noting that all of its employees have had tenures with construction managers, designers and developers.
Gorton & Partners frequently works with foreign and domestic developers who are not familiar with the New York marketplace. “[We also work] with families that have been long-term owners of land to help them understand the entitlement process in New York City, which is a potential minefield,” Del Savio notes.
“There are no guarantees of anything,” he continues. “It’s been fraught with problems within New York City, but we know how to navigate all the agencies with a capital ‘A’ to get an approval for a project.”
Gorton & Partners also generates hard-cost and soft-cost budgets for owners, Del Savio adds. “We do this on a conceptual basis so an owner can make a ‘go’ or ‘no go’ decision on a project,” he states.
Today, Gorton & Partners is currently managing $2 billion worth of projects. However, “We’ll be growing,” Partner Patrick Muldoon predicts. “We’ll end up managing much more than that.”
Experts at Challenges
Demand for Gorton & Partners’ services has increased in the 21 years since its founding, Muldoon says. Gorton & Partners is the go to for more-challenging projects. One example is Gorton & Partners’ work on the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, for which it provided services on multiple projects. This included the expansion of the Greek and Roman wing, the Fifth Avenue Plaza renovation, and its 19th Century and Impressionist galleries.
These projects, Partner Eric Hahn explains, provide good examples of how Gorton & Partners can help separate construction from everything else that goes on at a location. The Metropolitan, he notes, “gets more than 6 million visitors a year.
“A large part of what we do is conveying to the construction team the need to do major expansions safely and separating the construction activities from the visiting public so they don’t know construction work is happening on the other side of the wall,” he says. “[We look at] how do you do construction without creating vibrations that damages the art, and how do you do this work without disrupting the staff, visitors and special events at the museum?”
Many of Gorton & Partners’ efforts, he notes, involve working with the owner and design team to establish protocols to ensure projects are executed properly, and in line with budgets and schedules. “The other part of it is establishing a good communication protocol so that as things change, everyone in the museum is prepared for what the next steps are going to be,” he says.
An important key to keeping track of all of this information is the ability to choose the right partners, including the right contractors. Fortunately, after being active in the New York City market for 21 years, “[We] understand who those players are and we bring the right team to the tables,” Partner Dennis Rauchet says.
A similar project, Muldoon adds, was the renovation of Sotheby’s world headquarters in New York City. The project included the renovation of 160,000 square feet of existing space and the addition of six floors that totaled 240,000 square feet.
Floors were added above ongoing operations in Sotheby’s galleries and offices. The project also included a complete upgrade of the building’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. Although it was challenging for the project team to work around major art collections and keep the facility running and safe, Gorton & Partners helped manage that feat, Muldoon asserts.
The company also managed the reorganization of several floors to accommodate increased storage needs for valuable goods and office space, years after occupancy. Additionally, Gorton & Partners assisted on several private gallery installations, executive office renovations and moves, and Local Law façade work.
The recommendations from Gorton & Partners’ previous collaborators often have led to its most complex, out-of-ground projects, Partner Warren Elghanayan adds. Recently, a client approached the company after its construction manager recommended that Gorton & Partners establish the project pro-forma and manage the pre-construction process to ensure the project is established with the strongest consultant team for a high-end residential condominium project.
The firm thought Gorton & Partners would be best, considering the logistical issues of the project. For example, “It’s up against a subway station,” he says. “We are coordinating with the MTA and 21 landmarked residential building owners adjacent to the project. The phasing and staging plans are currently being finalized and presented to the MTA for review and approval. This is necessary to ensure there are no structural impacts to the subway line as well as maintain the Development Schedule.”
Gorton & Partners’ clients can trust them to keep their information confidential, Del Savio says. “In New York City, there was a history of confidential information leaking during the bidding process,” he explains.
The company also does not mind if clients look into its own background. Del Savio recalls a meeting with a client 15 years ago that coincided with a breaking news story that two owners’ representative firms had leaked information.
“The potential client threw the New York Times newspaper [that featured the story] on the table and said, ‘If we go any further with you guys, would you mind if we have you investigated?’” Del Savio recalls. “We said, ‘Only if you publish the findings on the cover of the New York Times.’”
In Feast Mode
Gorton & Partners is happy to have a full slate of projects, Rauchet says. “It’s interesting how our business is really feast or famine, and we’re in feast mode,” he says. “We’ve fortunately got a lot of work coming in the door.”
But the influx of projects can bring its own challenges, including finding the right design teams to staff them. Fortunately, “One of the strengths we bring is getting those teams to the table,” he says. “It’s been a tough market to get the right firms ... [but] at the end of the day, we won’t embark on the project with the wrong team.”
The complexity of the projects also can be challenging, Muldoon admits. “In New York, we are working on several very high-end condo projects where developers get substantial sales prices for the units they put on the market,” he explains.
“They employ what we call ‘starchitects.’ We are working with many high-end architectural firms,” Muldoon continues. “These star architects want to create an architectural masterpiece to meet the developers’ program goals. We work to execute those goals while maintaining the budget and schedule.”
Although these masterpieces can be beautiful, it can be a challenge to help create them cost-efficiently. However, “We have been very successful in doing just that,” he asserts.
“A client will get the design they want and keep it within their budget by [us] looking at details and how things get put together,” Muldoon says. “[We find the] practical solutions to minimize the scare factor that contractors see in these elaborate, complicated designs.”
Gorton & Partners’ current portfolio of projects includes 45 East 22nd Street in New York City. “That’s an extremely challenging project,” Muldoon says, noting that the luxury high-rise building stands 800 feet and features 60 stories of condominiums.
“It’s on a piece of property that’s 75 feet wide by 100 feet deep,” he continues. “The building also rises and cantilevers west over an adjoining building by 25 feet.”
With a multi-faceted, sculpted façade that slopes in multiple directions, “It was a challenge to design,” he admits. “It’s also a challenge to find contractors willing to work on a project like this.”
Site logistics have been challenging, as well. “[We’ve had to] shoehorn this volume of work into a postage stamp site,” he describes, noting that the project team has persevered, despite the tight space. “It’ll be coming online in early 2017.”
A similar project is 551 West 21st Street in the Chelsea neighborhood. Standing 19 stories, the building is a cast-in-place concrete luxury residential development that will have 44 units as well as commercial space on the first and second floors.
Foster & Partners is serving as the architect on the project, which features “a very complex interior design,” Rauchet says. “We decided to go open shop on that one.
“We have a combination of union contractors and some non-union contractors providing a precise level of finish with little tolerances,” he continues. “We’re trying to get the non-union world to meet those standards.
“It’s going to be a really spectacular building when it’s done,” Rauchet says, noting that 551 West 21st Street also will feature three custom penthouses with custom-designed finishes. “We’re hoping to get the first units online in early 2016 and have the rest of the building online later that year.”
Del Savio adds that the company also is managing the development of a project on Leroy Street, a 200,000-square-foot condominium project that will stand 12 stories in New York City along the Hudson River. “The construction manager is going to build [it] in 21 months,” he says.
But the process has not been easy. “We’re spending an equal amount of time getting approvals below grade as we are above grade,” he says, noting that nearly five months were spent gaining permits.
Gorton & Partners had to bring the project through a rezoning process that lasted 18 months. “Because there are anomalies on our site, we had a major geotechnical engineering firm put together the argument to grant us the approval to build this building,” Del Savio recalls.
Despite all the hardships, “That’s the kind of thing we thrive on,” he says, noting that the company works with the best land-use attorneys and zoning consultants. “We [can] navigate through the process here in New York City, which is driven by community boards.”
This also illustrates the kind of expertise that Gorton & Partners can bring to a developer, Del Savio says. In some cases, “The developer, who only develops a building once every several years, did not have any of this in-house expertise,” he says. “We feel that this is the greatest value we can bring.”
Gorton & Partners’ work has taken it to Long Island City, N.Y., where it is aiding in the construction of a 130,000-square-foot condominium building with 100,000 sellable square feet, Elghanayan says. The project, designed by Dieguez Fridman Architects, marks the first in New York for its developer.
“[They have] done many high-end residential projects all over South America,” he describes, noting that condo projects have been rare in Long Island City. “Typically what’s been built in that area over the past eight to 10 years are large, residential rental buildings.
“This is a market that is growing in Long Island City and they’re looking to take advantage of that,” Elghanayan says. “They’re gearing this building towards families and the unit mix is predominantly larger units (3 bedrooms). It is one stop train access to Manhattan.”
The building is on a complicated site, as it is adjacent to a subway line to the north and twenty-one residential landmark buildings to the south,” he adds.
“We’re starting the excavation and foundation work in the new year,” he predicts, noting that the building will be finished in 2018.
The Right Ingredients
Muldoon predicts a strong future for Gorton & Partners. “We see continued growth and getting very well established here in New York,” he says, but asserts that the company will not limit its regional reach. “We’ve expanded into the adjoining areas, including the northern suburbs, New Jersey and Connecticut.”
The company also is branching out into other markets. “We’re starting to get involved in big-box retail as well as more general retail,” he says, noting that the company is also taking on healthcare and nursing home projects. “We have all the ingredients that we need for growth and the opportunity lies in front of us.”