A tower crane popped up and construction resumed over the weekend after a curious, weeks-long pause at the Hard Rock Hotel site at 151 W. 48th St. But the construction manager for the 34-story, 225,000-square-foot project is now Aecom Tishman, not Plaza Construction — which was hired for preliminary tasks such as providing cost estimates but “concluded its services” late last year.
Gary Barnett’s Extell Development Co., which is partners with Hard Rock International, wouldn’t comment on the change. But a knowledgable source said that Extell was “not satisfied” enough with Plaza to continue with it through actual construction.
A foundation is in place, but visible vertical work only started this week. An old sign for Plaza Construction can still be seen under a new one for Aecom Tishman.
A rep for Plaza said the split was amicable, that it completed work with Extell “satisfactorily,” and “agreed to step aside” when Tishman, which had worked with Extell in the past, became available.
Extell, through its rep, attributed the recent temporary work stoppage to working out “odds and ends” with Aecom Tishman, currently ranked as the city’s largest construction manager, with 20-odd major projects, including One Vanderbilt.
Plaza Construction “maintains a robust presence in the city,” its spokesperson said.
But some New York real estate moguls have buzzed that Plaza — founded by New York’s Fisher Brothers in 1986 and long well-regarded — was “not the same” since its purchase by China Construction America, a subsidiary of China State Construction Engineering Corp., in 2014.
Insiders said the main issue was communication and bureaucracy, and that the kinds of routine issues that arise between developers and general contractors took longer to resolve because Plaza had to run them through Beijing.
Rose Associates’ former co-President Adam R. Rose, who oversaw the $600 million conversion of 70 Pine St. from offices to luxury apartments — which took a year longer than planned — said, “In the previous [Plaza] ownership, the Fisher family was responsive. Now, it is owned by China Construction. How’s your Chinese?”
Plaza says its management team, including CEO Richard Wood, is the same as it was when it was owned by the Fishers.
According to a Crain’s story in December 2018, Plaza’s New York-area revenue fell 7.9 percent in 2017 from 2016, down $702 million. The company’s nationwide revenue fell 10.4 percent, or $1.07 billion, over the same period, Crain’s said.
Plaza’s rep said that the firm recently estimated for Crain’s that companywide revenue for 2019 would be $1.25 billion, up over $1.065 billion in 2018. The rep didn’t provide a dollar estimate for the New York area, but claimed it was growing 10 percent “year over year on average.”
The city’s first branded Hard Rock Hotel, to open in 2021, is to have 35 stories and 445 rooms. It will boast a third-floor “rock gym,” a rooftop lounge for live music and musical memorabilia displays.