bridge loan

Foreclosure on $72m Loan Threatens GWB Bus Terminal Developers

A newly-renovated retail space in the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal.
A newly-renovated retail space in the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

The private developers behind renovations at the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal are facing a $72 million foreclosure suit alleging they lagged on mortgage payments, court documents show.

In the July 19 lawsuit, the New York City Regional Center contends it is owed $855,000 in lapsed payments and interest from George Washington Bridge Bus Station Development Venture LLC as of April.

The Center, which supports infrastructure projects with funds raised through the controversial EB-5 visa program, first financed the bus terminal with a $72 million loan in 2011, and later lent $19 million more to the consortium of developers.

The lending group did not respond to inquiries by THE CITY and its lawyer declined comment.

The suit also names the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone (UMEZ), a federally created and taxpayer-backed economic revitalization nonprofit that lends money to local startup businesses. UMEZ and the Virginia-based Venture LLC development group declined to comment.

The lawsuit follows years of issues between developers, contractors and the Port Authority around the renovation of the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal, which began in 2014.

And the foreclosure case comes as another legal fight continues between the project’s contractor, Tutor Perini, and the Port Authority over claims that a poor design led to three years of delays — and $17 million in cost overruns.

Port Authority Not Concerned

The developers named in the foreclosure case are responsible for operating the retail portion of the bus terminal, which includes seven anchor tenant spots, according to Steve Coleman, a Port Authority spokesperson.

He stressed the foreclosure proceedings will have no effect on bus service, nor its retailers currently in business at the terminal, including Marshalls and a Fine Fare supermarket, he said in an email to THE CITY. He added a final anchor tenant, In Beauty, is slated to open in the terminal by year’s end.

The George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal.
The George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

“This will not impact any of the retail, current or future,” Coleman wrote.

A previously-announced community space, managed by the Juan Pablo Duarte Foundation, is still set to open in August, Coleman said.

Still, he noted: “The Port Authority will actively monitor events and, if necessary, is prepared to step in to further ensure continuity of all facility operations.”

Over the years, finding commercial tenants to fill the terminal has caused more than a few headaches for the developers — and two recent lawsuits over retail spaces point to further money problems for the group.

One potential tenant, a cafe, also has sued Venture LLC, claiming the development group and its agents lied to them about how the space could be built out — causing $100,000 in losses, the complaint says.

In another case, filed last year, a real estate firm that helped Venture LLC group secure Citibank as a tenant claimed the developers skipped out on half of their agreed-upon payment of $130,000. On Tuesday, a judge ordered Venture LLC to pay the firm $65,000 plus $12,519 in interest, court records show.

Years of Delays

Frustrations surrounding the new retail spaces began years ago. As previously reported by DNAinfo, some tenants dropped out of the project while construction delays snagged its opening.

More recently, the developers responded with silence to a needle exchange program that hoped to open in the terminal after receiving support from local politicians, community members and the NYPD, THE CITY reported last month.

What began in 2008 as a $152 million renovation deal between private developers, the Port Authority and the local Washington Heights community has devolved into years of starts and stops, deferred payments and local pushback.

As the project cycled through several contractors and developers, different visions emerged of the future of the bus terminal –– some more retail-centric, while others focused on community space. But economic slowdowns and construction delays thwarted various iterations of the renovation, originally projected to start in 2009.

The Port Authority announced its partnership with Venture LLC in 2011, but work did not begin until 2014. The new bus terminal officially opened in 2017.

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