Moving on up: Toyota-Lexus dealer transforms a Manhattan high-rise

The full cost of the project isn’t yet complete because of the pending residential tower. And while Iacono wouldn’t discuss specifics, he said it is already in the high nine figures.

“New York real estate and New York real estate development and construction is some of the most expensive in the world,” he said. Toyota Financial Services helped to finance the project.

Andrew Gilleland, senior vice president of automotive operations with Toyota Motor North America, said the BRAM project, while unusual, was mutually beneficial. “It’s a win-win for us, the dealer and our customers, and ensures we have a mutually secure future in these markets in which real estate is extremely expensive.”

The key to making the whole project “pencil,” according to Iacono, was the decision to embrace a multiuse building that could be shared with other tenants, ultimately including residential ones, along with an inadvertent assist from 2012’s Hurricane Sandy. It was the aftermath of that devastating storm that helped BRAM originally acquire what was then a two-story, one-square-block piece of commercial real estate from one of the city’s largest residential real estate development firms, TF Cornerstone, Iacono said.

Over the next eight and a half years, BRAM’s plans and designs changed multiple times, and construction was stretched out by the pandemic before the combined stores finally opened in September 2021.

“The biggest headache was, No. 1, navigating through the approval processes in the city, and then came the unexpected, which was COVID and construction being stopped,” Iacono said. “The [construction] supply chain not being there; not being able to bring back the subcontractors because of the issues that they had; materials were unavailable, and by the way, the cost at the end of the day went really the wrong way.”

In all, BRAM added five stories above the existing footprint, occupying two of those five with the two dealerships, and leasing the sixth floor to The Glasshouse, a private event venue. The fifth floor is currently open and in the process of being rented, Iacono said. But the whole project is already cash positive because of the mixed-use development.

“In order for us to make the automotive piece work, we had to build a facility with nonautomotive uses. Because we had so many other pieces of the projects, that made the dealerships work from an income standpoint,” Iacono said. “At the end of the day, it all pencils, when you put it all together. And it allows us to honor our partners, Lexus and Toyota, and represent them in a way that they deserve, given all that they have done for our family over the years.”

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