A developer’s eye for beauty

Developer Martin Ginsburg couples the beauty of art and the Hudson River with many of his real estate projects, which are also designed to drive tourism.

“I’ve always been attracted to challenges,” developer Martin Ginsburg tells WAG during an interview at one of his newest projects in Westchester County, the reimagined, 14-story 1 Martine Ave. in downtown White Plains. 

Originally an office building that was created as part of the Westchester Financial Center, 1 Martine has been transformed into a 188-unit apartment building. Ginsburg Development Companies LLC has made art a part of the reimagining, with an art gallery on the ground floor as well as artworks inside and sculptures placed outside.

After acquiring the Financial Center on the city block bounded by Main and Bank streets and Martine and South Lexington avenues, Ginsburg embarked on an ambitious effort to reinvent it as City Square, bringing new residential, commercial and pedestrian activity to the area diagonally across from the Metro-North train station.

Ginsburg considers 1 Martine to be one of the most challenging projects in his career. Unlike constructing other residential buildings, he says, each apartment in this one had to be individually designed to make it compatible with the existing construction. 

“We had to reinvent the wheel here. You’re really constrained by so many things, including the structure,” Ginsburg adds. “To just penetrate a concrete slab you had to X-ray to be sure you didn’t hit any of the cables. It’s been an experience from the design point of view and from the construction point of view.”

What he explained about the difficulties in making the conversion of 1 Martine work was reminiscent of his beginnings in the development business. 

“We were only able to find sites that were extremely difficult to develop and we ended up learning how to develop, and architecturally work out very complex sites,” Ginsburg says. “I’m an architect, so I’m not only a developer. And we enjoy the challenge.”

The apartments have 11-foot ceilings, large windows, track lighting suitable for highlighting artwork on apartment walls and exposed ductwork. There is wide-plank flooring in the living rooms and bedrooms. Designer features are incorporated into the bathrooms and kitchens. There are bedroom ceiling fans, washers and dryers and walk-in closets. 

“The office sector has taken a hit and part of this development (City Square) is offices as well,” Ginsburg says. “Residential is right now in a very strong position. There’s a tremendous market not only locally but nationally and I think that’s going to stay for a while.”

Nonetheless, Ginsburg does see a future for the office market.

“A lot of people that have been working at home are going to want to go back,” he says. “I don’t think that offices are going out of business completely. There has been a change and that’s going to stay….A lot of people will work a certain amount of time at home, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.” 

Ginsburg has been active with projects along the Hudson River, both on the Westchester side from Yonkers to Peekskill and in Rockland County. He’s a promoter of the river as being more than just something picturesque to view out of a living room or bedroom windows.

“I do believe in Hudson River development and I believe in the redevelopment and repositioning of the Hudson River towns in the sense that you want to generate tourism,” he says. “The Hudson River, one of the most beautiful rivers in the world, is the only major river that doesn’t really have any cruise ships on it. And tourism depends on having places for ships to stop and eventually I think tourism will bloom on the Hudson River and the waterfronts will not be overdeveloped.”

Ginsburg points out that of all the tourists who visited New York City before the pandemic and those starting to come back now as restrictions are being lifted, only a small percentage go upstate.

“I have traveled to many parts of the world,” he says. “If you go to Paris, there are many places to tour in France and they tour France. But we get very few people that go to any places outside of New York City and nobody really tours New York state. But if you had more destination places like (The Abbey Inn & Spa in Peekskill) that I’ve created, you would start promoting tourism, real tourism, that is not just backpackers and I’ve got nothing against backpackers. You do not really get the European people that stay at The Waldorf-Astoria touring New York state. I’m trying to help promote that concept.”

As the name suggests, The Abbey is a conversion of the former convent of the Episcopal Sisters of St. Mary’s into a 42-room inn, restaurant and event facility with views of the Hudson. It’s next to his residential project known as Fort Hill Apartments at The Abbey.

“I might try doing this in other areas, because New York needs tourism,” Ginsburg says.

Ginsburg has made parks integral to many of his projects and, as part of his vision that brings art into his developments, has used the Hudson as a background for sculptures.

“Even when there has been development on waterfronts like we have done in Haverstraw, where we have quite a bit of development…the shoreline and the trails and the sculptures make the parks special,” he says. 

When devising a development proposal, he molds it to what seems to be most appropriate for a particular location.

“We’re not the only party that has opinions. In many cases it becomes a blending of ideas and the end project benefits from that blending,” Ginsburg says.

For him, there’s no single project from his approximately 60 years in architecture and development that he would honor as being his favorite.

“It is always my current and next project, because I’m always trying to do better and improve and I’m always most excited about what I’m doing currently.” 

For more, visit gdcllc.com.

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