By Herbert Lash
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Developers of a massive New York real estate project celebrated a major milestone on Wednesday with the pouring of a "last bucket" of cement on the first building slated to be finished at the Hudson Yards site on Manhattan's west side.
Plans for the 28-acre development include 17 million square feet of commercial and residential space, shops, restaurants, a public school and a luxury hotel, according to its website.
Retailer Coach Inc is scheduled in March 2016 to be the first tenant to occupy the building, 10 Hudson Yards, the largest commercial building ever erected in New York out of concrete, said Jeff Blau, chief executive of Related Companies, one of the site's developers along with Canada's Oxford Properties Group.
Blau said the Hudson Yards developers are closely monitoring a pending vote in December on whether Congress will renew the EB-5 jobs program, in which foreigners can lend a minimum $500,000 to a project in exchange for gaining U.S. residency.
Hudson Yards has received $600 million mostly from Chinese investors under the EB-5 program and expects to raise a similar amount from a more diversified group of foreigners, he said.
A Related spokeswoman said the EB-5 money, while minor to the project's $20 billion cost was critical in financing a key piece of infrastructure, the so-called platform, where traditional financing was all but non-existent.
The platform serves as the foundation for Hudson Yards, which is being built atop tunnels under the Hudson River between New Jersey and Manhattan's Penn Station, as well as over 30 active train tracks.
The developers consider the site to be the largest privately funded real estate project in U.S. history.
Equity investors in the first phase of the Hudson Yards include JPMorgan Asset Management and the Kuwait Investment Authority, a sovereign wealth fund. Construction financing is being provided by a syndicate led by Starwood Property Trust Inc.
Ten Hudson Yards, a 52-story building with 1.7 million square feet of space, is 85 percent leased now, with other tenants to be announced shortly, Blau said at the "topping out" ceremony. The tower is expected to be fully occupied by the end of 2016, he said.
(Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Christian Plumb)