Construction Begins on Union Square Tech Training Center

Real Estate In-Depth | August 2019

Rendering of the Union Square Tech Training Center. Photo Credit: Davis Brody Bond

NEW YORK—A host of dignitaries and city officials including Deputy Mayor Vicki Been, Council Member Carlina Rivera, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, the New York City Economic Development Corp., community stakeholders and RAL Development Services broke ground on Aug. 5 on the new 21-story building that will house the Union Square Tech Training Center.

The center will include a digital skills training space where New Yorkers can gain the experience and knowledge needed to thrive in a modern, digital economy and provide affordable offices and resources for start-ups and established companies to grow and hire within the building.

Technology spans every industry from fashion to media to finance, and tech companies and careers now account for nearly 300,000 jobs in New York City. The Tech Training Center is designed to help diversify New York City’s tech sector and create more accessible pathways to good-paying jobs for communities around Union Square and across the entire city. NYCEDC anticipates that the Tech Training Center will create more than 550 permanent jobs and over 600 construction jobs, city officials stated.

Located at 124 East 14th St., the Tech Training Center will create a multi-level ecosystem to grow the next generation of companies, industries and tech workers. Civic Hall, a non-profit collaborative community center that advances the use of technology for the public good, will operate the Civic Hall @ Union Square Center, a digital skills training center where they will work with industry-leading training organizations, including Per Scholas, FEDCAP, CUNY, Mouse and General Assembly, to provide technology classes that teach in-demand skills that employers are seeking. These training opportunities will develop a talent pipeline between New Yorkers, especially groups currently unrepresented in the tech sector, and the city’s burgeoning tech ecosystem.

In addition to the Tech Training Center, the new 240,000 square-foot building will offer collaborative workspaces; modern, market-rate space for established, industry-leading corporations; and “step-up” offices with flexible and affordable leasing terms and options that are better suited to start-ups and growing companies. By co-locating workforce training organizations with start-ups and larger-scale tech companies, the building is designed to encourage collaboration and innovation.

The center will also include a floor available to community organizations and a food hall/retail space that will feature small businesses and first-time entrepreneurs. RAL Development Services and Suffolk Construction have committed to a 35% M/WBE participation goal in construction jobs for the Union Square Tech Training Center, and the project is expected to be completed by 2020.

The site is owned by New York City and RAL Development has agreed to pay the city $2.3 million on a 99-year-ground lease to build the estimated $250-million, project, according to a report in The Real Deal.

“The new Tech Training Center will be a hub for local residents to gain new skills, network, and plug into the City’s thriving tech scene,” said Vicki Been, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development. “We are proud to support this new institution and its goal of helping to create the most dynamic and diverse tech ecosystem in the country. Thanks to our partners who made this project possible; we look forward to seeing all the good that will come from their vision, commitment to a fairer New York, and hard work.”

“The Union Square Tech Training Center provides new opportunities for New Yorkers to enter one of the city’s fastest-growing and most exciting sectors, and we’re pleased to celebrate this important milestone,” said NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett. “Tech is an important part of the city’s future and the Tech Training Center at Union Square means that New Yorkers from all backgrounds can be a part of it. We’d like to thank Councilwoman Rivera, Borough President Brewer, and our community and project partners who have helped made this center possible.”

“Tech is the future, and every New Yorker, regardless of economic background, should be empowered to take part in this exciting industry,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “I’m thrilled to break ground on the Union Square Tech Training Center, which will help train the future tech-mavens of our City.”

“We are thrilled to gather and celebrate with all the community stakeholders along with local officials on the groundbreaking of a remarkable, transformative public-private project,” said Spencer Levine, president of RAL Development. “The Tech Training Center has been the result of a joint effort between the city’s administration, Community Board 3, Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, RAL, and EDC, and we are very proud of what this project will achieve for New Yorkers and the local community. We are excited to see it come to life and look forward to maintaining the ongoing collaboration with the community on what we are sure will be a welcomed addition to both the Union Square area and all of New York City.”

“Civic Hall @ Union Square Tech Training Centers offers New Yorkers from all backgrounds the opportunity to learn new 21st century skills which will lead to good paying jobs while at the same time offering the tech industry an opportunity to make their workforce more diverse, equitable and inclusive,” said Andrew Rasiej, co-founder and CEO of Civic Hall. “It is only fitting that this new public institution focused on the future be located at Union Square, a place historically associated with civic engagement, and empowerment.”

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new Union Square Tech Training Center,” said Lenore Friedlaender, assistant to the president of 32BJ SEIU. “This important hub is not only poised to make New York an even bigger player in the tech industry nation-wide, it will also lift up local communities with good jobs that come with opportunities for family health, retirement security, training and more. These benefits create an environment where New Yorkers can truly thrive in our city.”

“We are grateful to continue working with RAL, a company with a long-standing commitment to union labor,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “The groundbreaking of the Union Square Tech Training Center represents the beginning of a high-quality project that will provide safe and well-paying jobs for union worker New Yorkers. We look forward to collaborating with all private and public stakeholders on one of the city’s most exciting projects.”

In 2016, New York’s tech sector set a new employment record of 128,600 jobs, and the number of tech firms in the city reached 7,600, an increase of 23%  since 2010. Already a high-paying industry, total wages paid to workers in the sector doubled since 2010 to reach a record $18.9 billion in 2016. The Tech Training Center is a key component of Mayor de Blasio’s New York Works plan to create 100,000 jobs over the next 10 years. The plan focuses on creating accessible jobs in tech, industrial, creative, life sciences and healthcare sectors.