New York Post
August 27, 2013
By Steve Cuozzo
Welcome to Realty Check’s Fall Preview — not a bunch of planned openings as in Broadway and restaurant previews, but an aspirational roster of what to watch and hope for.
1). EAST MIDTOWN REZONING. The proposed epic overhaul of rules in a 78-block “Grand Central area” is the Big Enchilada, whatever the outcome of a City Planning Commission vote by Oct. 1, followed by a City Council vote within two months of that.
At stake is the destiny of what was once the nation’s premier office district, but increasingly obsolescent due to 60-year-old zoning rules and a building stock that is, on average, 70 years old.
The up-zoning should be a no-brainer, but City Hall waited till too late in Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure to push for it, and barnacled the proposal over with a jillion complexities, technicalities and pay-to-play features.
Our bet: It will pass, but only after so much horse-trading (and likely a 3 a.m. vote) that it will take the lawyers years to sort it all out.
2). GROUP M AND 3 WORLD TRADE CENTER. As we first reported last month, the global media firm inked a term sheet with Larry Silverstein to take 515,000 square feet at 3 WTC. The tower now exists only as a 9-story base, but can soar to its full 80-story height once a lease is signed.
It would mean completion of three of the four planned towers at the site. Even with Silverstein still searching for a private-sector tenant to join the Port Authority at 4 WTC, and the PA and the Durst Organization seeking more tenants for 1 WTC (where Condé Nast is moving), 75 percent isn’t bad.
3). THE CLOCK TOWER. Just when it appeared the landmarked skyscraper over Madison Square Park was on its way to becoming an Edition-brand hotel in collaboration with Ian Schrager, owner Marriott is suddenly poised to sell it (along with two other Editions outside NY) to an Abu Dhabi fund, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Although Marriott said the deal wouldn’t close on any of the properties until construction is done, $800 million deals have a way of knocking previous plans off course no matter how far along.
The beautiful 42-story landmark has been vacant for years. Several false starts went nowhere. We want to see 355 hotel rooms and a working clock in 2015.
4). SHELDON SOLOW’S EMPTY PIT. The infamously enigmatic developer has sat on his 6.4-acre parcel between 38th and 41st streets along the East River for six years. Now, he has until November to start building foundations or risk losing city permits and approvals for apartment and office buildings at the site, the Times reported.
The barren trench gives the whole UN area a defeated look that the old Con Ed plants never did.
5). LENOX AVENUE SWING. No Harlem project is as game-changing as Jeff Sutton’s nearly 200,000 square-foot retail building on Lenox Avenue between 124th and 125th streets.
The weed-filled, forever-vacant lot will be home to Whole Foods, Burlington Coat Factory and American Eagle, as Lois Weiss first reported. (We now hear Olive Garden is joining the mix.)
It was supposed to break ground in May. But the plans are still waiting for technical zoning approvals — likely to come through soon, leaving time to complete the 6-story structure as scheduled in 2015.
Flanked by new and restored apartment buildings, as well as proliferating shops and restaurants, it will make the corner of Lenox and 125th Harlem’s new center of commercial gravity.
6). THE KNICKERBOCKER BLOCK. It’s taken decades, but the new south side of 42nd Street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway is finally coming into focus.
It’s long been a mostly underutilized eyesore across the street from 4 Times Square and 1 Bryant Park.
FelCor Lodging Trust’s new Knickerbocker Hotel is to open late this year or early 2014 in the landmarked 1466 Broadway. Next to it, a new Hilton Garden being developed by a Highgate Holdings joint venture recently topped off at 37 stories.
Meanwhile, the new public plazas and shiny retail “cubes” at Blackstone’s 1095 Sixth Ave. were recently completed. All they need are tenants — as do the rest of the tower’s storefronts, which have sat empty except for pop-up stores.
One day Blackstone might realize that changing brokers time and again isn’t the way to lure stores to one of the world’s prime corners. That’s accomplished with a realistic grasp of the market.