By Patrick Hedlund
Vesuvio’s curious case
While longtime Soho staple Vesuvio Bakery has been closed for more than six months, leading to speculation over its demise, the owner still plans to open in the new year despite some curious recent activity.
A note posted on its window back in June, which remains there today, declared the bakery would be “closed for the next couple of weeks while undergoing renovations.” Then earlier this month, a real estate listing for the tiny, mid-block space at 160 Prince St. appeared online in search of a new tenant, only to be removed shortly thereafter.
Current owner Andrew Veniopoulos explained that the listing popped up as a result of a real estate agent who “jumped the gun,” and that ongoing work on the property’s plumbing system has led to the delayed reopening.
“Everything’s hunky-dory,” assured Veniopoulos this week, who previously told us he planned to relaunch in August. “It’s going to [operate] as is.” Veniopoulos added that he recently partnered with an investor to help the revival effort, but that the landlord also has to complete some repair work for them to move forward.
The bakery was formerly owned by “Mayor of Greenwich Village,” the late Tony Dapolito, but operated since 2003 by Venipoulos, who also works for the real estate brokerage Bapple located across the street.
Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance, said that Dapolito used to rely on multiple restaurants buying bread from the bakery, but that those deals have ceased since Dapolito left just before his death.
Losing their luster
Rents at trophy office buildings Downtown dropped by nearly 9 percent from the spring to the fall of this year, with asking rents falling by over $6 per square foot at Class A properties in the area.
According to Jones Lang LaSalle’s fall 2008 Skyline Review, over the past six months top-end properties have seen average asking rental rents decline 6.2 percent overall, falling to $102.85 per square foot from $109.61 in spring 2008.
Downtown trophy buildings — which include Larry Silverstein’s 7 World Trade Center, John Zuccotti’s World Financial Center, and the house that David Rockefeller built, One Chase Manhattan Plaza — slipped to $64.54 per square foot in the fall from $70.80 in the spring, while Midtown endured a 4.4 percent decrease to $117.46 per square foot from $122.93 in the spring. The report did not break down how the individual trophies scored.
“Market weakness and continued uncertainty over the next 12 months to 18 months should cause both asking and effective rents to fall,” said James Delmonte, vice president and director of research for J.L.L. New York. “For the overall Class A office market, we are projecting asking rents to decline by as much as 25 percent to 30 percent by year-end 2009.”
Donovan headed to D.C.
President-elect Barack Obama tapped the head of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development for a Cabinet post last week, naming H.P.D.’s Shaun Donovan secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Donovan, who has led H.P.D. since 2004, had worked for HUD during the Clinton administration and brings a sterling record and high praise for his work in developing affordable housing initiatives in the city.
Obama made the announcement in his weekly radio address on Dec. 13, calling Donovan an “outstanding public servant.”
“We need to approach the old challenge of affordable housing with new energy, new ideas and a new, efficient style of leadership,” Obama said. “We need to understand that the old ways of looking at our cities just won’t do. That means promoting cities as the backbone of regional growth by not only solving the problems in our cities, but seizing the opportunities in our growing suburbs, exurbs and metropolitan areas.”
Donovan, 42, a trained architect, helped create a $7.5 billion plan for the construction and preservation of 165,000 affordable housing units in the city serving roughly half a million residents. The city announced in the fall it had reached the halfway point of its goal by already creating more than 82,000 of those units.
“Shaun Donovan’s record of service has left an imprint on our city that will last, and that many others will be able to continue to build on,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “While this country is in the midst of a crisis with regard to housing, it’s heartening that President-elect Obama has made the best choice he possibly could for HUD and for the country.”
Donovan could also help his old boss shut the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’s doors. HUD has final say over all L.M.D.C. expenditures, and Bloomberg has tried to convince Gov. Paterson to close the state-city corporation except as a legal entity.