By Patrick Hedlund
Just call it the “Mall on the Hudson.”
The owners of the massive St. John’s Center in Hudson Square are shopping an idea to bring a retail outlet mall to the superblock waterfront structure.
The building, owned by Eugene M. Grant and Co., spans W. Houston St. between Washington and West Sts. across from Pier 40 and stretches for about three city blocks.
According to Hudson Square resident and restaurant owner Phil Mouquinho, the mall plan would lure dozens of retail tenants to the building’s ground floor, similar to the Woodbury Commons outlet about an hour upstate.
“Basically, it’s a model that a lot of people are looking at these days with the economy being in such straits,” Mouquinho said of the outlet concept, noting that the area is already zoned for such a use. “The people involved think it would be a great opportunity to attract retail.”
Speculation has abounded about could be done with the building housing Manhattan’s largest floor plates in addition 300,000 square feet of developable air rights.
Past plans have included building a hotel or condominiums on the roof, which was scrapped after The Related Companies’ proposal to development Pier 40 fell through, or selling the building for a reported $600 million in late 2007.
Mouquinho, who has been working closely with St. John’s to stop the city’s garbage garage plan, nevertheless said that outlet malls often draw heavy vehicle traffic, which is something the community would not be happy about considering Pier 40’s use as a parking facility.
“I have to believe the congestion is not going to be accepted by the community,” he said. “Most people going there would have to schlep all the way to the Seventh Ave. subway… I don’t see that happening.”
General Growth’s stock grows
The near-bankrupt developer planning a redesign of the South St. Seaport recently got a little boost in the stock market, raising questions over whether the company will follow through on its massive proposal for the tourist-heavy area.
General Growth Properties, which owns the Seaport mall on Pier 17, had originally expressed interest in demolishing the mall to make way for low-rise retail, a boutique hotel, a public plaza and a nearly 500-foot condo-hotel just north of the pier.
But ongoing financial problems for the debt-ridden developer, coupled with the city Landmarks Preservation Commission’s uneasiness over the proposed redesign and firm’s efforts to unload the mall, has recently quieted talks of its plans for the Seaport.
General Growth’s stock rallied this week, rising 35 percent on the New York Stock Exchange to just under $1 on Monday following reports that the company’s debt holders won’t force the developer into bankruptcy over $2.25 billion in debt, according to Bloomberg News. However, the gain is a drop in the bucket for G.G.P., whose stock price hovered in the $43 range about a year ago.
General Growth bought former Seaport mall owner the Rouse Company in 2004, years before the credit market froze and complicated attempts by the developer to refinance its debt. G.G.P. previously backed out or delayed deals in Las Vegas, and some have speculated that the developer will be forced to either sell off properties or foreclose on them given its current situation.