Volume 22, Number 01 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | May 15 - 21, 2009

Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

Downtown retail muscle
Downtown proved its retail wherewithal amid plunging commercial rents across Manhattan, with average prices for space along some of the area’s richest corridors remaining strong despite the downturn.

According to the Spring 2009 Retail Report from Real Estate Board of New York, retail prices in the Financial District, Soho and the West Village either stood still or increased compared to the fall of last year.

Average commercial rents in the Financial District, on Broadway between Battery Park and Chambers St., showed no change season over season, remaining at $251 per square foot.

In Soho, on Broadway between Houston and Broome Sts., the average price jumped by 5 percent since last season, from $432 per square foot to $452.

In the West Village, on Bleecker St. between Hudson St. and Seventh Ave. South, the average price surged 31 percent, from $362 per square foot to $528.

The Financial District also had a big jump this year with a 27 percent increase. The spring 2008 report showed that prices on the nearly mile-long FiDi stretch averaged $198 per square foot, $53 less than their current average.

Soho rents moved 7 percent above their average from the spring of last year, when the price per square foot was $424.

Overall, Manhattan rents experienced an 11 percent dip from the fall of 2008 —falling to $115 per square foot — the most meaningful decline since after 9/11.

LEEDing the way
One of Battery Park City’s newest and greenest residential projects will achieve the highest rating for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

The Visionaire, a 35-story condo project at 70 Little West St., had been striving for LEED “Platinum” status since Albanese Organization earning the distinction at its sister Verdesian building in B.P.C. last year.

The 251-unit, Pelli Clarke Pelli-designed development is the company’s third residential project in Battery Park City. The Verdesian’s “Platinum” designation had marked the first such rating for a residential apartment building, and its Solaire development had earlier been recognized as the first green residential high-rise in the country.

“We are extremely proud to have the Visionaire recognized as a ‘Platinum’ building by the U.S.G.B.C., and to continue our pushing of the envelope in sustainability for residential buildings,” George Aridas, executive vice president for the Albanese Organization, told Mixed Use.

The Visionaire’s environmentally friendly features include a high-efficiency fresh-air supply and exhaust system, an in-building wastewater treatment system and sustainably harvested wood floors.

The development will also provide 40,000 square feet for the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy’s new headquarters.

Trump stumper
Getting a response for the number of units sold at the Trump Soho condo-hotel is akin to asking for the meaning of life: Expect many explanations, but no universally accepted answer.

So it goes at the 43-story Spring St. project, which appears to have been in a deep freeze for more than a year.

According to a recent article in The Real Deal magazine, Trump scion Donald Jr. intimated that the upscale high-rise has sold 55 percent of its 400 units. But The Donald’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, told British newspaper The Sunday Times last June that the condo-hotel had sold 60 percent of its units. Last September, we reported that the under-construction project had sold 53 percent of its units, a figure that Trump spokespeople had committed to as early as February 2008.

So, which is it?
“We’re keeping that information confidential,” said Julius Schwarz, executive vice president of the Bayrock Group, one of Trump’s development partners. “Our sales were strong previously, but things have slowed down like they have with other projects.”

Like Schwarz, a public-relations spokesperson for the condo-hotel refused to divulge the number of units sold, and also referred to the slumping market as a reason for the apparent slowdown.

Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance neighborhood organization, said Trump himself had boasted back in 2007 of selling more than 60 percent of the units and having 3,200 people signed up to live in the 400-some apartments.

“He’s a guy whose forte is bragging, and he’s not disclosing [sales figures],” said Sweeney, whose group has been a staunch opponent of the project. “The silence is deafening.”

Trump Jr. did tell The Real Deal that the developers haven’t backed off their $3,000-per-square-foot price tags, one possible reason for the dearth of activity. Either way, Schwarz maintained that the building will be open as scheduled this fall. (We might believe that if we didn’t see the daily progress or lack thereof right outside our window.)

“As people see the project beginning to open, the excitement will continue,” he said. “I think everyone in the neighborhood is getting used to the idea that we’re here to stay.”





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