Volume 22, Number 27 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | November 13 - 19, 2009
By Patrick Hedlund
Woolworth’s Italian accent
An Italian investment group is working to acquire a majority stake of another Downtown icon, the Woolworth Building, after doing the same with the historic Flatiron Building earlier this year.
The Rome-based Sorgente Group — which closed on more than half of the $190 million Flatiron Building in January, with plans to convert it for hotel use — is currently in talks to purchase a 51 percent stake in the neo-Gothic Broadway skyscraper, according to the New York Post. The 57-story building, at the corner of Barclay St. across from City Hall, stood as the world’s tallest high-rise for more than 15 years after it was built in 1913. The building was owned by the Woolworth company for 85 years before being sold to the Witkoff Group for $155 million in 1998.
New York City’s plunging real estate prices have attracted investors from across the world, with office properties falling 62 percent in the first nine months of 2009, the Post reported.
Retail rents stabilizing
Retail rents along Broadway from Soho to the Financial District edged up during the third quarter but are still off the mark compared to the end of last year.
According to third-quarter retail report by CB Richard Ellis, retail rents shot up by 10.87 percent on Broadway between Chambers St. and Battery Park (from $209 per square foot at midyear to $234 in the third quarter), and rose by 0.41 percent on the stretch between Houston and Broome Sts. (from $481 at midyear to $483 in the third quarter). However, the current figures show a decrease from the end of last year, with rents in the Financial District falling by 7.26 percent from the fourth quarter of 2008 (from $251 per square foot to $234) and Soho dipping by 5.59 percent over the past three quarters (from $510 to $483).
By comparison, retail rents on Fifth Ave. between 14th and 23rd Sts., came in at $269 in the third quarter — a 6.03 percent drop from the previous quarter and a 2.60 percent drop from the fourth quarter of 2008.
Soho standby Zoë, the airy American restaurant that’s been on Prince St. for nearly two decades, plans to shutter by week’s end.
Owners Stephen and Thalia Loffredo confirmed to The New York Times that they would not renew their lease after 18 years in the space near Mercer St. due in part to changes in the neighborhood.
“It’s no longer a bastion of the art world the way it was,” Stephen Loffredo told the Times’ Diner’s Journal blog. “We can only tweak the concept so far.”
For Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance, Zoë’s passing signifies the continuing death of the area’s independent restaurants and shops.
“Soho as a neighborhood for individually owned restaurants is disappearing,” he said, citing the closures of former favorites like Jerry’s and the Vesuvio bakery, both on Prince St. “I do kind of hate to see [Zoë] go. How many lipstick stores and lingerie stores can Soho support?”
Prior to Zoë, the space used to house a Puerto Rican diner that catered to the area’s construction workers, Sweeney explained.
“That felt like the passing of an era,” he noted. “You could get a coffee for 50 cents.”