Volume 22, Number 37 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | January 22 - 28, 2010
By Patrick Hedlund
The city recently determined that an under-construction hotel in Little Italy has violated established height limits in a protected historic district.
The Nolitan, a nine-story-plus boutique hotel at the corner of Kenmare and Elizabeth Sts., sits in the Special Little Italy District, which only allows for buildings up to eight floors, or 85 feet.
The project began courting controversy last summer, when curious neighbors observed the 60-room hotel growing beyond the height of buildings in the district. The developer subsequently added a series of penthouse units above the ninth floor to provide further evidence of its inappropriateness.
Ill effects caused by earlier work at the site, including damage to neighboring buildings, brought about a Department of Buildings-issued stop work order, followed by an audit of the hotel determining its “mezzanine level” should have been counted toward the building’s total height, or nine stories. The developer appealed the decision, but in a Jan. 19 letter the D.O.B. confirmed that the mezzanine level another name for the building’s ground floor did make the building nine stories, “and therefore contrary to [the] Zoning Resolution.”
“What do they expect to do, drag it out of the existing building?” said neighbor Michele Campo of the developer’s attempts to frame the project as only eight stories by not counting the ground floor. “It make absolutely no sense to me.”
Campo, a member of the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors who didn’t speak for the organization, explained that she has also witnessed unsafe conditions at the site, including after-hours and weekend construction, workers not wearing hard hats and workers not properly affixed to scaffolding. “It’s beyond pathetic,” she added.
According to the D.O.B., the developer has the right to appeal the Jan. 19 decision with the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals.
A Los Angeles-based law firm recently doubled the size of its office presence on Water St., the second such expansion for the company in the Financial District.
Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith L.L.P. inked a 10-year lease for more than 75,000 square feet at 77 Water St., the firm announced last week.
The company currently resides in 34,000 square feet at 199 Water St. near the South St. Seaport, following a 2005 move from its original 8,000-square-foot digs at 100 Wall St. The firm will now occupy space covering three floors of 77 Water St. under the lease, and the agreement also stipulates that the building owner, Goldman Sachs, cover all costs related to the space’s build-out.
Without disclosing details of the lease, Marc Shapses of Studley, who co-brokered the deal for the law firm, explained in a statement that the space at 77 Water St. would have been priced 70 percent higher just two years ago.
“Lewis Brisbois hit the market at just the right time” he added in the statement. “With several well-priced, quality options in the marketplace, we were able to take our time to determine the most appropriate building with space that could accommodate the firm’s size today, as well as in the future, with the right economics.”
The firm made the deal five years prior to the expiration of its lease at 199 Water St.
Soho retail scoop
A real estate investment company has acquired a long-term lease for a prime retail property on lower Broadway in Soho.
The deal gives Aurora Capital Associates a 49-year master lease over four floors covering 40,000 square feet at 483 Broadway between Broome and Grand Sts.
Under the $150 million deal, the new tenant will control the five-story building’s sub-basement, lower-level, ground-floor and second-floor spaces, each containing 10,000 square feet.
Aurora has taken several leases in the area over the past year, including establishing flagship retail locations for Hollister at 600 Broadway, Victoria’s Secret at 591-593 Broadway and Forever 21 at 568 Broadway.
Possible future plans for the property include combining all the floors to create a major flagship retail space in the high-traffic area with an additional entryway on Mercer St, according to Aurora. The clothing store Yellow Rat Bastard currently occupies the first and belowground floors, while a media and fashion company occupy floors three through five. The second floor remains vacant.
“This particular section of Broadway is one of the strongest in New York retail,” said Jared Epstein, vice president of leasing and acquisitions for Aurora, in a statement. “For example, the conversion rates on this block are among the best in the world, and many retailers have sales volumes at or above $2,000 per square foot.”
Nassau for sale
A vacant lot with 90,000 square feet of development potential near City Hall recently went on the market with an asking price of $25 million.
The site, located at 115-117 Nassau St. between Beekman and Ann Sts., is designated for both commercial and residential development, with a slightly lower size cap for residential construction.
“This is an exceptional opportunity to purchase a vacant lot at a price which does not preclude development straightaway,” said David Schechtman, senior director at Eastern Consolidated, which is handling the sale.
The current 5,125-square-foot, as-of-right site lies near City Hall Park, Pace University and New York Downtown Hospital.