Volume 75, Number 13 | August 17 - 23, 2005

An ad posted on the Web by a real estate broker shows a new high-tech-style movie theater and retail complex planned for the southeast corner of Washington and 13th Sts.

Coming soon to the Market…then again, maybe not

By Lincoln Anderson

Last month, James Ortenzio told The Villager he would know in about a year what he’s going to do with his property in the Meat Market. But a Web posting by a real estate broker has some thinking that Ortenzio — one of the few private property owners in the Market still renting to meat businesses — may already be close to deciding.

The advertisement is for 837-843 Washington St., currently a low-rise building owned by Ortenzio, in which the tenants are about four or five meat businesses operating out of coolers, or refrigerated warehouses. The ad shows the property with a new cutting-edge, geometric-style building. According to the ad, by Robert K. Futterman & Associates, a national movie theater chain, featuring independent films, has committed to occupy the second and third floors of the new building once a ground-floor tenant is secured. The ad’s pitch notes the space offers “an incredible opportunity to establish a flagship retail store, showroom and corporate office — all in one — in the hot Meatpacking District.”

Mark Finkel, the property’s broker, said, “The [new] building is 60,000 square feet and we’re out to tenants. The idea is that it would be built as soon as we have a tenant for the entire ground floor, which is 10,000 square feet. The theater is committed as soon as we get a great ground-floor tenant.”

Finkel said he thinks a restaurant might work in the space, but he’s more enthusiastic about a flagship Nike Town or Puma store.

Although the meat businesses have about two and a half years left on their leases, there’s almost always a demolition clause in commercial leases, allowing a landlord to evict tenants when ready to start new construction.

One meat business owner currently a tenant said he had heard about the ad but didn’t want to comment, saying, as it is, he’s just trying to hang onto his space.

Ortenzio for his part, downplayed any buzz the ad may be creating, saying it was just sort of real estate riffing and nothing of substance yet.

“That’s a broker speculating,” Ortenzio said. “I’ve never even spoken to the broker.” However, Ortenzio admitted, “Actually, it’s an idea that I had. It’s a concept. A friend of mine authorized them [to do it], which is fine. I’m not sure it can be a reality — I have to talk to the tenants.”

Asked if he might move to evict the meat businesses before their leases end, Ortenzio said no, but also hedged a bit, indicating he might possibly ask them to renegotiate their leases. According to sources, Ortenzio is renting the spaces at well below market rate, despite the fact that Meat Market commercial rents have gone through the roof.

“People call me, and I tell them I don’t know what I’m doing [with the property],” Ortenzio said.

Jo Hamilton, of Jane St., a leading Meat Market activist, said she’s also curious what Ortenzio intends.

“I too had seen [the ad],” she said. “I talked to someone who spoke to James Ortenzio and he said, ‘Oh no, it’s just baloney.’ I’m
going to take him at his word that it’s nothing.”

There are about 20 meat businesses left in the Meat Market. Ten of these are in the city-owned co-op building a block south of Ortenzio’s building. It’s thought that within a few years the only meat businesses remaining will be those on the co-op block, which has a deed restriction for agricultural market use.

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