Volume 77 / Number 49 - May 7 - 13, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

Ian eyein’ L.E.S.?

The stretch of Orchard St. between Houston and Stanton Sts. on the Lower East Side is already chock full of enough to bars and restaurants to keep even the most ravenous of tourists happy, so is it a surprise that locals are chattering about another possible hotel in the neighborhood?

This one, according to a Mixed Use tipster, comes courtesy of prolific hotelier Ian Schrager, who’s been nosing around the Lower East Side since reports surfaced late last year that the developer had been looking at property on Orchard St. near Canal St. Those rumors have since been debunked, but apparently Schrager has turned his eye northward on the busy block to the heart of the local nightlife scene.

Inquiries to the Ian Schrager Company were not returned by press time, but our tipster reports that one of his high-ranking associates has been investigating, asking about prices on the west side of Orchard St. The would-be hotel would rise just up the street from the new, 19-story Thompson LES hotel on Allen and Stanton Sts., set to open this summer.

Roberto Ragone, director of the Lower East Side Business Improvement District, said his organization would be in favor of the hotel, as long as its construction and operation don’t impede local commerce and include local hires.

But the developer will need to hurry, since the Department of City Planning is currently moving forward with the public review process for the area’s downzoning.

Designer Doron Braunshtein, whose Apollo Braun clothing shop sits on Orchard St.’s west side near Houston St., added he is “anti-Ian Schrager,” saying the hotelier’s presence would only add to the ongoing development of “Yuppie Land” on the Lower East Side.

“This is not upscale; it is equivalent of garbage,” he said of the mystery project. “The Lower East Side is dead, officially.”

Braunshtein blamed Mayor Bloomberg for creating a development-friendly city that forces out the artistic community, saying Hizzoner “reminds me of Hitler.”

“He’s my worst enemy,” the ever-provocative Israeli added. “He’s a billionaire building a city for millionaires.”

Ralphing over Lauren

The retail rumor circulating among real estate speculators is that departing Meatpacking District mainstay Florent could be replaced by a Ralph Lauren store, as the designer has expressed interest in taking over space in the neighborhood.

The fate of restaurateur Florent Morellet’s historic diner, at 69 Gansevoort St., has been a hot topic since it officially hit the market in February, following an irreparable spat between him and his landlord.

One prominent Downtown broker said that current gossip has produced the Lauren name as the next possible tenant at the address, which was renovated in the 1940s and been an eatery ever since.

“If that’s true, I want to throw up,” said the anonymous Mixed Use source, who specializes in Downtown retail and corroborated the rumor with a friend who works for a well-known daily publication.

Matt Cohen, director of the Retail Services Group at The Lansco Corporation, the property’s exclusive leasing agent, would not confirm the scuttlebutt, only acknowledging that the high-end retailer has glanced at the space and is mulling a move to Meatpacking. “Not necessarily for this location, but [Lauren] is looking in the neighborhood,” Cohen said. “Anything’s a possibility.”

The building is in the landmarked Gansevoort Historic District and would require approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission if the new tenant decided to make aesthetic changes, to ensure any modifications were contextual with surrounding structures.

Ralph had once shown interest in the soon-to-be-vacated Hog Pit, according to owner Felisa Dell, who confirmed to us last month that Lauren had looked to take over the barbecue joint’s space when it exits in 2009.

Mixed Use thinks that keeping the current configuration of Florent’s facade — which Morellet preserved from its earlier iteration as the R & L Restaurant — would be fitting for Lauren, seeing as how the retailer’s initials match. Also, its teal hue is very in this season.

Downtown rentals on top

Rental rates reached record prices in Manhattan over the past year, according to a first-quarter breakdown by brokerage Stribling and Associates, with Soho and Tribeca boasting the overall highest prices across the borough.

Stribling’s “State of the Market” report found the cost of renting an apartment in Manhattan jumped 5.5 percent last year — with studios in doorman buildings averaging $2,751 a month, one-bedrooms going for $4,000, two-bedrooms for $6,700 and three-bedrooms for $10,500.

Additionally, the report estimates the average price of a city apartment at $1.7 million in 2008, up 33.5 percent from last year’s Q1 average. Factor out super-luxury deals at The Plaza and 15 Central Park West, and the average still sits at more than $1.5 million — 19.3 percent higher than the prior year.

“Who would have predicted last fall that Manhattan apartment prices would hit record highs in the first quarter of 2008?” said brokerage president Elizabeth Stribling. “However, the true market test will be evidenced in the coming months, and it is difficult to predict if first-quarter strength will carry forward through the year.”




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