Volume 78 / Number 12, August 20 - 26, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since
1933

Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

Bleecker chain reaction
A Mexican fast-food chain will inherit the space recently vacated by Le Figaro Café at Bleecker and MacDougal Sts., with interior construction work ongoing this week at the former Village mainstay.

While no visible signs have been posted yet at the address, a Qdoba Mexican Grill is set to move in at 184 Bleecker St., according to a listing on the company’s Web site, though workers at the space were mum Monday on details of the new operation.

For more than 50 years, Le Figaro was a fixture at the busy intersection before closing in early June, when speculation immediately arose over the possibility of a chain tenant taking over the space. The corner property still donned its original Le Figaro awnings and a peeling mural on the MacDougal St. frontage as of this week, but a peek into its doors showed that interior work has begun in earnest. We’re told a late September opening is planned.

The Denver-based Qdoba, which was acquired by fast-food restaurant Jack in the Box in 2003, has five other locations in the city with another planned to open on W. 23rd St. in the Flatiron District. (At the very least, the new Bleecker St. eatery will offer a south-of-the-border option for locals mourning the recent passing of Señor Swanky’s a few blocks away.) Meanwhile, the property at 189 Bleecker St., kitty-corner to the Qdoba space, has remained vacant since last year, as the owner has avoided come-ons by similar chain operations.

According to broker Roberto Camacho of Buchbinder and Warren Realty Group, prospective tenants, including Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway and Quiznos, have expressed interest in the corner property, formerly a Vietnamese restaurant-turned-coffee shop. After a deal for the city’s first Fatburger location fell through last year, the building’s owner has been “very picky” about selecting a new tenant and is asking for a long-term commitment.

“We can rent the space 10 times over,” Camacho added, noting that he’s been in negotiations with a city-based, family-owned bakery for the $18,000-per-month space. “The owner wants to have somebody that’s going to be an asset to the neighborhood,” he said.

Bad Apple in Soho?
A neighborhood group claiming that Soho’s Apple Store has become a persistent source of aggravation in the community has reached out to the Borough President’s Office for help.

Alluding to what it called the store’s history of overcrowding, questionable construction practices and an overall irresponsible disposition toward the community, the Soho Alliance sent a letter to Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer listing its complaints.

“Since the Apple Soho store moved in six years ago, it has become the worst neighbor in Soho,” read a statement from Alliance Director Sean Sweeney. “No bar, nightclub or construction site comes close to ruining continually our quality of life like Apple Soho has.”

The Alliance reported that the last straw was a concert by pop group the Jonas Brothers inside the store last week, drawing “thousands” of fans to the location on Prince St. near Greene St. The statement claimed that a gaggle of screaming teenage girls blocked pedestrian and vehicular traffic in the area, as well as filling the space over its capacity without the proper permits.

“These regular music performances by Apple may violate the Zoning Resolution, the Certificate of Occupancy and the Public-Assembly-permit requirement (they have no P.A.),” the statement went on, citing an article that reported 450 people attended the concert. “This is clearly a Pubic Assembly violation as well as a fire-safety hazard,” the letter declared.

The statement also took Apple to task for its construction practices over the years, alleging nonpermitted nighttime work, excessive noise and light from the premises, and regular lines outside the store “giving Soho the appearance of a homeless encampment.”

“We are requesting a meeting with the Apple Store in Soho to facilitate a dialogue with residents and business owners about their concerns with excessive noise and traffic blockage in the area,” read a statement from Stringer’s office.

Making a Splash
Photography resources company Splashlight opened its new headquarters in Hudson Square this week with 60,000 square feet at 1 Hudson Square.

The company’s new address, a.k.a. 75 Varick St., near Canal St., is part of Trinity Real Estate’s portfolio that includes high-profile tenants, such as New York magazine, Getty/Wireimage and Porter Novelli, at the building bordering Tribeca.

The opening follows an eight-month gut renovation of the Class-A space by H2 L Design, with Newmark Knight Frank brokering the deal for Splashlight.

The company will still maintain 23,000 square feet of studio space at its former offices on W. 35th St., making it one of the largest photo studios in the city. The move allows Splashlight’s account management team and corporate executives to be based out of the same office, a first for the company.

Splashlight offers a full range of photographic services, including studio rentals, state-of-the-art photographic equipment, digital capture, production, digital asset management, retouching services and event space.

Zip code to behold
The Downtown zip code 10013, which includes Hudson Square, Tribeca and parts of Soho and Chinatown, represents the most overpriced in the country, according to a report issued by Forbes.

The finding comes from a study of zip codes in the country’s 40 largest cities, which compared rental costs with buying costs for similar properties based on number of bedrooms, location and price per square foot.

The zip code edged out Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood, West Hollywood in Los Angeles and Seattle’s Downtown area for having the highest “price-to-earnings spread” for all major cities.

Quoth the report: “New development is abundant in Lower Manhattan, and buyers are counting on Tribeca and the Financial District’s ability to transition from a 9-to-5 neighborhood to a vibrant 24-hour one. Tax abatements on office-to-residence conversions and lower price points than old-guard neighborhoods like the Upper East Side have also contributed to the price escalation.”

mixeduse@communitymediallc.com

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