Volume 78 - Number 39 / March 4 -10, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

Megastore mystery

With recent reports that the Virgin Megastore in Union Square will shutter by May’s end, coupled with the departure of the adjacent Circuit City next month, one mammoth retail property stands to hit the market, with plenty of speculation over who might be moving in.

After Mixed Use revealed two weeks ago that Walmart might be interested in the Circuit City space at 14th St. and Fourth Ave., real estate Web sites lit up with cries of shock and disbelief over the big-box’s possible Downtown foray. And while a spokesperson for the company offered a somewhat-ambiguous denial of the rumor, stating Walmart had no “announced” projects in the city, at least some felt the move would make sense.

“To have Walmart come to the city, they would be the right retailer at the right place at the right time,” said Faith Hope Consolo, chairperson of Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Retail Leasing and Marketing Sales Group. She added, though, that the combined spaces might not be big enough for the big-box’s needs. She mentioned Nordstrom Rack, one of the department store’s lower-price spin-offs, as the most recent retailer showing interest.

Consolo said Walmart and Best Buy, another name that’s been floated as a possible tenant, would fit well given Union Square’s being a shopping destination and the current economy increasing emphasis on value. She equated a Walmart endeavor to Kmart’s arrival a few blocks south at Astor Place, which at the time drew the ire of local neighborhood organizations.

“It invigorated the neighborhood, and because they can advertise and market, it really helped all the surrounding businesses,” Consolo said of Kmart. “It just became a traffic generator.”

A spokesperson for The Related Companies — which owns the One Union Square building at the square’s south end, as well as a controlling interest in Virgin stores — acknowledged brokerage Winick Realty Group is handling the leasing, though no listing appears on its Web site and the company did not return requests for comment by press time.

Regardless, Consolo believes a deal will be struck by the summer, with a new store or stores opening in 2010.

GM for Trump Soho

The Trump Soho project’s new general manager has been busy building his operations team in advance of the condo-hotel’s planned opening at the corner of Spring and Varick Sts. next fall.

David Chase, a 17-year hotel-industry veteran, will oversee operations at both the 46-story building and its on-site venues after being hired to the post last October.

Chase came to Trump Soho from the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park, where he had served as hotel manager since 2001, and has done stints at Midtown’s St. Regis hotel and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Boston and San Francisco.

In just the past couple of weeks, Chase has grown his executive team from two to about 10 staff, who will handle everything from food and beverages to marketing and public relations.

“It’s exciting to be a part of something that is so impactful,” he said, noting his enthusiasm in working to develop the smaller, more entrepreneurial Trump Hotels brand. “The physical product we’re creating is absolutely exceptional,” he said.

In addition to the hotel’s day-to-day operations, Chase will also oversee the hotel’s Italian restaurant Quattro, the private rooftop venue SoHi and the 11,000-square-foot spa. He’ll also be tasked with assuaging community fears over residents’ stays, which are limited to 120 days per year and no more than 29 days straight, due to the property’s restrictive declaration.

“Transient owners do not stay in the hotel often,” he said, emphasizing that the buyers, many of them from outside the U.S., own other residences and tend to only stay for a few days at a time. Chase acknowledged, though, that he’s never worked at a condo-hotel.

“David’s extensive experience in the luxury hotel sector will be a great asset to Trump Soho New York,” said Donald scion Ivanka Trump, executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization, in a statement. “He is the consummate professional to create the ultimate lifestyle experience for our owners and guests.”

Ultimately, Chase said that locals will come to embrace the project and “be proud” to be associated with it.

“It is going to be a place that the neighborhood and the community will want to have as a destination,” he said.

Dorm life

Did you adore college life and its accompanying bunk beds and communal bathrooms?

Then the School of Visual Art’s brand-new dormitory at Delancey and Ludlow Sts. may be the place for you, as the 20-story building has opened itself up to short-term renters through July.

According to recent brokers’ listings, prices for two-bed units at the S.V.A. dorm start at $1,600 a month and include enrollment in a continuing-education course as part of the deal — likely a way to skirt any pesky rules stipulating only co-eds can live in the building.

The building includes 24-hour security, as well as electricity, heat, air-conditioning, Internet, cable and laundry, all free of charge.

Wine wars

A state proposal to expand wine sales to New York’s supermarkets has received criticism from community advocates fearful the move could jeopardize the state’s 2,700-plus liquor stores.

The plan, put forth by Governor David Paterson, would generate $150 million for the state, mostly through franchise fees.

According to Tony Juliano, secretary of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, the proposal would force many of the city’s independent liquor stores to close, since New York is one of 15 states currently prohibiting supermarket wine sales.

“It’s going to close some of those liquor stores down, employees are going to lose their jobs,” he said. “Nothing I’ve read suggests supermarkets are going to add staff.”




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