Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Troubled Harlem Park Project Back in the Game

The world gave up on Harlem Park years ago, but the long-stalled development project at 1800 Park Avenue is being resurrected as a residential building with a big affordable housing component planned by developer Bruce Eichner. Vornado Realty Trust recently announced the $65 million sale of the site at the southwest corner of East 125th Street. Mr. Eichner is planning an 80/20 residential building of 596,000 square feet. It would include retail space, a garage and 600 new apartments, with at least 200 affordable units. The project, which is expected to cost around $250 million, may begin showing signs of life as early as this summer.

Once planned as a mixed-use mega-project where Major League Baseball would base its cable network, financing troubles and MLB's withdrawal ultimately killed the project. But now, developer Ian Bruce Eichner has stepped up to the plate.

Among Eichner’s developments projects are CitySpire on West 56th Street; 180 Montague St. in Brooklyn; 1540 Broadway in Times Square; and the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. He is as well known for developing high-profile projects as he is for losing them — including 1540 Broadway and the Cosmopolitan — to his lenders.

While Mr. Eichner doesn't exactly have the best track record when it comes to financing, the Bloomberg administration has been encouraging more affordable housing, so it would not be a surprise if low-interest financing and New York City bonds come into play and Harlem Park is finally back in the game..

In 2004, financing was approved for a $200 million Courtyard Marriott and office building to be developed by Raymond Caldiero, chairman of the Sequoia Group on the same site, but without any commercial tenants, the site was acquired by Vornado in 2007.

It planned a 600,000 square-foot office building with 72,000 feet of retail, but that also never came out of the ground.

In 2010, Vornado bought out its partners, California Urban Investment Partners — a joint venture which included basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson— for $11.85 million.

The site wraps the entire eastern end of the block between Madison and Park and East 125th and 124th streets.