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High on 42nd St. and Sixth

It’s taken a long time, but the messy south blockfront of 42nd Street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway is finally close to measuring up to the redeveloped north side.

Construction of a new hotel to fill the vacant lot at 136 W. 42nd St. is imminent. Highgate Holdings has filed plans with the Buildings Dept. for a 36-story, 282-room inn designed by architect Peter F. Poon. The plan, yet to be approved by DOB, calls for stores on floors 1-3 and the hotel lobby, a restaurant on 4 and guest rooms on floors 5-35. No rendering was available yet, but they’d better work fast: The new hotel is supposed to be ready by mid-2013. The project, along with Highgate’s planned re-launch of the landmarked former Knickerbocker Hotel next door at 1466 Broadway, will complete the once miserable-looking block’s transformation The development of 4 Times Square by the Durst Organization was the locomotive for a slow-gelling process that banished low-rise junk and porno stores, under-utilized larger buildings and empty lots. Durst’s One Bryant Park/Bank of America tower completed the north side, but the eyesore-strewn south side stubbornly resisted change.

Now, Blackstone has built a new public plaza adjacent to its 1095 Sixth Ave. It’s also dismantling the ugly low-rise structures to their west, to make room for a glass retail pavilion next to Bush Tower at 132 W. 42nd. As reported, Highgate has a contract to sell 136 W. 42nd to Diamond Rock Hospitality for $128 million once the hotel is completed -- but the deal doesn’t include 20,000 square feet of retail, which will remain Highgate’s. Cushman & Wakefield’s Bradley Mendelson, who’s handling all the retail leasing for several different landlords on the blockfront, said the new hotel’s store space “will probably be on the market eight or nine months” before the hotel is finished. Mendelson is also handling leasing for 5,000 square feet of stores at the mostly vacant former Knickerbocker, which Highgate is converting from a Class-B office address. The once and future hotel building is home to a large Gap store that will remain. Highgate didn’t get back to us. Douglas Durst, whose 1 Bryant Park overlooks the hotel sites, said, “Welcome to the neighborhood, and congratulations on getting through the New York bureaucracy.” Hollywood power agency CAA lost its juice for 200 Fifth Ave.

After reports last summer that the firm was “close” to a lease for 115,000 square feet at L&L’s Holdings’ Cinderella property, CAA changed its mind and will apparently keep its Manhattan operations at 162 Fifth Ave. nearby. L&L chairman David W. Levinson, sounding not the least concerned, said the space is back on the market. The rest of the 830,000 square-foot 200 Fifth, the former Toy Building, is leased to office users including Gray Global and Tiffany & Co., and also to food-emporium phenomenon Eataly. Joseph Moinian and his partner Joseph Chetrit are selling 530 Fifth Ave. to Norman Sturner’s Murray Hill Properties and the Chera family’s Crown Acquisitions, according to a well-placed source. There’s no word yet on when the deal, now in contract, will close or what the price is. Sturner told us, “My comment is no comment; call me in a week.”

The 1956-vintage tower with 500,000 square feet is home to JPMorgan Chase and Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance. Retail tenants include Fossil, Lenscrafter and maybe troubled Syms/Filene’s, which signed a lease last winter. Scrappy Moinian is so active it’s hard to keep track. Having fought his way out of debt at several properties, he’s now aggressively marketing office and retail space at 3 Columbus Circle and planning a new, 26-story hotel at 143 W. 54th St. In addition, The Real Deal reported last week he intends to revive a long-stalled plan for a 61-story rental apartment tower at 601 W. 42nd St.

Swiss luxury cosmetics maker La Prairie Inc. is expanding its offices at 680 Fifth Ave. The company has added 9,400 square feet on the entire 11th floor, bringing its stake there to 22,110 square feet. Cushman & Wakefield’s David Berke repped the tenant while CB Richard Ellis’s Brian Hay and Brian Gell repped landlord Lodz Properties. No word on rent but the ask on certain higher floors in the tower is in the $70s.


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