Stroller mogul finds new baby: Soho condos

MacLaren founder aims to construct eight-story building on Wooster Street
By Leigh Kamping-Carder | April 19, 2012 06:53PM

The heart of Soho may be getting a new condominium building, courtesy of the founder of bankrupt stroller maker MacLaren, The Real Deal has learned.

An entity linked to MacLaren founder Farzad Rastegar already owns 150 Wooster Street, where the company operates a stroller “showroom” out of a converted garage, in addition to a neighboring parking lot. Now, Rastegar is planning to tear down the structure and then build condos on the lots, a source familiar with the project said.

Norwalk, Conn.-based MacLaren and Rastegar have been under fire since 2009, when allegations surfaced that some models of the company’s popular strollers had a defective hinge that could amputate children’s fingers. The company was forced to recall about 1 million units, and a group of parents sued the company. Those suits are ongoing.

More recently, the British company’s American subsidiary, MacLaren USA, quietly sought to liquidate through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding. The petition, filed in December, listed only about $45,000 in assets and almost $15.9 million in liabilities, and many of the largest creditors are parents who have filed lawsuits, court records show.

At 150 Wooster, between West Houston and Prince streets, renderings of the proposed project show a building straddling both lots, with a geometric façade of windows framed in stone and metal. But since the property is part of the Soho Cast Iron Historic District, Rastegar’s MTM Associates entity needs approval from the city to proceed.

MTM Associates submitted a proposal to the City Planning Commission March 1 to construct an eight-story building that would include up to 15 condos, city records show. On March 7, the commission sent the application to Community Board 2, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and the City Council, all of which will have to sign off on the project before it moves forward.

The structure cleared one major hurdle last May, when the Landmarks Preservation Commission gave Rastegar the green light to tear down the garage and construct a new seven-story building with a penthouse, a spokesperson for the commission said.

MTM Associates spent $800,000 to buy 150 Wooster Street and the adjacent plot in 1986, according to city property records.

The project is likely to get attention, given how few newly constructed housing developments have come on the market in Soho and the dearth of parcels left to develop in the high-demand neighborhood.

Meg Siegel, a senior vice president with Sotheby’s International Realty Who Has Sold Numerous Properties On Wooster Street but is not involved with No. 150, said that the site was “very ripe” for development.

While it will be difficult to build there, considering the extra hurdles of the historic designation, it is almost inevitable that a developer will try to build on the site, she said.

A MacLaren spokesperson did not return requests for comment. Harry Kendall, co-founder of BKSK Architects, declined to discuss the project. Rastegar could not be reached.