IHOP to take space in Chelsea’s Limelight

Ashkenazy Acquisition controls both pancake franchisee and building

Ben Ashkenazy, chairman and CEO of Ashkenazy Acquisition, and the Limelight at 656 Sixth Avenue

In an unconventional move raising eyebrows among retail brokers, the affordably-priced pancake restaurant IHOP is moving to Ashkenazy Acquisition’s Limelight Marketplace, the former church and nightclub at 656 Sixth Avenue in Chelsea, a spokesperson for Ashkenazy told The Real Deal.

The announcement comes only weeks after an IHOP opened at 235 East 14th Street, between Second and Third avenues. That location is now projected to be among the top three grossing stores per square foot in the nation, Ashkenazy’s spokesperson, Ronn Torossian, said.

The former Episcopal church (later renowned as the Limelight nightclub) was converted in 2010 to multi-store retail by Jack Menashe, but the location has had trouble finding its footing. In addition to retail, the property, at the corner of 20th Street, is home to restaurants Grimaldi’s Pizzeria and Todd English.

The new IHOP will be on the ground floor and second floor, and will not affect Grimaldi’s and Todd English, Torossian said. Further details were not available.

“We are replacing local tenants with national tenants,” Torossian said. “At Limelight, IHOP will have outdoor space, and the area will welcome IHOP.”

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The deal is something of an inside play. Ben Ashkenazy, chairman and CEO of Ashkenazy Acquisition, is part owner and managing member of the tristate IHOP franchisee, Trihop. The group expects to open more than 25 new locations in the region.

The Limelight decision was surprising to some. One retail broker, who asked not to be identified being critical of Ashkenazy, wrote in an email, “That’s of course not going to happen.”

But others were intrigued by the idea. Retail broker Gene Spiegelman, an executive director at Cushman & Wakefield, said IHOP should thrive in New York City as Chock Full o’Nuts and fast-food chain Nedick’s once did.

“I can see the value of putting a 24-hour, seven-day, value-priced restaurant near subways, near schools. I think the location at Sixth [Avenue] and 20th [Street] is a great location,” but, Spiegelman added, “The real estate is odd [because] the physical nature of the building is not traditional for an IHOP.”

Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of retail sales and leasing at Prudential Douglas Elliman, said IHOP would increase shoppers in the building.

Ashkenazy is “doing what will be a tremendous traffic generator and brings the highways and byways to an interior mall,” she said.

There are more than 1,500 IHOPs in the nation, nearly all of them owned by franchisees of the California-based International House of Pancakes.

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