Make it a grande: Vornado, Aurora project grows to 170K sf after air rights buys

Meatpacking's 61 Ninth Avenue is future home to Starbucks megastore

From left: Rendering of 61 Ninth Avenue (credit: Rafael Vinoly) and 401 West 14th Street (inset: Steve Roth)
From left: Rendering of 61 Ninth Avenue (credit: Rafael Vinoly) and 401 West 14th Street (inset: Steve Roth)

Vornado Realty Trust and Aurora Capital Associates rounded up 40,000 square feet in air rights from the Apple Store building and three other nearby Meatpacking District properties, in an effort to expand its boutique office-and-retail project at 61 Ninth Avenue to 170,000 square feet.

The developers recently closed on two separate air rights purchases – 20,000 square feet at Taconic Investment Partners and TIAA-CREF’s 401 West 14th Street, and a combined 20,000 square feet at William Gottlieb Real Estate’s 405-409 West 14th Street, according to sources and property records. The deals closed for $5 million and $10 million, respectively, sources said.

The air rights allow the nine-story property at 61 Ninth Avenue to grow from a proposed 130,000 square feet to 170,000 square feet. Rafael Vinoly designed the building, which is now under construction on the former Prince Lumber site.

Following the air rights transactions, Gottlieb, led by Neil Bender, became an investment partner and co-developer in the project, sources said.

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The developers thus far have signed one tenant – Starbucks, which plans to open a 20,000-square-foot upscale restaurant and roaster at the building’s base by 2018. The upper floors of the building are expected to hold offices for TAMI tenants.

Representatives for Vornado and Gottlieb could not be reached for comment, while Aurora declined to comment.

The partners have other projects in the Meatpacking District. Vornado and Aurora paid $15 million for Gottlieb’s five-story warehouse at 408 West 15th Street, with plans to lease the upper floors as office space and renovate the lobby. Gottlieb is serving as a development partner on that project as well. The building houses restaurant the Monarch Room and nightclub the Gilded Lily.

Aurora and Gottlieb also plan to redevelop nine buildings at 46-74 Gansevoort Street into a commercial hub called Gansevoort Row. In February, the Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected BKSK Architects’ design for it.

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