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May 17, 2005 edition of The New York Sun
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The Stoler Report

May 17, 2005 Edition > Section:  New York

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Building That Straddles High Line Park Adapts to Times

BY JULIE SATOW - Staff Reporter of the Sun
May 17, 2005

The structure that some brokers are calling downtown's MetLife Building straddles the High Line at West 14th Street, a gateway to the Meatpacking District. It is a structure that was built atop the elevated railroad track so that the meat purveyors, who transported their goods from the port onto the High Line trains, could easily store their products.

Now, as the High Line is transformed into a city park, the building's owner, Charles Blaichman, hopes to adapt to the times and house the latter-day equivalents of the area's mid-19th-century meatpackers: designers, architecture firms, and cutting-edge shops.

This is not the first development for Mr. Blaichman, who has built a number of the buildings in the neighborhood, including the exclusive club Soho House and the Spice Market restaurant. He is also opening a building on Gansevoort Street, where the edgy designer Theory is opening a store.

The 100,000-square-foot building at 450 W. 14th St., at Tenth Avenue, has up to 25-foot ceilings and enviable views of the High Line and the Hudson River.

So far, the building has no leases, the exclusive broker for the building, Chris Owles of Sinvin Realty, said. Retailers could take possession of the building in January, with office tenants moving into the eight floors that will be built above the existing structure next spring.

The building will have two lobbies, one for the office workers, and one for the public visiting the High Line.

"This is a great benefit for the retailers because thousands of visitors will come to visit the High Line Park, providing those shops with built-in traffic," Mr. Owles said.

The mile and a half of elevated train line running from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street was closed in 1980. Since 2002, the nonprofit group Friends of the High Line has worked with the city to transform the rail line, negotiating with the private owner, railroad company CSX Transportation, to turn the abandoned space, which is 30 feet above street level, into a public park.

The above-ground ground could be broken on the first phase of the park, from Gansevoort to 15th streets, by year's end. The entire project, which is estimated to cost between $65 million and $100 million, could be finished as early as 2010. The project's designers are the New York-based architectural firms Field Operations and Diller, Scofidio & Renfro.

The High Line Building, as Mr. Blaichman's new project is known, will benefit from the completion of the first phase of the park.

The building's retail section is divided into three levels, with the asking price for space on the 10,000-square foot lower level, which has 12-foot ceilings, at $35 per square foot; for the 10,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, with 14.5-foot ceilings, and the additional 1,750 square feet, with 25-foot ceilings, on the second floor, offered for $125 per square foot.

For the commercial space, a total of 77,000 square feet of contiguous office space, with 11- to 13-foot ceilings, the asking rent is $50 per square foot - a premium over the rents of between $30 and $40 per square foot that are being asked at other commercial buildings nearby.

Most of the office space has outdoor balconies, with two 1,800-square-foot terraces on the sixth floor and two 300-square-foot balconies on floors seven through 14.The 1,675-square-foot penthouse has a 4,000-square-foot terrace.

"The penthouse would be great for entertainment moguls or hedge funds," Mr. Owles said.

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