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The Macklowe Organization has entered into a contract to acquire the handsome Swiss? Drake Hotel property at 440 Park Avenue on the northwest corner at 56th Street from Host Marriott for a price estimated to be about $440 million.

The 495-room hotel was built in 1927 and designed by Emery Roth, who also designed the Ritz Hotel tower nearby on the northeast corner of the avenue at 57th Street. The Drake is not an official city landmark and the sale involves air-rights from some properties on 57th Street that would enable an "as-of-right" development on the site of the hotel of about 70 stories. A mid-block addition to the Drake was erected in the 1960s.

A spokesman for The Macklowe Organization had no comment about what architectural firm might be involved in the planned new construction, or about whether it will be a pure residential condominium project or a mixed-use development that might include some hotel and retail space.

The Macklowe Organization is completing construction of a luxury residential condominium tower at 310 East 53rd Street and it has developed some of the city's most prominent apartment towers including the Metropolitan Tower at 136 West 57th Street, and Riverbank on West 42nd Street and River Tower at 420 East 54th Street. It also owns the General Motors Building on Fifth Avenue across from the Plaza Hotel.

It is conceivable that a new tower utilizing air rights might become the tallest building on Park Avenue north of the MetLife Building at 45th Street.

Another very tall mixed-use tower has been designed by Sir Norman Foster for Aby Rosen nearby at 610 Lexington Avenue on the southwest corner at 53rd Street behind the Seagram Building at 375 Park Avenue.

The Drake has a polished red-granite one-story base beneath two limestone stories. The 21-story, beige-brick building and three setbacks and handsome three-story columns supporting large broken pediments on its avenue frontage at the top of its base and attractive facade decorations at its top. It has a large entrance marquee on the side street with sidewalk landscaping and a large lobby. In the early 1960's, a nightclub and discotheque at the hotel, known as Shepheard's, handsomely outfitted with Egyptian-style d?r, became the city's first major public disco.

Eastdil Realty is handling the sale for Host Marriott.
Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.