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Carter's View

A foreign developer recently bought the 6-story building at 37 West 56th Street for about $10 million and is "in contract" to acquire the three 5-story buildings adjacent to it at 31, 33 and 35 West 56th Street.

The developer is understood to be planning a 14-story residential condominium project at the assemblage, which is a few doors to the west of the handsome and trendy Chambers Hotel and half a block from Trump Tower and Henri Bendel's.

According to the website of The Greenwich Group International, which is headed by Simon Mild?about $100 million in equity and development financing is being sought by a "well-established Asian family" and a local developer for the West 56th Street assemblage for a "Super Luxury Condo Tower" project that is being designed by I. M. Pei. The website also indicated that the interior design of the project's public spaces is being designed by Hermes, the French design company that has a major store on Madison Avenue and recently decided to open a store at 15 Broad Street, which is known as "Downtown by Philippe Starck."

In recent months, several new luxury condo projects have enlisted well known designers to enhance their marketability, but none with the cachet of Hermes. tried to contact Mr. Pei's firm, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, but the office was closed because of a memorial service for James Ingo Freed, who died recently. also tried unsuccessfully to contact Mr. Mild?

Josh Goldflam of Besen & Associates was the broker in the 37 West 56th Street transaction and he told that he had no comment about the involvement of I. M. Pei, adding that he understood that no decision had been made about the project's architect.

A spokesperson for Donald L. Taffner, the owner of 31, 33 and 35 West 56th Street, had no comment, but confirmed to that the buildings are "in contract." Mr. Taffner and his wife, Eleanor B. Taffner, founded in 1955 the American Friends of the Glasgow School of Art, which was founded by Rennie Charles Mackintosh, and its headquarters have been located at 31 West 56th Street, the handsomest of the four buildings in the assemblage. The five-story, beige-brick building, has a rusticated one-story limestone base. 33 and 35 West 56th Street have red-brick facades.

The 56th Street block between Fifth and Madison Avenue is quite busy with many restaurants and stores. The eastern end of the block is anchored by a new Abercrombie & Fitch store that is very unusual in that its large store windows on Fifth Avenue are shuttered.

There is a great deal of development action in the neighborhood.

The assemblage is close to the office building at 40 West 57th Street, which has a through-block arcade and was recently given a new facade. To the west of that building is a long-vacant assemblage that goes through to 57th Street. Just to the west of the Avenue of the Americas, which recently lost its famous circular metal light-pole plaques decorated with the emblems of Western Hemisphere countries, four other assemblages are in various stages of progress: a construction shed is up about the former Ritz Fur Building, the former Horn & Hardhart building that has been housing Shelly's restaurant in recent years may be demolished for a new project, and Extell Development, which recently bought the air-rights over the Art Students League at 215 West 57th Street, has been acquiring mid-block air-rights across from Carnegie Hall block.
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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.