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Carter's View

Vornado, which has been trying to clear out renters from the 20-story apartment building at 220 Central Park South for more than five years, agreed in December to spend $40 million to buy out the remaining 26 apartment tenants in the 124-unit building, but it now has "a final and unlikely holdout, Gary Burnett, the head of Extell Development Company, according to an article today in The Wall Street Journal by Eliot Brown.

Vornado's goal, the article continued, was to knock down the building and erect a 41-story luxury condo tower with sweeping Central Park vistas. It and the Clarett Group, its development partner in the project, had paid $131.5 million for the building in 2005.

"Vornado's latest quarterly regulatory filing," the article noted, "put the development's cost at between $400 and $425 million. Soon after Vornado bought it the project ran into resistance from rent-regulated tenants in the building. They sued in 2007, arguing that Vornado hadn't following the law for removing them."

"A few years ago," the article said, "Mr. Barnett bought the lease to the parking garage in the white-brick building, according to people familiar with the situation. Mr. Barnett has thus far rebuffed the attempts of Mr. Roth to purchase the lease, the people said. While talks continue between the parties, Extell's continued hold on that underground garage's lease would block, or greatly complicate, Vornado's attempts to demolish the1950's building."

"Mr. Barnett's strategy," the article continued, "remains unclear. But holdouts often succeed in extracting big payments from developers eager to break ground. Mr. Barnett also owns an adjacent property and has expressed a desire to develop in the area. 'I have the greatest respect for Vornado and its team of executives,' Mr. Barnett said Sunday in a statement. 'We hope to resolve any issues concerning these buildings in a mutually satisfactory manner.'"

Extell is building a 75-story hotel and apartment tower on the south side of 58th Street that connects through the block to a site across from Carnegie Hall on 57th Street.

Extell's lease on the garage at 220 Central Park South runs for 6 more years, the article said, adding that "Mr. Barnett's ownership of a neighboring lot on 58th Street could factor into negotiations. He has filed plans with the department of Buildings for a permit to construct an 18 story apartment building there. That lot is sandwiched between another property owned by Vornado and Clarett, a small building at 229 West 58th Street.

If Mr. Barnett doesn't budge, Vornado might be able to still erect its building over the existing garage. But it would be much more expensive, if even possible."

The permit filed March 23, 2011 by Extell at the property at 225 West 58th Street indicated that John Cetra was the architect and that the building would contain 50 apartments.

The building at 220 Central Park South was erected in 1954 and was designed by Mayer & Whittlesley and M. Milton Glass. Mayer & Whittlesley also designed 40 and 240 Central Park South, which, like 220 Central Park South, are through-block buildings that extend to 58th Street.

The building has a two-step-down entrance, a revolving front door, a concierge, protruding air-conditioners, a garage, and spiked sidewalk landscaping. It is to the west of a fire engine company on 58th Street.
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.
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