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November 30, 2006 -- A decade ago, 14th Street was a jumble of discount electronics stores, wholesale shoe shops, warehouses and low-rise rentals. Though much of the grit still exists, it's become clear that it's only a matter of time before the entire street - we're talking Avenue C all the way to the West Side Highway - will be completely scrubbed down and coated with a SoHo-like sheen.

Stroll 14th Street today and you'll notice scaffolding galore. In fact, you can't walk a block without running into a construction site: There are nearly a dozen residential projects in the works.

They include boutique developments like the four condos that make up Brownstone East Village; mid-size projects like 8 Union Square South's 20 residences with two to a floor; and high-rises like the 21-story, 77-unit One Ten Third, developer Toll Brothers' first foray into Manhattan. All are poised to bring new price points to their respective blocks. The above are $1,100 to $1,395 per square foot, $1,400 to $1,500 per square foot and an average of $1,250 per square foot, respectively.

Add to that the slew of high-end retail outlets that have opened amid the 99-cent stores over the course of the last few years, all of which were foreshadowed by a small but significant sign of gentrification: the "For Rent" one.

"Over the past seven years, from Third Avenue to Eighth Avenue [on 14th Street] there have been a ton of 'For Rent' signs," says Darren Sukenik, executive vice president of luxury sales at Prudential Douglas Elliman. "What they're doing is warehousing those spaces, leaving them empty until they find the right people."

The "right people" have included Stella McCartney, Urban Outfitters and Starbucks, to name just a few of the first to move in.

"Trader Joe's, Circuit City, Virgin ... Forever 21, Levi's, Urban Outfitters. The street has changed dramatically," says Robert Futterman, who is currently leasing retail space at 401 W. 14th St., the 52,000-plus-square-foot commercial project at Ninth Avenue set to open next summer. Futterman is marketing the building to "fashion tenants, luxury brands and small department stores."

"[Development] really took quite a while, a lot of it was because Union Square Park wasn't where people wanted to hang out," says David Von Spreckelsen, vice president of Toll Brothers.

But now the greenmarket and the stores around it, including Whole Foods, make it a destination.

"There's been a big resurgence in the area," says Von Spreckelsen, who attributes it in large part to Danny Meyer opening Union Square Café in 1985.

The emergence of lower Fifth Avenue, Alphabet City and the Meatpacking District have also led to numerous new residences. Add to the buildings mentioned earlier, from east to west, A Building NYC, between Avenue A and First Avenue; Union Square Lofts and Flats, between Broadway and Fifth Avenue; 133 W. 14th St. and Loft 14, both between Sixth and Seventh avenues; and The Prime, between Eighth and Ninth avenues. That doesn't even include the redevelopment of Stuyvesant Town, which MetLife sold to Tishman Speyer and could result in more than 10,000 units.

In fact, it's somewhat surprising that it took as long as it did for 14th Street to become a hotbed of residential construction.

"No one really wanted to live in that area [in the past]; 14th Street was considered a discount street with 99-cent stores, not $4 million condos," Sukenik explains. "But the access there is huge. You have every major subway; it's the epicenter of Chelsea, the West Village, Flatiron, Union Square ... it's a major artery."

And while the entire street will have a new gloss, each block offers buildings marketed to very different buyers.

"I found that most neighborhoods in Manhattan had Gaps and Banana Republics, and the thing I liked about the East Village was that it still had that classic old feel of typical Manhattan. Not too contrived, interesting shops, unique restaurants," says Rob Kaliner, president of the Ascend Group, about what drew him to the site for A Building NYC.

His eight-floor, 87-unit condo building boasts a 24-hour concierge, health club, pool, roof terrace and a $2.975 million three-bedroom penthouse with 1,900 square feet inside and 400 square feet outside. The building is six months away from completion.

A Building NYC's locale has a different vibe than the Union Square circus, with its vegetable stands, protesters and street acts. The developer of 8 Union Square South hopes that area will attract young professionals who will pay a premium for a prime location. The building's 3,100-square-foot duplex penthouse is listed for $8.9 million.

Farther west, near the velvet ropes and high fashion of the Meatpacking District, The Prime is looking to attract scenesters with buying power. All nine lofts, which start at $3 million and went on the market in September, are still up for grabs.

And while all of these developments are already dramatically changing the thoroughfare, 14th Street, unlike much of the city, still has a lot of room for development.

"I think what's going to happen is eventually, every single-story or two-story retail space, 50 feet or wider, will be knocked down, and high-end luxury residential developments and high-end retailers will move in," says Sukenik. "All the signs are there, the big telltale ones and the little paper ones that say 'For Rent.'"



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New York, NY 10013

Office: 212.727.6151

Mobile: 917.699.3229



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