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Times Square Development Site Trades for $430 Million

Backed by Starwood's Financing, Investor Group Plans 36-Story Times Square Gateway Center To Include Massive LED Screen, Multi-Story Retail and a 500-Room Hotel Tower
October 17, 2012
An investment partnership led by The Witkoff Group and New Valley, an investment unit of South Florida-based Vector Group LTD (VGR), together with Maefield Development, Infinity Urban Century and Winthrop Realty Trust, acquired a prime Times Square development site on the northeast corner of Seventh Avenue and West 47th Street for $430 million.

The new owners plan to partially demolish an existing eleven-story office building at 701 Seventh Ave. to make way for a new 10-story, 130,000-square-foot retail structure wrapped by a 24,000-square-foot LED sign and, in a second phase, a 500-room hotel tower.

The joint venture plans to spend $170 million to develop the retail and sign complex in a first phase expected to be operational within two years. It will then spend another $200 million for the potential hotel development.

Starwood Capital is providing $475 million in combined acquisition and construction financing for the development, $375 million of which was funded at closing. Winthrop has committed to invest up to $68 million to the venture on a preferred equity basis, with an initial contribution of approximately $29 million.

Maefield Development, an Indiana-based real estate investment firm headed by Mark Siffin, and Infinity Urban Century, the real estate investment arm of New York-based privately-held investment holding company Infinity Group, spent years assembling the site from various interest holders, finally securing exclusive control of the site in January 2012.

The Witkoff Group, led by real estate investor Steven C. Witkoff, is the primary sponsor of the partnership. Witkoff joined forces with New Valley, LLC, the real estate investment subsidiary of Vector Group Ltd., which also owns a 50% ownership interest in New York's Douglas Elliman Realty.

The $475 million first mortgage loan and mezzanine loan for the acquisition and redevelopment of the site were co-originated by Starwood Property Trust (NYSE: STWD) and Starwood Capital Group (through its Starwood Distressed Opportunity Fund IX.) The loan includes an equity participation right for Starwood. Attorneys Wallace Schwartz and Douglas Heitner of the New York firm Kasowitz represented The Witkoff Group and New Valley in the site acquisition.

In addition to covering the cost of acquiring the 701 Seventh Avenue property, the $430 million acquisition price includes other costs associated with the site assemblage, including lease buyout agreements from the long term retail tenants that occupied the ground floor, and repurchase agreements from the license holders of the signage on the current building facade signage. The real estate itself traded for less than the full acquisition cost.

With 145,000 square feet of additional air rights, the redevelopment includes plans for showroom retail space with a platform to be built on top of the retail component capable of supporting a 31 story hotel tower. Witkoff will oversee a 30-month redevelopment plan, which includes the demolition of the building's interior and conversion into new retail space, with the bottom three-quarters of the structure dedicated to retail and the top one-quarter used for an entertainment and dining establishment.

A report issued recently by Cushman & Wakefield stated the Times Square area from West 42nd up to West 47th streets between Broadway and Seventh Avenue attained the second highest asking rents in Manhattan, with an average asking rent of $2,100 per square foot. In addition, the planned 120-foot tall, 22,000 square foot LED sign, which will be two times the size of all comparable new signs in the area, is also expected to be a big moneymaker.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated since it was originally published to clarify the $430 million acquisition price includes other costs associated with the site assemblage, including lease buyout agreements from the long term retail tenants that occupied the ground floor, and repurchase agreements from the license holders of the signage on the current building facade signage, along with the cost of acquiring the 701 Seventh Avenue property.


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