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Old March 22nd, 2016, 06:26 PM   #1
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NEW YORK | 562-564 5th Ave. | Pro

Fifth Ave.’s makeover could bring new indoor shopping mall

As Fifth Avenue below Saks gradually sheds its schlocky retail image, Extell chief Gary Barnett has his eye on a project that would accelerate the avenue’s ongoing upmarket trend.

Among other options he’s considering, Barnett might build an “internal” shopping mall that would front on Fifth Avenue’s west side between West 46th and West 47th streets, and have an apartment tower or hotel on top.

“We think the market is there for a home to merchants at rents that merchants can afford,” Barnett said.

The retail complex — which might also accommodate a single department store — would basically be T-shaped. Its main or only entrance would be on Fifth Avenue, with most of the shopping area arrayed from north to south between 46th and 47th streets.

Extell owns or controls 10 different buildings on the north and south sides of West 46th and 47th streets as well as on part of the west Fifth Avenue blockfront between them. The assemblage now includes 562-564 Fifth Ave. at the crucial northwest corner of Fifth and West 46th and extends nearly 250 feet west along the side street.

Barnett emphasized that no decisions have been made even though demolition of old buildings will start next month. “You can ask me anything you want [about] what we’ll do because I don’t know myself,” he laughed.

But the Fifth Avenue mall notion is the first time he’s spoken publicly about Extell’s possible intentions. Barnett said other possibilities include an office building with a smaller volume of retail at the base.

You can only marvel at a company confident enough to still be weighing options after it’s spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the past few years buying buildings, leaseholds and air rights from landlords including SL Green and Thor Equities.

Right now, many of the properties are an eyesore — vacant at street level and buried under sidewalk bridges and black netting.

But Extell isn’t one of those “developers” that ravage a block and leave it a mess until a white knight comes along — as its long-in-coming but ultimately successful projects such as One57 and the International Gem Tower on West 47th Street prove.
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