An investment company controlled by the government of Abu Dhabi has given Gary Barnett‘s Extell Development a fistful of dollars to kick-start the construction of a 72-story tower opposite Carnegie Hall.

The Christian de Portzamparc-designed mixed-use project is long stalled. Currently a hole in the ground, it has been written about extensively by me as well as Post colleague Steve Cuozzo.

Aabar Investment paid $133.83 million for a majority stake in the future development at 157 W. 57th Street, which will include offices, a hotel and condos with Central Park views.

Khadem al Qubaisi, the chairman of Aabar, told Abu Dhabi media that they chose the Extell project for its first in the city but are reviewing others. Barnett said, “It will be a new city landmark.”

The Abu Dhabi-based sovereign wealth fund doesn’t seem too concerned about a 1980s US tax rule that the Real Estate Roundtable wants ditched because of its heavy taxation of foreign investment in real estate.

“They pay a double tax different from other asset classes,” said Jeffrey DeBoer, president and CEO of the Roundtable, speaking at yesterday’s Real Estate Board of New York luncheon.

DeBoer said that even with all the US equity sitting on the sidelines, it won’t come close to reaching the trillion dollars needed to bail out all the underwater mortgages that will be rolling over in the next two years. The industry hopes the rule is lifted.


DeBoer also noted the importance of yesterday’s closing of the $400 million collateralized mortgage-backed securities financing for Developer’s Diversified Realty — the first for the year and the first that was designed to use Term Asset-Back Securities Loan Facility, or TALF, money.

In the end, spreads on the interest payments came down so much, the expected hedge fund players backed out and institutional insurance funds and others with cash stepped in, essentially removing the incentive or need to use the Federal Reserve’s loan support to buy the bonds.

“Private capital came into the marketplace,” DeBoer rejoiced.


Some especially comforting food is coming to the Empire State Building in an area previously used for storage. The retailer, the upscale La Maison du Chocolate, is getting the six months-plus-options deal for a percentage of sales.

Christine Emery of The Lansco Corporation brought in the candy company, which is moving into 463 feet just inside the main tourist entrance. The CB Richard Ellis Retail group with Andrew Goldberg, Eric Gelber and Matt Chmielecki, represented the building in the unusual transaction that includes a licensing agreement for Empire State Building chocolates.

“These guys are going to have to report sales figures to us,” said Malkin Properties’ Fred Posniak, who is eager to quantify what four million hungry tourists will spend on high-end noshes. “They could cost $100 a box.”


Stacey Bendet‘s alice + olivia has signed on for two floors of the upcoming Class A Meatpacking District building at 450 W. 14th St. The designer, whose new store at 73rd Street and Third Avenue opens today, has Theory’s Andrew Rosen as a partner. Bendet is also scouring locations for a downtown store, she said.

Meantime, alice + olivia will consolidate its three offices, design and showroom spaces in the Fashion District to 16,000 feet on the eighth and ninth floors of the 15-story development known as the High Line Building.

Like the nearby Standard Hotel, this project has the hip High Line Park running right through the space, between its older redeveloped warehouse and a new glass-walled tower. She’ll be joining Helmut Lang, which previously signed on for two floors. Bendet will also be paying a rent that starts with an eight — the same as the best Midtown buildings.

“The space will be awesome,” Bendet said. Her firm was represented by Brian Waterman and Lance Korman of Newmark Knight Frank, who focus on A-list entertainment and fashion firms. Since the duo normally also represents the building, they took a backseat on this deal to owner Charles Blaichman‘s CB Developers.

We drove by last week and observed the stalemated construction was back in gear after, we hear, two city agencies finally resolved their standoff. Waterman said the floors will be turned over for tenant installations starting in March, at which point, Bendet said, her designer William T. Georgis, will take over.

“He’s done a lot of cool spaces,” she added. They include Aby Rosen‘s townhouse and a room in this year’s Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse.

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