The Real Deal New York

A new street is born on the Bowery

Plans call for trash-strewn alley on the LES to be reborn as pedestrian mall

February 06, 2008
By Janet Huege

New Yorkers all want a little something extra, especially when it comes to space. And with developments popping up in areas that would have seemed unheard of a few years ago (such as luxury hotels in Harlem and high-end rentals near the Holland Tunnel), those in real estate are looking for any extra space they can find. Down in the Bowery, developers are creating an entire street out of what was, until recently, a garbage-strewn, padlocked alley.

The appropriately named Extra Place is located north off East First Street, parallel to and nestled between Bowery and Second Avenue. The city-owned cul-de-sac has caught the attention of a handful of developers, real estate brokers, landlords, architects, foodies and fashionistas, all of whom are working together to create “a slice of the Left Bank, a pedestrian mall lined with interesting boutiques and cafés,” says Extra Place retail consultant and leasing agent Michael Ewing, principal at Williams Jackson Ewing.

Extra Place is not new. It has actually been a part of New York since about 1800, when landowner Phillip Minthorne divided his 110-acre farm equally among his nine children; the tiny parcel that was left over became Extra Place.

The alley dead-ends at the back of a New York University building surrounded by a chain link fence. But it has some notoriety for two main reasons—the building on the west side of the street is the former home of CBGBs, and the east side is part of the Avalon rental development.

Five years ago, the city, through its Department of Housing Preservation and Development, put out a request for a proposal for the vacant area. After speaking with the community board, they developed a plan for the alley. The final product will be a cobblestone street lined with plants and landscaping with a focal point at the end of the alley.

“We want it to be a beautiful and active destination spot,” says Ewing. “We want a park-like environment that fosters a sense of community with lots of small retail shops and cafés.”

The street itself should be finished by the end of March, although it will not get features like cobblestones until next year.

The Extra Place project is being brought about by Avalon Bay, a developer that made its mark on the neighborhood in 2005 with Chystie Place, a luxury rental complex at 229 Chrystie Street. That development consists of a 15-story rental building of 361 luxury and middle-income apartments (average market rental prices range from $3,000 a month for a studio to $5,500 a month for a two-bedroom) and the city’s largest Whole Foods (85,000 square feet).

Phase II of Avalon Bay’s handiwork, Avalon Bowery Place, is a nine-story building with 206 rental units and over 20,000 square feet of retail space that is located at 11 East First Street, right across the street from Extra Place. “We actually designed it so that it is a continuation of Extra Place across the street,” says Maria Masi, development director with Avalon Bay. “There is a long wide walkway leading into the apartment building with commercial spaces on each side.”

The two corner spaces already have tenants. To the east will be Bowery Wine Company. The 1,500-square-foot restaurant/bar/café will serve dinner (and lunch on weekends), have about 60 seats indoors with another 24 outside, and be open late to accommodate the locals. “We have a built-in clientele with our upstairs neighbors,” says owner Chris Sileo. The restaurant anticipates opening the second week of February. Directly across the way from Bowery Wine Company will be Veselka, a 2,600-square-foot outpost of the Lower East Side Ukrainian soul-food staple. “There is a great synergy that works with the both of us,” says Sileo.

But the bulk of Extra Place commercial space is located on the ground floor of Phase III. That rental building, at 22 East First Street, houses eight separate spaces ranging in size from 200 square feet to 600 square feet. Ewing and Avalon are looking for young emerging retailers. “We have turn-key spaces. We want people who are looking to finally do their own thing, like the just-graduated fashion student. Everything from fashion, jewelry, paper, flowers, etc.,” says Masi. To date, they have received a lot of interest from fashion retailers and a spa. The retail stores should be completed in late summer or early fall of 2008.

One of the spaces will be a café. “The deal is not 100 percent final, so I cannot say who exactly, but it will be a smaller outpost of an existing New York City, Zagat-rated French café,” says Ewing. The 2,000-square-foot restaurant will serve breakfast, lunch and light dinner fare and feature 75 to 80 seats along with outdoor seating. The café should also be completed in late summer or early fall of 2008.

Rents for this part of Extra Place are less than current market rents are on the Bowery (the neighborhood ranges from $135 to $175 per square foot).

On the west side of Extra Place, meanwhile, is hallowed ground to many: 315 Bowery is the former home of CBGBs and has a back entrance directly on Extra Place. “Who knows what used to go on in that alley,” says owner Elliot Azrak, principal with Azrak Capital Group. The 3,300-square-foot space, which has 35 feet of frontage on Extra Place, was recently leased to fashion designer John Varvatos. “This store is going to be totally unique, different from our other boutiques,” he says. “We’re going to make it a great way to look back at this remarkable history but also forward to what’s happening today.”

The store plans on an opening by the end of March, according to Jonathan Krieger, senior director at Robert K. Futterman and one of the real estate agents who brokered the deal. “This is a pioneering deal,” says Azrak. “It’s like what Jeffrey did to the Meatpacking District.”

Next door, 313 Bowery, which is the former CBGBs bar, is still searching for the right tenant. The 3,300-square-foot space has 25 feet of frontage on Extra Place. “We want something that will compliment John [Varvatos],” says RKF senior vice president Karen Bellantoni, who along with Krieger is working on both properties. “We want a fashion tenant. We are talking with a denim company and an outerwear company.”

Krieger, Bellantoni, and Azrak declined to speak about lease terms or prices for either space, quoting only average rents for the Bowery.

If John Varvatos and a French café sound like a far cry from the area’s rock ‘n’ roll clubs and restaurant and lighting supply stores, realize that the area has been going through a major transformation lately. The Bowery Hotel, the New Museum, Patricia Fields, Chase, Blue & Cream, Washington Mutual, 40 Bond Street, and the aforementioned Whole Foods and Avalon rental buildings have all moved into the neighborhood. Cooper Square Hotel and Daniel Boulud’s DGBG are also coming soon. “You are seeing more of the old places close and ‘for lease’ signs in the windows,” says Masi.

But not everything has changed. There is a social services and homeless shelter at 317 Bowery, the Bowery Residents’ Committee (BRC), which does not plan on moving any time soon.

Despite this fact, it seems like the neighborhood is embracing the change. “We are creating something out of nothing,” says Masi. “No one paid attention to this extra place, so it is not like we are tearing something down to build a monstrous tower; we are making something very nice and secure. Everyone benefits from that.”

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