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Gutsy Meatpacking move for Thor, Taconic

11:27 am, December 12, 2012

Pictured at the 837 Washington Street groundbreaking are l-r: Paul Pariser, Joe Sitt and Charles Bendit. Photo by Jill Lotenberg.

Among cobblestones and warehouse conversions on the lower west side, an artsy luxury retail hub is taking shape.

The Meatpacking District is best known for restaurants and nightlife, but the planned relocation of the Whitney Museum from its Madison Avenue digs to Gansevoort Street in 2012 is expected to add a million well-heeled daytime visitors to the neighborhood each year — and that’s on top of the tourists and locals already flocking to the High Line Park.

Investors have taken note.

Taconic Partners and Thor Equities broke ground yesterday (Tuesday) on a 55,000 s/f retail and office building on the corner of Washington 13th Streets, across from the High Line. The partnership is building the six-story structure on spec.

“You could call it gutsy – I think it’s a smart, calculated bet,” Paul Pariser, co-CEO of Taconic Investment Partners, told Real Estate Weekly.

The multi-story retail space would be an ideal home for a fashion retailer such as Barneys or Louis Vuitton, Pariser said, noting that Diane von Furstenberg is already on Washington Street, one block up from the site.

The epicenter of the Meatpacking district has moved from Ninth Avenue to Washington Street, according to Joe Sitt, CEO of Thor Equities. The High Line and Standard Hotel have driven the shift, but the opening of the Whitney will bring further, “mindboggling” change.

In addition to his partnership with Taconic at 837 Washington, Sitt also recently closed on 430 West 14th Street, a five-story expanse of red brick stretching between 13th and 14th on Washington. He plans to have the address changed to 875 Washington Street, he said, and upgrade the building to attract “good, exciting media tenants that will fit in with the neighborhood.”

Taconic, co-directed by Pariser and Charles Bendit, had their first experience in the area when they re-developed 111 Eighth Avenue on the border of the Meatpacking District and Chelsea, a building they later sold to Google for $1.8 billion to use as its New York headquarters.

Today, Pariser is the president of the Meatpacking’s Business Improvement District. The non-profit is planning street art projects to expand on the Whitney’s artistic cache, he said.

“It’s exciting to have art,” Pariser said. “A cultural institution really putting its foot in a retail market is going to be transformative.”

837 Washington will have a twisting exterior steel frame above a historic brick façade.

Morris Adjmi Architects designed 837 Washington, which is expected to earn LEED Gold certification. A twisting exterior steel frame will rise above a historic brick façade — preserved under the direction of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The façade has been braced on the front and back to allow the construction of a basement, according to Anthony Frontino of Sciame Construction, senior project manager on the development. The tilted 15-foot columns that support the “intricate and complex” steel exo-skeleton will be manufactured off-site and shipped to the site. Because of the twisting design, a tiny misalignment could have serious repercussions further up the structure, he said. “It’s the ultimate ‘handle with care.’ ”

Speaking at the groundbreaking celebration Tuesday, Sitt praised the design and predicted the building would be admired for generations to come.

“The projects that we take on that I like the most are more like art than real estate,” he said.

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