Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ask Leslie Post Game Part 1


I accidentally took down a post about other possible hotel sites in Forest Hills while trying to update it. It was truly an accident - but since I was getting bashed in the comments, it probably looks deliberate. It wasn't. But the comments are lost - sorry.

Anyway, the post just discussed the Staples/Duane Reade site as a possibility (which Heskel Elias just purchased a few days ago) since the Ann Taylor loft site was shot down.

Feel free to continue commenting here. Sorry about that. Here is the post. . .
Once again, a big thank you to Leslie Brown, President of the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce, for devoting more time than she promised to answer your questions.

Now let's have a post-game wrap up. Let's start with the news that Heskel has abandoned the New York Times-reported hotel idea on the Ann Taylor loft site, but "The developer is looking into other Forest Hills sites for a hotel."

Here's a press release dated 10/12/07 that I didn't think much of, but after Leslie's info that Heskel is scouting other locations might be interesting.

FOREST HILLS, NY-Federal Realty Investment Trust has sold two retail buildings here to a group of investors led by local owner Heskel Elias for $32 million. One of the Queens assets is a 17,000-sf building that houses Duane Reade and Staples; the other, 22,500-sf property is home to Gap, as well as additional stores.

Now I thought Heskel already owned these stores, but turns out he has a business interest in the Federal Realty Investment Trust that sold them to him. So I guess he just bought out the piece he didn't own.
I don't know anything about commercial real estate - so it's possible Heskel just bought the entire stake in these properties as an investment. Or the more interesting (and probably totally incorrect) scenario is that Federal Realty Investment - who's properties are almost all boring chains like Gap and Staples, didn't have the stomach to get into the hotel business so Heskel bought them out.

That Duane Reade/Staples place would be absolutely perfect for the hotel. That block has so much unmet potential and the location is the most accessible in Forest Hills. And there are high rises all over that part of town (Lane Towers/Windsor/Cord Meyer Offices) so I don't think zoning would be a problem. And there's even a taxi stand on the corner.

Plus, the inside is already hotel-like with an escalator taking you to Staples - which would make a great lobby.

Here's the problem - Parking. Most hotels have a circular driveway to drop off luggage/passengers and a huge parking lot underground. You'd have to build that before the hotel and how would you close off Continental for six months to build that thing - if it could even get built at all.

As far as the Gap building - if Heskel wanted a hotel down there, he would have done the Ann Taylor Loft space so I don't think that's going to happen.

Actually, I don't think anything's going to happen and Heskel bought these properties just as a normal course of business. Which is fine, because I'm not sold on the hotel idea in the first place. I just don't want to risk a Marriott turning into a Fairfield Inn.