- Last Updated: 2:53 AM, March 6, 2012
- Posted: 11:40 PM, March 5, 2012
It looks like liftoff is close for the long-awaited hotel/condo project at the former Donnell Library site in Midtown. Preliminary work has been going on for some time and sources tell us excavation for the foundation at 20 W. 53rd St. may start within a week.
Barry Sternlicht’s Starwood Capital and New York investment-development firm Tribeca Associates plan a $400 million, 45-story tower across the street from the main entrance to the Museum of Modern Art. It will include a super-luxury hotel on floors 4-12 and condo apartments on floors 14-45.
The 340,000 square-foot project, erected by powerhouse Tishman Construction — which is managing construction of both 1 World Trade Center and 4 WTC — will also include 29,000 square feet of library space on lower floors to replace most of the Donnell’s, a division of the New York Public Library.
Although execs at Starwood, the lead partner, declined to comment, both our sources and recent public filings indicate that things are set to move rapidly.
For one thing, the NYPL expects to have its new space finished by 2014 and move in the following year, according to Library spokesperson Angela Montefinise.
For another, Starwood and Tribeca have moved swiftly to tee up the job. As previously reported, they bought the purchase contract from Orient-Express Hotels, which originally planned to buy the site from the NYPL, in July 2011 for $67.4 million.
Since then, we’ve learned, Sternlicht & Co. bought a light and air easement from the owners of 666 Fifth Ave. next door for $30.285 million in December.
In January, it paid $16.597 million more for air rights from the Orient-Express-owned ‘21’ Club behind the Donnell site on West 52nd Street.
Also in January, they took out a $63 million mortgage on the site from Mexico’s Banco Inbursa, according to a city Finance Dept. filing.
Even so, questions remain. The Dept. of Buildings has yet to approve all the plans. There’s still no word on how the “5-star” hotel will be branded. The smart money is on Baccarat, the super-luxury name to which Starwood’s SH Group owns the license.
Although Enrique Norten has been reported to be the design architect, numerous Buildings Dept. filings show the architect of record is Skidmore Owings & Merrill’s TJ Gottesdiener, who didn’t get back to us. (Such collaborations are not unusual.)
And what the tower will ultimately look like is still unknown. An earlier rendering by Norten that popped up on websites was taken down months ago — the latest example of a not-final image posted prematurely on an architectural firm site and picked up by blogs.