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How Retail Is Set To Explode On Billionaire's Row

There was a time when Brooklyn pads were the cheap alternative to pricey Manhattan units. Once, SoHo was a low-rent, gritty neighborhood dominated by industrial and warehouse spaces, inhospitable to the degree of coveted foot traffic it receives in droves today. Now, the emerging Billionaire’s Row is considered the edge of an iconic retail corridor—soon, it will be the epicenter

How Retail Is Set To Explode On Billionaire's Row

"These guys are visionaries,” Besen executive director Amit Doshi tells Bisnow, referring to investors who got in on the ground floor on the area surrounding 57th Street. "They see what’s happening before others see it. They go out and create unique addresses."

One such investor, Thor Equities CEO Joseph Sitt, took advantage of a dream deal opportunity afforded by special circumstances and the guiding hand of Besen.

Around 2012, as interest in the area began to peak, Sitt made a move to acquire the property that housed Lee’s Art Shop (above) on West 57th. 

The Besen team, comprised of Amit and his colleague, Besen senior director Lynda Blumberg (both pictured below), helped orchestrate the deal for the 22k SF property, pairing the seller with the ideal buyer in Thor. After three years of negotiations and false starts, they would acquire the property on slightly atypical terms.

How Retail Is Set To Explode On Billionaire's Row

Lynda tells us that one of the key features of the deal was a two-year waiting period before the sale could be fully completed. 

"This was the second location that Lee’s had,” Lynda says. "The original location had been across the street. However, the art supply store had reached such fame, that even its newer home had become a neighborhood icon. It was in this location for about 60 years.”

Lynda adds that West 57th Street is closely associated with Lee’s Art Shop, in the same way it's almost synonymous with Carnegie Hall.

While the property itself was tempting, the seller required an inhibitory two-year waiting period so it could close gradually, with as little disruption as possible. 

Besen was able to find a buyer that not only was willing to honor this request, but actually preferred it. 

“It worked out well,” Lynda said. “They didn’t want to disappoint their customers. They wanted to slowly step away. When Joe found out about the waiting period, he saw it as a prime opportunity to hold off Thor's takeover so that he could align it with the launch of the much-anticipated Nordstrom Tower (now called Central Park Tower).”

Thanks to Besen, Thor has this flagship retail location directly opposite another icon making its New York City debut, and the owners of Lee’s took their final bow on their own, carefully composed terms, ensuring a seamless transition.

“This magnificent property will unquestionably continue to make its mark on the next phase of its existence in this location,” Amit says. 

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