Misrahi: New Plan For 180 Orchard Tangled in DOB Red Tape

We have some new information this morning about the fate of 180 Orchard, the infamous stalled hotel/residential/retail complex just below Houston Street.  Last week, we reported the developer, Morris Platt, had resumed negotiations with the Department of Buildings to get the project moving again. Platt did not return our phone calls, but yesterday afternoon we did hear from Sion Misrahi, whose real estate firm is in charge of leasing the ground-floor commercial space.

Once upon a time, the building was destined to become a combo hotel/apartment complex. But Misrahi said Platt now wants to make 180 Orchard 100-percent residential, abandoning plans for the hotel. Banks aren’t all that interested in financing hotel projects these days, he explained, so Platt has asked the DOB to approve new plans calling for apartments on the upper floors and retail street-side.

Here’s the problem. According to Misrahi, a DOB commissioner signed off on the proposal recently — but then “someone else at the Buildings Department” said it was a no-go.  Misrahi said Platt isn’t about to proceed with “a $60 million project” until the situation is sorted out.  “What if he finishes the building and then the DOB comes in and says you’ve got to tear off the top two floors,” Misrahi asked.

As for the commercial space, Misrahi said there’s been a lot of interest in the building, and he has tenants lined up to move in if the DOB gives Platt a definitive “okay.”  A bakery and a couple of “high-end clothing stores” are prepared to sign leases, he said. Some restaurants have been eying the location, but Misrahi suggested he probably won’t lease them space, given the difficulty of “getting liquor licenses past the community board.”

Back in October, you may recall, Misrahi told us it had become almost impossible to do business with the DOB because the agency was “paralyzed by fear.”  Three months later, he told me yesterday, nothing has changed.   Misrahi – who is also a major developer on the Lower East Side – said he empathizes with Platt, since he’s experiencing similar problems in buildings all over the neighborhood.

Community activists have had 180 Orchard in their sights for many years.  Arguing that the last thing Orchard Street needed was another luxury hotel and fed up living in a perpetual “construction war zone,” they took their concerns to Community Board 3.  Residents should be pleased, Misrahi said, that Platt has shelved plans for the hotel. He contends it’s in the neighborhood’s best interest to support his efforts to finish the project once and for all.

It is assumed, Misrahi said, that opposition from CB3 is what led the DOB to backtrack.  The Lo-Down has been told, however, that CB3 does not currently have 180 Orchard on its radar. The issue is not coming up before any committee, and CB3 District Manager Susan Stetzer said there have been no recent conversations with the DOB about the building.