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NEW YORK CITY-A corner lot in SoHo, long known as the seasonal home of the Spring Street Flea Market, is once again being shopped as a build-to-suit property. The owner of the highly visible parcel on the southwest corner of Spring and Wooster streets has a new broker that is marketing the site as a rare chance for a swank retailer to establish a major presence in one of the city’s most stylish and pricey neighborhoods. But sources close to the situation say that despite its prime location, the lot remains vacant because the owner refuses to budge on price.

Located at 144 Spring St., the vacant parcel should be attractive to high-end retailers looking to tap into SoHo’s unique mix, which finds classic stores such as Chanel and Burberry sharing expensive frontage with ultra-hip boutiques, restaurants and clubs. Zoned for a five-story structure, the property has 20 feet of frontage on Spring Street and 80 feet on Wooster Street. It is owned by 144 Spring Street Realty LLC, which a source close to the deal says is controlled by developer Henry Hay, owner of at least two other retail spaces in SoHo.

The opportunity to participate in a retail build-to-suit in the chic confines South of Houston is “extremely rare,” says Karen Bellantoni, managing director at retail specialist Robert K. Futterman & Associates, which has been awarded the agency for 144 Spring St. “SoHo continues to thrive as an international retail mecca, attracting dozens of top names,” she says.

The previous broker for the property, however, has a less rosy take on its potential. Yair H. Staav, a managing director at commercial real estate firm the Lansco Corp., says he was fired in September following “a falling out” with the owner who refuses to accept changes in the market. Staav, who says he has yet to be paid for past deals he has closed for the owner, claims the lot has been languishing on the market for years because the owner refuses to compromise on price. “Whatever he gets, he wants more,” Staav tells GlobeSt.com.

“We were negotiating a deal with two major fashion retailers for a three-story building at $850,000 per annum,” Staav says. “It died because the deals were too rich for the tenants as far as the market is concerned.” According to Staav, the owner “didn’t want to know the market changed.” Asked why the owner switched brokers, Staav quipped, “Do you know the ‘shoot the messenger’ technique?”

Bellantoni, who is marketing the property jointly with CEO Robert Futterman and associate director Josh Strauss, acknowledges that the property has been on the market for an extended period but denies Staav’s assertion that greed has stood in the way of developing the site.”That’s a pretty unfair statement. The owner is very cooperative,” she says. “He came to RKF for a couple of reasons. He’s been talking about doing a build to suit off and on for about 24 months. We have a pretty sizeable corral of tenants and we do a lot of tenant rep. We also do a lot of owner rep and we have a pretty good history of closing on agencies. If we bring a good offer he will take a hard look at it.”

Still, Bellantoni concedes that even tony SoHo has been hit by the ongoing economic crunch and that attracting serious tenants these days is a challenge. “There’s definite interest from new, contemporary-type retailers but for the people in SoHo, business has been tough. There’s been a slower traffic pattern.” Fashion and home-furnishing tenants have expressed the most interest in the site, she says.

Bellantoni says 8,000 sf is the maximum building size the current zoning will allow for the site and that the owner “has a rental number in mind somewhere in the neighborhood of $700,000 net” per annum. “We’ll give a long-term lease, 15 to 20 years with some options,” she says, adding that the rent could be anywhere from $275 per sf up to $400 per sf, depending on tenant needs, and that the site is best suited to a single tenant under a net lease because of its 1,600-sf floorplate.

Futterman’s Strauss is also working with the same owner on another retail property at 70 Wooster St. According to Bellantoni, the space is on the ground and basement levels and totals roughly 11,400 sf. The owner brought the two deals to the firm simultaneously and while they are technically being marketed separately, Bellantoni says they are being treated as one project.

In a separate deal, the firm has been awarded the agency for a Flatbush Avenue retail property located across from Kings Plaza Shopping Center in Brooklyn, according to Barry Fishbach, a vice president at the firm. Fishbach says the 18,500-sf space at 2854 Flatbush Ave., will reap the benefits of major upgrades to the nearby mall.

“The property’s visibility makes it an attractive location for a number of major retailers looking to establish a presence and take advantage of a tremendous opportunity in this market,” he says. “Space of this size and quality is rarely available near Kings Plaza, which recently underwent a spectacular renovation and is the only mall in Brooklyn.”

Currently occupied by Sovereign Mercedes, the space also offers adjacent parking. Neighboring retailers include Macy’s, Sears, Old Navy, CVS, Toys R Us, Modell’s and The Wiz.

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