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NEW YORK CITY-A locally based developer has acquired an Upper West Side former warehouse building and will redevelop it as luxury condominiums. The Athena Group LLC has secured $44.25 million in acquisition and construction financing for the project, to be called Liberty Lofts.

Athena will add four floors and an atrium to the existing eight-story building at 43 W. 64th St., known both for the 55-soot-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty perched on its roof and O’Neals’ restaurant on the ground floor. The building is located on a through-block site between 64th and 65th streets, Broadway and Central Park West. The redeveloped property will contain roughly 88,000 sf of residential space and approximately 12,000 sf of restaurant/retail space.

Steven A. Kohn, president of Manhattan-based real estate investment banking firm Sonnenblick-Goldman arranged financing for the project, which was provided by an undisclosed domestic commercial bank. The seller was Camron Hakim, an independent real estate investor whose portfolio of New York brownstones and small multifamily buildings is said to exceed 100. No brokers were involved and details of the transaction have not been disclosed.

According to Athena CEO Louis M. Dubin, the Liberty deal took roughly six months to complete and the loft-style apartment configurations are a function of the building’s existing design elements. “The actual floor plate that we’re creating lends itself to expansive open spaces,” Dubin tells GlobeSt.com. “The bedrooms, dens and kitchens will certainly be delineated. But we think the open floor plan was the best way to go. Space is at a premium in New York and people are nesting more today.” The final design will have approximately 30 units.

Groundbreaking on Liberty Lofts is scheduled for next month with delivery anticipated for first quarter 2003. Apartments at Liberty will range from two to five bedrooms. Average unit size is 3,000 sf. Penthouses sprawl across as much as 6,000 sf with an additional 3,000 sf of exterior terraces. Non-penthouse ceilings will be rise more than 10 feet and penthouses will have ceilings that climb as high as 24 feet.

Dubin tells GlobeSt.com “I always have hesitation,” before committing to a project, “but we’re very optimistic about housing trends in this submarket. And with the 1.8 billion-sf AOL Time Warner Center going up four blocks away–and the price points they’re achieving–as well as the 2 billion-sf renovation of Lincoln Center, there’s more than 3 billion sf of renovation and enhancement within a four-block radius.”

(The 198 residential units at the AOL Time Warner Center reportedly are selling for up to $2,000 per sf, with the bulk of sales there closing after Sept. 11. The 55-story, dual tower, mixed-use development is currently under construction on the Columbus Circle site formerly occupied by the Coliseum.)

Sonnenblick’s Kohn echoed Dubin’s optimism regarding the project’s fiscal promise. “The lending community quickly recognized the exceptional appeal of the project, which is just steps away from Lincoln Center and Central Park,” Kohn says. “Its prime location, loft-style layouts and ceiling heights will make Liberty Lofts the talk of the town.”

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