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NEW YORK CITY-In a consolidation and expansion effort, Ecko Unlimited, which is billed as the world’s largest urban apparel brand, will relocate its headquarters to 275,000 sf at 28 & 40 West 23rd St. in Chelsea. The transaction is the largest direct lease in Midtown South so far this year. The facility will include showroom space as well as sales, design and marketing operations.

Ecko, whose brands include Ecko Unlimited, Mark Ecko Collection, Zoo York and the G-Unit Clothing Co., has headquarter space in New Jersey and approximately 55,000 sf in various locations in the Garment District. Last September in one of 2003′s most notable transactions, Home Depot announced plans to open its first Manhattan location at the site and inked a deal for 108,000 sf.

“It’s not that important for them to be in the Garment District,” Jerome Cohen, chairman of GVA Williams parent company Williams Real Estate, owner of the site, tells GlobeSt.com. “Chelsea is improving and growing very well with new residential buildings. And there are some very substantial retailers.” Cohen says the site garnered inquiries from other “large, well known” fashion-oriented companies. Though he could not discuss the financial aspects of the Ecko deal, he did say the range for space in Chelsea is $18 to $35 per sf, depending upon amenities.

The site is the former home of the one of the city’s first retail stores– Stern Bros.–and features ceiling heights of 13 ft and 17 ft throughout as well as an elaborate courtyard. “It’s a very special building,” Cohen adds. Ecko will occupy the second, third, fourth and sixth floors of the 12-story 28 West 23rd St. and the second through sixth floors of the six-story 40 West 23rd St. Home Depot will occupy the ground floor, mezzanine and lower level of the buildings. Other tenants include Interpublic Group of Cos., Forbes, Applied Graphics and Mattel.

“Moving from a campus culture to unified space worthy of our global headquarters is the next logical step in the evolution of our brand,” says Mark Ecko, founder and CEO of Marc Ecko Enterprises.

Principals of GVA Williams are general partners of the limited partnership that originally purchased the buildings in 1968. Michael T. Cohen and Andrew H. Roos of GVA Williams acted on behalf of an LLC owned by the original limited partnership, the current owning entity, of which Jerome M. Cohen is the president. Jack Lerner and Steve Bodden of the Lerner Group, Inc. represented Ecko.

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