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Mentioned in this Article:
Stephen G. Kliegerman

Stephen G. Kliegerman
President of Development Marketing

Wall Street Journal

Clubs No Longer Aces On 27th Street


In the shadow of the recently opened second phase of the High Line, an infamous block of West 27th Street between 10th and 11th avenues is experiencing a flurry of new development capitalizing on a thriving art gallery scene to the south and a wave of residential development to the north.

One such project is a new 56-room Hotel Americano. The boutique hotel will be finished in a few weeks and soft launch in August. Rooms will cost between $325 and $625 a night.

"When we bought the land four years ago this is actually what we imagined the area would look like," said hotelier Carlos Couturier of Mexican-based Grupo Habita. "It has easy access to tourist attractions, but you're still far enough from the chaos."

To help create a feeling of privacy, a mesh screen shades the front of the Enrique Norten-designed hotel and an illuminated glass-block staircase leads to a rooftop pool. The hotel will also feature a French-themed restaurant, rooftop Mediterranean grill, two bars and a cafe.

It's very intimate. You still feel like you have to know something or know someone in the neighborhood," Mr. Couturier said

West 27th Street was once best known for its "Club Row," home to notorious night spots like Bungalow 8, the Pink Elephant and B.E.D., all now closed. The area reached its nadir in 2007 when a 35-year-old Bronx man fell down an elevator shaft at B.E.D. and died (negligent homicide charges filed in the case were eventually dropped). As recently as last summer, the block was still flanked by police barricades on weekend evenings.

But the rezoning of West Chelsea from 16th to 30th streets in 2005 helped spark the transformation of the street, which is now split down the middle with the south side zoned for commercial development and the north for commercial and residential development.

Hastened by the economic downturn and growing community discontent, clubs on the street began to close. Community Board 4, which covers the area, raised objections about clubs with the State Liquor Authority, which blocked licenses or renewals in some cases.

Now, with the opening of the second phase of the elevated High Line park between 20th and 30th streets, the northern area of West Chelsea is poised for a wave of new residential development.

"South Chelsea is a lot more night-life-oriented because of the Meatpacking District," said Erik Ekstein of Ekstein Development, which developed boutique rental Chelsea Muse on 27th Street, where leasing just started Wednesday. "This area will be less night-life-oriented, but is going to play more into the art galleries because this is where they're all gravitating towards."

In part because of the unique split zoning, development on West 27th is notably diverse. The first new building on the block was an office condo developed by architecture and development firm FLANK at 520 W. 27th St., which is now home to a shoe company, galleries, a fashion agency, an architecture firm and a recording studio for Alicia Keys. RXR Realty is in contract to buy the Starrett-Lehigh Building at 11th Avenue and 26th Street and turn it into office and retail spaces.

With the opening of the High Line, a flurry of new business is expected to open. Art dealer Paul Kasmin, a frequenter of Bungalow 8 in his youth, now plans to open a sculpture gallery in the famous club's former space. Gourmet catering company Pinch Food Design will open a catering hall in a new rental, the Chelsea Muse.

On summer evenings the street still pulses, but with a more subdued night life. The sole restaurant, Ovest Pizzoteca, fills with regulars. Since the beginning of April, a performance piece called "Sleep No More" by the Punch Drunk theater group has been playing in a former club on West 27th Street now using the name McKittrick Hotel.

Anthony Piazza, who owns the high-end Velour Lounge on the corner of 27th Street and 10th Avenue, can list more than a dozen bars nearby that have closed, which he said hurt his business at first. Hoping the theater crowd will help bring life again after dark, he has dubbed a mixture of vodka and Red Bull the "Sleep No More."

"When all the clubs closed it created a vacuum," he said. "But now we've become more of a destination. People come from Connecticut, London and Australia. Someone from Glasgow just booked a birthday party here."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

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