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B. Altman's (as building) back in business.

B. Altman's (as building) back in business

B. Altman's, the former retailing grande dame of Fifth Avenue, will be transformed into a resource mecca for many kinds of researchers. While part of the eight-story landmarked building will house the new Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL), and most of the building will become the home of the New York Resource Center, a contract and furnishing source to the trade, there will also be retail stores and a restaurant on the ground floor open to the public.

The owner of the B. Altman's building, KMO-361 Realty Associates, consists of three general partners, Morton L. Olshan, Peter L. Malkin, and Earle W. Kazis. They are developing the 650,000-square-foot New York Resource Center for the furniture and fabric industries themselves, in what is most of the balance of the 13-story building.

Malkin said, "There have been discussions with regard to the financing but no completed arrangements because it depends on the deals that are made."

SIBL is to be located inside the land-marked B. Altman's building and, sources said, all involved with the project were upset that other city newspapers falsely stated that the building was variously to be torn down or sold.

Although REW ran a story about SIBL on Sept. 4, sources said Governor Mario M. Cuomo had wanted to make that announcement himself.

Project director Daniel P. Weinreb said that while the lease is not yet signed with the Library, "it is a very serious proposal and we are working out all details."

The Library is taking 200,000 square feet on the Madison Avenue side, from the basement through seventh floors, he said. Weinreb said the Resource Center will consist of the individual showrooms, that may number 150, and a ground floor restaurant that will be open to the public. "We are out in the marketplace talking to numerous tenants in furniture and fabric to sell to the trade," Weinreb said. Malkin noted there will be retail stores open to the public on Fifth and Madison Avenues while the Resource Center will have entrances on both avenues as well.

The project was conceived by mall properties, Inc., Olshan's company, and is headed by mall properties' vice president Richard P. Steinberg, who is president of the Resource Center.

Mall Properties is a real estate developer of shopping centers and also owns a number of hotels and other buildings including the New York City residential condominium, The Savoy. They are the owners of other B. Altman's properties and have retained and interest in the B. Altman's in White Plains, which is scheduled to be developed by J.W. O'Conner, Steinberg said.

The first floor of the 34 Street Resource Center will keep its 22-foot high ceilings while the other ceilings will be 15-feet high. Residential contract and kitchen and bath showrooms are expected to be located in the lower level. "That's one of the real assets of the building," Steinberg explained, "particularly for showrooms. We are going to market our portion of the lower level to the kitchen and bath trade," he said. "It is larger than the first floor because there is vault space all the way around the building." The lower level is 100,000 square feet while the first floor is 85,000 square feet. Steinberg said there are also several sub-basement's, most of which are of some historical interest and will not be touched as they contain antiquated equipment for the building's own power generation from coal fired facilities. The building current boiler is also contained in the sub-basements.

Donovan and Green will be in charge of the design of the interior and the graphics program. Emery, Roth and Sons are the architects of record and are preparing drawings while the marketing consultant is Judson Spencer. The exterior of the landmarked building is being restored by Hardy, Holzman, Pfeiffer Associates.

Design consultants were excited about the new space which is scheduled to open in mid-193 and predicted the end of the IDCNY building in Long Island City which although an exciting concept and space, has been plagued by attendant commuting problems by designers trying to get to and fro. One consultant who asked not to be identified, said showrooms there are often closed or attended by unknowledgeable staff. To address that problem, one Wednesday a month all showrooms are now supposed to be opened and staffed with management, particularly to accommodate those from out of town who often found themselves locked out.

The Fifth Avenue and 34th Street Resource Center, located at a major retailing and transportation crossroad, will be convenient for designers as well as for businesses eager to use the new library's facilities.

City corporations are expected to be large users of the resource material, indexes and data bases which library officials expect to have available by computer access. "It's hoped that the computer technology will be put to good use by the city's businesses," Library spokesperson Carlee Drummer said.

SIBL will be part of the New York Public Library LAN (light area network) and will have access to all the Library's data bases, explained Paul Fasana, senior vice president and the Andrew W. Mellon director of the Research Libraries. There will be machine readable catalogs, and access to the research library group's national network of research and academic libraries by modem as well. Fasan said access will also be available to a variety of CD-ROMS that are now just available in-house at workstations. Most of the bibliographic data bases will also be available, Fasana said.

There are significant costs, he noted, and the Library is wrestling with the policy issues of fees for services. "Some may be free and others amy be used for just the cost of connection," he said. He said they may experiment with providing corporate services for free.

Drummer said the financing for the ambitious project will come from a variety of public and private sources. Drummer said $7.5 million is coming from the state immediately for the project. "In essence it will equal $10 million," she explained, "because it is coming right away and can be invested."

The Library is currently working with are a corporations to become guarantors of $25 million to $30 million in other financing. Twenty-five corporations have been approached and more than over 20 have committed.

Drummer said $50 million will come from the Dormitory Authority while $10 million combined will come from the city's capital budget and from eliminating the costs of the Annex at 43rd Street and 10th Avenue as well as leased offices on 40 Street. The Dormitory Bond will enable the SIBL to get started, she said, until the rental property they now lease can be given up or subleased.

A fund raising campaign to get private money will soon be launched and SIBL is expected to be occupied by 1994, in time for the Library's 100th Anniversary in 1995.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Hagedorn Publication
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:will house Science, Industry and Business Library as well as New York Resource Center
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Oct 9, 1991
Words:1151
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