By  on May 16, 2005

NEW YORK — His name isn't as recognizable as Trump or Macklowe, but then, Kenneth Himmel doesn’t crave the spotlight. For the last 30 years, he's been quietly building mixed-use developments that feature high-end residential, retail, food and hotel components or some combination thereof.

A career that includes Water Tower Place in Chicago, Copley Place in Boston and CityPlace in West Palm Beach would be enough for some people, who at age 58, might consider slowing down. Not Himmel. Eight years ago, he took on the challenge of developing the retail component and restaurant and bar collection at the Time Warner Center, a $1.7 billion hotel, office, shopping and condominium complex, built on one of the Upper West Side’s most coveted and hotly contested sites, the former Coliseum.

For the project, Himmel formed Related Urban Development with Steve Ross, chairman and chief executive officer of The Related Cos., the primary developer.  “Steve got into the pipeline for this site,” said Himmel. “I brought the retail and hotel and other mixed uses.”

He took an unusual approach to the Shops at Columbus Circle, leasing a 60,000-square-foot below-grade space to Whole Foods Markets. “It was a gutsy move for both of us,” Himmel said. “There’s no outside signage or entry. Whole Foods went to study Harvey Nichols’ fifth floor. This is their number-one or -two store in the country.”

The bustle at Whole Foods gives way to the Zen-like calm of the stunning atrium. With stores such as A|X Armani Exchange, J. Crew, Calvin Klein Underwear, Cole Haan, Eileen Fisher, Hugo Boss, Joseph Abboud, Stuart Weitzman, Thomas Pink, J.W. Cooper and Davidoff, Himmel aimed high, but not as high as Madison or Fifth Avenues.

“We weren’t going to compete with Madison and Fifth,” he said. “We never even considered it. This was about understanding who the market is.”

From the beginning, critics said New Yorkers wouldn’t shop in a vertical mall. Himmel thought the restaurants and Jazz at Lincoln Center would give customers enough reasons to visit, but he wasn’t without jitters. “Believe me, I didn’t sleep for six years,” he said.

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