By and  on September 14, 2010

How soon could Nordstrom open a flagship in New York City?

According to real estate sources, it could be in two years, with an eight-level flagship on the West Side of Manhattan. It would represent a prototype design for the Seattle-based upscale specialty chain, which typically opens two- or three-level stores, the sources said.

One source said Nordstrom has struck a deal with Related Cos. on a site at 1775 Broadway, which is an office tower just south of the Time Warner Center. The site also carries the address 3 Columbus Circle.

“The whole thing works,” said the source. “It will be an eight-story Nordstrom with an apartment building above. It’s right next to Time Warner Center. It’s a great location for them. It will take a couple of years of construction.”

However, a Nordstrom spokesman on Monday presented a different view: “We want to have a full-line store in Manhattan but don’t know when and if this is going to happen. If we had something to announce, we would.”

The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday reported Related was negotiating with Nordstrom on the site. The report noted that a venture group led by Venture and Deutsche Bank AG bought the mortgage on the property from real estate mogul Joseph Moinian, and that Related would demolish the building to accommodate Nordstrom.

“Nordstrom was working with Related in North Scottsdale,” said another real estate source, referring to Related’s $1.2 billion CityNorth project in Phoenix. Phase one of CityNorth opened as planned, but phase two is uncertain. Lenders for the 144-acre CityNorth project moved to foreclose this year after the developers, Related and Thomas J. Klutznick Co., defaulted on a $290 million loan. Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s pulled out of the project in June 2009, saying the developers failed to make sufficient progress.

Back on the West Side of Manhattan, Nordstrom could rack up business, particularly since there’s no department store competition in the vicinity, making it desirable for Nordstrom. However, Related’s plan at 3 Columbus Circle still needs approvals.

For years, Nordstrom has been searching for a location in Manhattan to build a flagship. The closest one Nordstrom came to picking was the former Drake Hotel site, on Park Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets. A nonbinding letter of intent was signed, but Nordstrom rescinded it in 2008. It’s possible Nordstrom still is examining that spot. One big issue was whether the store would have a 57th Street entrance.

“The evolving saga of the Drake Hotel site is still in flux,” said a source close to the upscale specialty chain.

Over the years, Nordstrom also looked at the Lord & Taylor flagship; the 34th Street area in the vicinity of Pennsylvania Station; Madison Avenue in the 50s; 200 Fifth Avenue in the Flatiron area; an office building on the southwest corner of 58th Street and Madison Avenue, and the corner of 42nd Street at Sixth Avenue.

Nordstrom has been hesitant to open a full-line store in Manhattan due to the costs involved, and the huge space it requires. Ideally, Nordstrom wants to get 200,000 square feet in an upscale area with lots of public transportation nearby. So far the retailer has had to settle for a Rack outlet that opened last spring on Union Square.

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