By  on August 10, 2007

Fortunoff had good reason to sacrifice a prime spot, 681 Fifth Avenue near 54th Street, and relocate the store. The landlord, Metropole Realty Advisors, bought Fortunoff out of the lease, then found the retailer a suitable substitute at 3 West 57th Street.

"Without an alternative location, no amount of money would have convinced Fortunoff to make the move," said Robert A. Siegel, Metropole's chief executive officer.

Metropole purchased the Fifth Avenue building from Fortunoff for $86 million in 2005, and gave the retailer a new long-term lease before buying the lease back for an undisclosed price. The entire space, with the exception of the four-level Fortunoff store that vacates in January and a penthouse residence, has been cleared out. Fortunoff had owned the site since 1979.

Sandwiched between Fendi and Gucci, the building has 65,000 square feet, 15 floors and 14- to 20-foot ceilings, which could readily accommodate a luxury megastore of the magnitude of others going up on the avenue. Giorgio Armani is planning a 45,000-square-foot complex at 717 Fifth Avenue on the southeast corner of 56th Street, and Gucci also is planning a 45,000-square-foot store, its largest, in Trump Tower at 725 Fifth Avenue.

At 681 Fifth Avenue, Siegel only wants to lease to luxury. It could be one luxury brand that takes the entire space, or a few that divide up the space, he said. The property has 42 feet of frontage on Fifth Avenue.

It was the original site of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

According to market sources, rents per square foot range from $1,600 to $2,000 along Midtown Fifth Avenue, and $400 to $500 on 57th Street near Fifth Avenue, though an exception would be 3 West 57th Street, which is said to be more expensive. Rents drop to around $150 a foot by Sixth Avenue.

Metropole specializes in buying, developing and leasing properties and advising luxury brands on real estate decisions. Metropole has been active on Fifth and Madison Avenues, 57th Street, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, San Francisco's Union Square, Chicago's North Michigan Avenue and Oak Street and Hawaii's Kalakaua Avenue, as well as in Florida.

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