By  on September 18, 2007

Nordstrom Inc. has been searching Manhattan's East Side, West Side, uptown and downtown for a flagship site and the latest property of interest appears to be the former Drake Hotel on Park Avenue, according to published reports. It's being redeveloped by Macklowe Partners, which is said to be planning condominiums for the building, located on the northwest corner of Park and 56th Street.

The immediate vicinity isn't exactly a fashion retail mecca, with Mercedes-Benz on the southwest corner, Staples on the southeast corner and T. Anthony on the northeast corner. However, a fashionable crowd could spill over from 57th Street and Madison Avenue, where luxury retail abounds.

In any case, the fast-growing and aggressive Seattle-based Nordstrom is not near to securing a site in Manhattan. As one source close to the chain said: "The Drake is a real project that has a lot of appeal. But I think it's premature to say it's imminent. There are other alternatives in the Manhattan market to consider, and there is more work to be done on the potential deal/economics of the Drake site."

The source added: "It's not imminent or inevitable at this time."

Nordstrom has been scouting Manhattan for years, but recently intensified its search. The company has examined buildings around Columbus Circle; Penn Station; lower Manhattan; Madison Avenue in the 50s, specifically the Pennsylvania Hotel near Penn Station; Trump Tower, as well as the Lord & Taylor flagship, which has decided to remain on Fifth Avenue; 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.

One issue is space. Nordstrom is seeking roughly 200,000 square feet over just a few levels, which is hard to come by. Another issue is proximity to competitors. If Nordstrom opened very close to Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale's or Saks Fifth Avenue, it might be hard to secure certain lines and designer labels with established relationships with those stores. One scenario would be to reconfigure space in an existing building, though there could be ground-up development opportunities as well.

In May, Nordstrom hired the Madison Retail Group, a retail real estate consulting and brokerage firm, to expedite the search. The retailer has received numerous proposals from landlords and brokers pushing locations. The company has acknowledged it's searching Manhattan, but would not comment on any specific sites."This is our most complicated real estate decision ever, for a number of factors," Pete Nordstrom, president of merchandising, told WWD in May. He cited costs, but also noted the volume potential and brand exposure a Manhattan presence would provide.

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