By and  on October 4, 2007

NEW YORK — The Plaza may not be getting the power luxury retail brands it originally envisioned, but the project is amassing a mix of downtown labels, emerging European fashion talents and high-end gift and jewelry brands as tenants — as well as nearly selling out its inventory of multimillion-dollar condominiums.

Names such as Montblanc, Seize sur Vingt, Kenneth Jay Lane, Jay Strongwater, Assouline, Manrico, Vertu, Morgenthal Frederics and Caudalie have signed on so far to populate the Plaza's retail space.

The property, which celebrated its 100th anniversary Monday with a party that included an appearance by Paul Anka and a finale of fireworks that cascaded off the facade, has 160,000 square feet of retail space spread over six levels.

When Elad Properties, which bought the hotel for $675 million in 2004 and has poured $400 million into its renovation, unveiled the project in January 2006, it said it was targeting the likes of Harvey Nichols, Harrods, Lane Crawford, Holt Renfrew and the Italian Luxury Guild for the Retail Collection.

"When I got here, so many people were saying, 'We have to go after the big brands,'" said Anthony Nicola, general manager of the Plaza Retail Collection. "We're at the crossroads of luxury. We need to go after vendors who are willing to give us a special brand, maybe a downtown brand that's not uptown, or brands from Europe. Then this whole area becomes a destination."

The majority of retail space will be located on the Grand Concourse, which will be an open selling floor. Montblanc, which operates a large store on East 57th Street and the corner of Madison Avenue, will open an outpost where it will feature jewelry and pens. Kenneth Jay Lane is designing a special collection for the Plaza. Seize sur Vingt, the maker of custom suits, shirts and cashmere sweaters for men and women with a shop on Elizabeth Street here, will also occupy a spot on the concourse.

Assouline, Manrico, Vertu, Morgenthal Frederics and the Plaza Collection luxury gift shop will reside on the ground floor.

"We have 65 percent of the square footage leased, and we're working on another eight or nine leases," said Nicola. "We're making very good progress. I think we have it all in focus." Stores are expected to open in February."We were interested in opening a store, but we haven't signed anything yet," said Bernard Aidan, chief executive officer of Catherine Malandrino, which has a store downtown. "We're investigating. We went to visit the place. It's a great location. I asked them if they would give us the Edwardian Room. That would be great because we'd have a great presence. I don't know if we're going to do anything. I think the Plaza is a great, great place. It's such a signature for New York."

While the Plaza's location, a prime spot on Fifth Avenue and the corner of 59th Street, is an asset, it has posed leasing challenges in terms of distribution issues, since many of the world's top luxury brands have their own stores on Fifth Avenue or Madison Avenue or are sold at Bergdorf Goodman.

Nicola said there are four slots for men's wear and three or four for women's. "One of the brands we're working on a lease with is Don Eduardo et Donna Rosalia swimwear, by Deborah Martinelli Bonavia, who designed swimwear for Krizia, Kenzo and Roberto Cavalli.

"The Edwardian Room is 5,000 square feet," Nicola said. "It's substantial. We haven't had conversations with [Malandrino] for some time now. We are in conversations with a couture vendor and a very large jewelry company about the space."

Another large space, 3,500 square feet on the concourse level, has not been leased yet. L'Eclaireur, which runs several cutting-edge fashion stores in Paris, had expressed interest. "We had talked to them," Nicola said. "They had flown in to look at it and we're still having conversations with them."

Rachel Roy is said to have a deal at the Plaza for what would be the designer's first store uptown. "We're interested in it," said Stefani Zien, sales director. "We're not confirming anything at this time."

According to one source, Donna Karan is considering the Plaza, possibly for Urban Zen. A spokeswoman said Karan is not considering it and the designer's business partner for Urban Zen could not be reached. The source said some other big brands have rejected the location, but several European firms selling fashion or food that don't operate yet in the U.S. might decide to enter the U.S. via the Plaza.The source said the Plaza concept is to market to tourists as well as those in the hotel and its condo owners as a late-night place to shop, since most retailers along Fifth Avenue close around 7 p.m. "If they market it right, they could drive some late-night traffic," the source said.

Plans for the Plaza Collection call for a bakery and food hall. Warren-Tricomi is opening a hair salon and Nicola said there will be a shoe spa for shoe and handbag repair.

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