NEW YORK — Three Columbus Circle, a 26-story tower, went through some hard times here during the recession. Now it’s emerged as a sought-after retail address on the Upper West Side.

This story first appeared in the November 8, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

A lot of its popularity has to do with its proximity to the Time Warner Center and The Shops at Columbus Circle, which, incidentally, is looking to lease the space vacated by bankrupt Borders Books. Sources said it’s being eyed by Victoria’s Secret, H&M, Anthropology and C. Wonder.

Joseph Moinian, a local developer, paid $130 million for the tower at 3 Columbus Circle in 2000 and started renovating the building just before the credit crisis hit. A buying spree during the boom years left Moinian severely over-leveraged. He stopped making mortgage payments on the site in January 2010.

Three Columbus Circle is located in the direct line of sight of Steve Ross, chairman, chief executive officer and founder of Related Cos., which developed The Shops and Time Warner Center. Ross’ Related bought the $250 million debt on the tower and sued in September to foreclose on the building after Moinian missed payments. Ross, who made no secret of his intent to demolish the structure, which he considered ugly, held an architecture competition for the tower and signed a lease with Nordstrom.

Moinian, however, formed a partnership with S.L. Green Realty, which helped pay off the mortgage.

The building is finally finished, encased in $100 million worth of glass. “With the success of Time Warner, this area has become another neighborhood for fashion,” said Jeffrey Roseman, executive vice president and principal of Newmark Knight Frank Retail, which is marketing the retail space. “Three Columbus has been positioned as an alternative or adjacency to Time Warner Center.”

Roseman said the building is looking for a single retail tenant to fill the ground and second floors, which have 6,339 square feet and 40,407 square feet of space, respectively. A potential third floor could be added.

“We’re also talking to some department stores for larger footprints. We could take the first five floors for retail for a total of 140,000 square feet,” Roseman said, adding that this would still be too small for most department stores. “It would be a New York City department store so it’s never going to be perfect,” he said. “It would be great if we had 200,000 square feet with no columns.”

A marketing brochure for 3 Columbus Circle said it has immediate access to 9.1 million commuters who ride the 1, A, C, B and D trains at the 59th Street and Columbus Circle station. Central Park, which is a block away, gives 3 Columbus Circle access to the park’s 35 million annual visitors. The area also boasts one million office workers and 50,000 permanent residents with a median household income of over $100,000.

Reportedly, 3 Columbus Circle is talking to H&M, Crate & Barrel and Anthropology about the smaller spaces on the first two floors.

According to Roseman, asking rent for the second floor is $150 a square foot and $300 a square foot on the ground floor.

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