LVMH TOWER REPORTEDLY IMPERILED BY SUITS

Byline: Sharon Edelson

NEW YORK — Construction on the LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton tower at 17-21 East 57th Street has been halted, leaving Bernard Arnault’s grand vision for a 23-story building at least temporarily clouded.
The future of the ambitious building — the brainchild of Arnault, chairman of LVMH — reportedly is threatened by a lawsuit.
A source close to Tishman Construction said this week the company stopped work on the LVMH tower four months ago because of a lawsuit.
The suit reportedly was brought by Robert Siegel, a property owner and partner in the project, against Louis Vuitton. The source was not able to elaborate on the nature of the suit.
Joan Siegel, Robert’s mother, owned the former Laura Ashley building at 21 East 57th Street, one of three properties razed to make way for the new structure. Robert Siegel is president of Metropole Realty Advisors Inc.
Louis Vuitton formed a joint venture with Metropole to build the tower last June, and the two firms created a joint venture company called Star Realty.
“Construction has temporarily stopped by order of Star Realty,” said the source familiar with the project. “Star started construction and then directed it to stop. Everybody is being sued, including the contractors. This may hurt the project.”
“For one of the most valuable sites in the city to sit there growing weeds is a shame,” said Brad Mendelson, a senior managing director of Insignia/Edward S. Gordon, who has leased retail property on 57th Street.
Both Joan and Robert Siegel declined comment.
Louis Vuitton executives could not be reached.
The LVMH tower is planned as the U.S. headquarters of the company’s many luxury brands, which include Christian Dior, Givenchy, Christian Lacroix and Loewe. An 8,000-square-foot Louis Vuitton flagship is to be its anchor.
The building, which LVMH said last June would cost more than $20 million to build, is adjacent to Chanel’s new 18-story office and flagship.
The problems at the LVMH site might affect another Arnault deal at 598 Madison Avenue, on the northwest corner of 57th Street.
The building, now occupied by a Chase Manhattan Bank branch, is adjacent to the tower construction site and Arnault reportedly wants to combine the two properties.
As reported, Arnault might want to use the bank space, with about 4,400 square feet on each of four floors, for a Louis Vuitton ready-to-wear store. The Louis Vuitton line is being designed by Marc Jacobs for a possible spring 1998 introduction.

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