Byline: Jean E. Palmieri

NEW YORK — Hugo Boss is leading the way.
The U.S. arm of the giant German apparel company has signed the first retail lease at The Palladium at AOL Time Warner Center, the 2.1 million-square-foot retail and entertainment project being built on the site of the New York Coliseum at Columbus Circle here.
Although Boss is the first, it won’t be the only tenant for the project, which will have 360,000 square feet of retail space as well as several other top-notch draws. Among the other specialty retailers said to be looking at the site are Kenneth Cole, J. Crew, Gucci, Prada and Zegna.
Originally, several department stores were rumored to be considering the project, but Kenneth Himmel, president and chief executive officer of the Palladium Cos., which is developing the retail space, said there are no plans to add a traditional anchor.
“There’s no need to put a department store there,” he said. “There is enough interest from specialty retailers.”
Himmel said he is negotiating with a “terrific group” of potential tenants and there are ongoing talks with 15 apparel, accessory and jewelry retailers. However, until the leases have been fully executed, he would not discuss any further details.
He noted: “Our target is that by June 1, we will have 35 to 40 percent of the project leased.”
The overall project, called Columbus Centre, also will include upscale restaurants, a 40,000-square-foot health club and spa, a 250-room Mandarin Oriental hotel, nearly 200 luxury condominiums and a 1,100-seat performance hall for Jazz @ Lincoln Center. It also will be home to the 850,000-square-foot world headquarters of AOL Time Warner, including 201,000 square feet of office space and three levels of below-grade parking.
“It’ll be a city in itself,” Himmel said.
Marty Staff, president of Hugo Boss USA, said the store will be 14,300 square feet on two levels. It will carry women’s and men’s apparel and accessories under the Boss and Hugo labels. There will also be a Baldessarini in-store shop.
It will be the company’s second New York flagship. Last summer, Hugo Boss signed a lease to open a 23,000-square-foot store in the former Steuben glass space on the southeast corner of 56th Street and Fifth Avenue. That store will open in April.
Boss’s Fifth Avenue and Columbus Centre stores will be designed by Helmut Pummer, the lead architect for Boss’s global network of stores.
Hugo Boss chief financial officer Vincent Ottomanelli said the upscale nature and multiuse properties of Columbus Centre is what appealed to the company.
“The project is phenomenal,” he said. “They’re looking for high-end retailers for the site and there are 100 to 150 retail spaces available.” Four of those will be on the ground floor, including Boss.
Staff said his company has “co-tenancy approval,” meaning that if Palladium does not sign upscale retail tenants, Boss can back out of the deal.
“But that’s unlikely,” Ottomanelli said.
One of the keys to the project, Staff said, is that former Bloomingdale’s chief executive officer Marvin Traub is a consultant.
“His presence was really important to us,” Staff said.
The executive also pointed out that the West Side of Manhattan is the “only remaining area that is undershopped by the designer customer.”
Himmel concurred, saying that “many of the high-quality names on Madison and Fifth Avenues are now looking at [Columbus Centre] as the gateway to the Upper West Side.” And because of its nightlife, retailers, who will be located on the first four levels of the center, will find shoppers browsing the floors into the evening. “The extended hours are key to this project,” Himmel said.
Staff promises a heavy entertainment quotient at his flagship as well, including cultural events, parties and high-tech shopping amenities. It will also have a cafe, which will be run by John McDonald, owner of the Merc Bar and Canteen.
Boss’s two New York flagships, are expected to raise the visibility — and volume — of the Hugo Boss brand. Currently, the line is carried in Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s.
“The stores I’ve spoken to have been supportive,” Staff said of those retailers. “Having stores with designer names only makes the brands stronger.”
He said there are no plans to add additional distribution here.
“My company has more than doubled its volume over the past three years,” Staff said. “My commitment to Germany is to add significant volume over the next three years and keep it exclusive. We have 325 points of sales in America, and we already sell every good specialty store and every department store we choose to. So the way to grow is to open more Boss shops.”
There are 360 Hugo Boss stores around the world including 31 in the U.S.
The Coliseum project has had a long history. In July 1998, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani gave the city’s approval to The Related Cos. as the lead developer for $345 million. Related’s plan includes 750-foot twin towers overlooking the southwest corner of Central Park. Both the towers and the base utilize a stacking design, with parking and retail, restaurants and entertainment venues organized within two below-grade concourses and the first through fourth levels.
The Columbus Centre project is scheduled to be completed in September 2003.
Palladium Cos. has also developed such well-known centers as Water Tower Place and 730 North Michigan in Chicago, Copley Place in Boston, Pacific Place in Seattle and City Place in West Palm Beach, Fla.

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