When Rockrose Development acquired 95 Horatio Street in the 1980s, the Meatpacking District was a different world. Transvestite prostitutes roamed the streets at night, and the area was home to meat and manufacturing companies.
“It was a gritty neighborhood. We had a lot of security concerns,” said Sofia Estevez, executive vice president of TF Cornerstone, which now owns the mixed-use building after splitting from Rockrose in 2009.
The residential portion of 95 Horatio is known as the West Coast, made up of a total of eight adjacent buildings with various addresses. The entire complex spans the city block encompassed by Horatio Street, Gansevoort Street, Washington Street and West Street.
The first building on the site was constructed in 1898 for the Manhattan Refrigeration Company, according to a volume of Insurance Engineering, published in 1908. The building was used as a warehouse to store furs, eggs and apples, using cooling technology to preserve the products.
“It has had several lives,” said Estevez.
Initial renovations finished in 1985, followed by additional work in 1987. The developers initially had to circulate hot water to defrost the building before residents could move in. More renovations followed in 1994, when another 38 apartments were added.
85 Horatio has become one of the most stable properties in the TF Cornerstone portfolio. In the rental apartments, the price per s/f has soared from around $20 in the 1980s to $85 today. The residential development, which is nearly 400,000 s/f, is now fully leased.
The rise in rents in the Meatpacking District has coincided with a shift in the character of the neighborhood. Although a Gansevoort Market historic district was created in 2003 in an attempt to preserve the manufacturing legacy of the area by limiting building heights, an influx of residential buildings and retail has continued to transform the city streets. A decline in the city’s manufacturing base has also contributed to the usage of buildings, and a citywide plunge in crime has made the area much safer, although some feel it has lost character.
This year, 95 Horatio is poised to evolve once again. A new retail space facing Washington Street was converted from residential units, capitalizing on the neighborhood’s surging retail prices. TF Cornerstone hired architect firm Beyer Blinder Belle to design a glass façade, winning city approvals for the alterations.
The retail space contains four spaces totaling around 4,000 s/f, along with a 2,725 s/f space that was leased by clothing store Intermix in February. Intermix is set to open in August, just steps away from the High Line.
Karen Bellantoni, an executive vice president of Robert K. Futterman & Associates, who completed the Intermix deal and is leasing the remaining space, said additional tenants would likely be apparel or accessory retailers.
Rents in the space were comparable to the rest of the Meatpacking District, which range from around $195 to $375 per s/f, said Bellantoni. The 5 million s/f of nearby office space and four hotels in the area have also been drivers of foot traffic, along with a “strong residential presence,” she said.
“We’re looking to have a good symmetry with Intermix,” said Kristin Sather, vice president of TF Cornerstone, who handles the commercial portion of the building.
An additional conversion of the building’s parking garage will add another 10,000 s/f facing Gansevoort Street, close to the new Whitney Museum, which will break ground this year. Sather said that space could house one to three tenants, and a high-end restaurant would be a strong candidate for the space, complementing the Whitney’s café.
TF Cornerstone continues to break ground in new areas of the city, most recently beginning construction in Long Island City. The company continues to consider other sites for new development, ready to be the trailblazer in another emerging neighborhood.
“We’re always actively looking,” said TF Cornerstone’s Estevez.