by Leila Molana-Allen
FLATIRON — The buyers of Madison Square Park's historic clock tower have overhauled their plans for the building in response to the economic downturn, according to a recent report.
Africa Israel USA, the global real estate group which purchased the tower in 2007, had originally planned to develop the building into 55 high-end condos. However, the site, which previously housed the MetLife headquarters, would now house 99 condos, each around 2,000 square feet, less than half the size of the original units, according to Real Estate Weekly.
The investment firm has also changed its target audience for the development. Rather than appealing to overseas clientele as originally intended, the apartments would now be designed with New Yorkers in mind, according to the real estate website.
"We feel really good about the neighborhood," Peter Rosenberg, the firm's managing director for development, told the publication. "They don't really build buildings like this anymore," he added.
Rather than leasing the ground floor for retail space, Rosenberg planned to build a luxury restaurant. The building would also feature a 60-foot swimming pool and a gym, according to REW.
Donatella Versace, however, who was originally slated to design the restaurant and apartments, has been replaced by Mark Zeff Design, the company which would also design the rest of the tower's interior, REW reported. The report added that designers planned to theme the décor around the period in which the building first opened — the early 1900s.
While the apartments have not yet been priced, Rosenberg told REW that the costs would be at "the top of the realistic market." The company hoped to begin selling units within the next 18 months, with the site due to open in two years.