MURRAY HILL — A beloved Third Avenue restaurant has closed and neighboring businesses could be next after real estate developer Extell Development Company bought the properties and filed plans to demolish them, DNAinfo New York has learned.
La Giara, an Italian restaurant at 501 Third Ave., shuttered last week — a month after learning that Extell Development Company had moved forward with demolition plans for his property and that of a neighbor, 499 Third Ave., at the corner of East 34th Street, according to the business and public records.
La Giara's owner Pietro Arenella, who also owns La Gioconda in Midtown East and Regional in Morningside Heights, said he found out about Extell's purchase of the two buildings when deeds traded hands in December, but only discovered the developer's demolition plans about a month ago.
But the restaurant's lease was up, and when he was not offered the chance to sign again, he decided it was time to close up shop.
“We knew that with a new owner and being on the corner that there was a high potential for development,” said Arenella. “We just decided that we’ve been there 19 years, it was time to move on. That’s life.”
Extell bought the two buildings for a combined $16 million in December from the family-owned Duell Management, and filed for demolition permits for the 5-story building at 501 Third Ave. and the three-story building at 499 Third Ave. in April, public records show.
Arenella may have been ready to move on, but for some of his neighbors, it's a different story.
Cinema34, a bar next door which has the ground-floor corner space, just signed a new two-year lease in January, according to manager Uriel Garcia. But as a result of Extell's plans, the bar is set to close at the end of July, he said.
An employee at the Blockhead Burrito location at 499 Third Ave. declined to comment on Thursday, and the owner of New York Budget Inn, a hostel at that sits above La Giara and Cinema34, did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokeswoman for Extell did not return requests for comment. It was not immediately clear what Extell might have planned for the project, but zoning in the area allows for mixed-use development, which could include condos or apartments with ground-floor retail.
Extell has myriad projects around Manhattan, including a series of developments in Midtown that some pols and activists have blamed for blighted storefronts in the neighborhood.
Neighbors of La Giara, meanwhile, are already mourning the loss of what one resident, Penelope Hartwell, described as a neighborhood staple.
“I can’t understand why they’d close all of a sudden like that,” said Hartwell. “I’ve lived here 30 years and now all of a sudden every time you turn around something else is closing.”