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Investor Group May Build Hotel on Times Square Site

A partnership including real estate investors Steven Witkoff and Michael Ashner bought 701 Seventh Ave. in Times Square, one of New York’s most popular tourist areas, and is considering a high-rise hotel for the site.

The venture, which also includes the Miami-based cigarette company Vector Group Ltd., acquired the property on the northeast corner of the avenue and West 47th Street, the companies said today in a statement. The price wasn’t disclosed. The group intends to replace the existing two buildings, which total 120,000 square feet (11,000 square meters), with “new retail, signage and other best uses,” they said. Barry Sternlicht’s Starwood Property Trust Inc. and Starwood Capital Group provided $475 million of debt to the partners, the two companies said in a separate statement.

The replacement “will be one of the first new buildings -- as opposed to a renovation of an existing building -- in the Times Square submarket,” Witkoff said in the statement. “There are also immediate opportunities to modernize the site’s signage and monetize its air rights.”

The partnership is led by New Valley LLC, which is owned by Vector, according to the statement. Ashner’s Winthrop Realty Trust is also part of the purchasing group, the companies said. The investors are considering a redevelopment that would include “a potential 30-story hotel,” Vector Chief Executive Officer Howard Lorber said in the statement.

One of the buildings on the site was completed in 1909, according to the website of Emporis, a property-information service. Pictures on the site show a building covered with signs advertising Broadway shows including “Wicked,” “Jersey Boys” and “The Phantom of the Opera.”

The debt agreement for the purchase includes the right to part of the equity, according to the statement from Starwood Property and Starwood Capital.

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