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January 3, 2007 -- In other development news, the Zeckendorfs have paid $479 a square foot to Christ Church United Methodist for a 60,000-square-foot stack of transferable Park Avenue air. The Zeckendorfs will use it to redevelop 45 E. 60th St., which is currently occupied by a townhouse that has retailer Clifford Michael at its base and about five floors of residences above.

The retailer's lease is up in 2009.

The pact to sell the church air rights was negotiated for them by M. Myers Mermel, a principal of TenantWise and a trustee of the church. He acted pro bono on the transaction, which has been in the works since 1998. Mermel did not return calls for comment.

To make the deal, the church had to wait until the Zeckendorfs secured 17,000 square feet of air rights for $430 a square foot that belonged to the Grolier Club, which adjoins the church to the west. The Zeckendorf townhouse is to the west of Grolier.

The Zeckendorfs are still trying to remove a couple of residential tenants, but they already have a permit from the Department of Buildings to demolish and renovate the interiors of the apartments.

It is more cost-effective to renovate and rent out 17 apartments at market rents on short-term leases with strict termination dates, bringing in some money and using the property as a tax payer than to leave it vacant while undergoing the lengthy permit approval process for the high-rise luxury tower the Zeckendorfs are expected to build.

Knowing when to spend money to make money is a basic part of the real estate game, and no one has ever accused the Zeckendorfs of not playing it well.

Arthur Zeckendorf, who is overseeing this development, declined to comment.

By the way, the Zeckendorfs still own and control the retail space at 15 Central Park West. They previously sold only a minority, noncontrolling stake.

"Retail leasing activity is under way for the balance of the ground and entire second floor space - about 40,000 feet," said Arthur's brother, William Lie Zeckendorf. "The whole retail is oriented toward Broadway while the residential entrance is on Central Park West."

Best Buy has already leased 45,000 square feet.

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