Diamonds: A Churl’s Best Friend?

Charlie Bagli writes today on the dispute between former Belgian diamond merchant Gary Barnett, now a real-estate developer, and the diamond merchants on the crowded strip of West 47th Street where Mr. Barnett wants to build a 30-story tower that would serve as a global diamond exchange.

He says the building could help reinvigorate the dowdy, low-scale block between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas, an important international diamond center that is under siege from low-cost producers, Internet sales, suburban diamond exchanges, Wal-Mart and Costco.

What’s the problem?

They fear that Mr. Barnett’s tower will steal all the best tenants and leave the rest of the 60-year-old district a “ghost town,” if he is successful in lobbying the city for tax breaks and other incentives.

Incidentally, those subsidies would be an important part of the plan to get the building up.

- Tom McGeveran