250 West Goes Both Ways as El-Ad Hammers Out Long-Winded Sale

There’s a lovely red brick building on the edge of Tribeca that, like a child of divorcing parents, hangs in the balance—belonging neither here, nor there, and utterly empty inside.

Plaza owner El-Ad Properties bought 250 West Street, a 98-year-old building 11 stories tall, from Citigroup in 2006 for $142 million. Bank workers have since emptied the building, bidding farewell to Robert De Niro’s largely residential fiefdom. And, in November, El-Ad went into contract to flip 250 West to an entity called Coalco for $201 million (a tidy 41 percent markup).

Here’s the funny thing. Now it’s August, more than eight months later, and Coalco has yet to close on the empty building. That’s a hell of a long haul. Boston Properties closed on the largest single-asset purchase in history—the $2.8 billion GM Building buy—in just two and a half weeks.

While Mikhail Kurnev, president of Coalco New York, would say only that eight months “is actually a pretty reasonable period of time,” and that he anticipated “closing in the next few months,” a broker who asked to remain anonymous said he’d heard Coalco was bargaining for a price reduction.

A source close to the negotiations suggested that Coalco is still searching for financing, which is remarkably scarce these days.

Either way, one thing’s for sure. El-Ad, the moneyed concern behind the Plaza Hotel condo conversions, is hedging its bets. Despite its contract with Coalco, the group is apparently continuing to market the building as both a residential conversion and as commercial space.

On its Web site, El-Ad calls 250 West Street its “next great achievement in residential conversions,” describing plans for “splendid, loft style residences accessed through private elevator vestibules, [and] the finest in building amenities and on-site parking.”

Meanwhile, on MrOfficeSpace.com—a commercial real estate listing resource—CBRE vice chairman Howard Fiddle is marketing the entire building as commercial space, at $59 a square foot on the 11th floor, and $55 on the first floor. The listing was last updated in July.

Why the conflicting listings? “Let’s say you get a great tenant,” explained the broker. “If the buyer doesn’t want to pay the whole price, El-Ad can pull out of its contract with Coalco and lease it instead.”

Mr. Fiddle did not return a request for comment. El-Ad declined to comment. But as the source familiar with the negotiations put it, all of this cross-listing is “the prudent thing to do,” particularly in this market. “Sometime these things don’t sell.”

drubinstein@observer.com