“Rebuild It Right And They Will Come”

I’ll acknowledge this much up front; I’m one of the Village people. As in Old Hyde Park Village. I prefer town-square ambience to an enclosed, suburban Pentagon. I’m blessed to live within walking distance.

I like lunch at Restaurant BT, dinner at The Wine Exchange, a movie at Sunrise Cinemas, open-air retail, a place to stroll outdoors, a facility to work out, jazz in the park, a dearth of grazing teenagers and shady spots to read and nurse a coffee.

I’ll also admit that I’m a realist. The writing on the mall was the (2001) debut of International Plaza and the subsequent overhaul of WestShore Plaza. The Jacobson’s implosion left OHPV scrambling for an anchor. A Lifestyle Fitness Center, however welcome, can’t replace a large retail anchor.

The tenant mix has been in constant flux, destination specialty shops on the wane and about a third of the leaseable 270,000 square feet is vacant. Sharper Image won’t be back, and a Whole Foods ex machina is likely not waiting in the wings.

A trolley to downtown, an ambitious but dated movie theater, carriage rides, some cosmetic improvements and tenant roulette won’t save the day.

But David Wasserman, 46, is betting – and investing – like he knows what will.

He’s the principal of Wasserman Vornado Strategic Real Estate Fund, the managing partner of OHPV. It bought a 75 percent stake in the Village last year from previous owner Madison Marquette. Wasserman expects to invest more than $100 million in a “complete renovation” of the village.

The key – and literal – building block is residential. Currently, there are 38 condo and town homes. Wasserman plans to add approximately 250 units – in two separate, 12- and -8-story mid-rises (above storefronts). They would go where buildings now house Sunrise and Brooks Bros. The taller would go on the Sunrise site on Swann Avenue.

“I don’t see us in competition with other products,” said Wasserman. “We’re unique in our quality.” He also knows that whether it’s a bungalow or a condo, Hyde Park remains a high-demand market niche.

Wasserman will also contractually discourage investors. “We won’t be selling to snowbirds,” he stressed. He wants year-round resident-shoppers.

According to Ian Bacon, the company’s development director, the condos would likely sell for “a half million and up for the most part.” Amenities such as higher ceilings and upgraded finishes – plus self-contained parking – would be additional selling points.

Additional plans

The company’s goal, stated Wasserman, is to “unite the intent of the Hyde Park Historic district design guidelines with our development vision.” He called the Village an “amazing property” and “an icon in a unique neighborhood.

“We appreciate historic areas – and increasing property values around it,” he underscored.

Plans for Wasserman’s new lease on Village life also include:

*Creating the right mix of locals and chains, such as the incumbent Restoration Hardware (sans awning) and Anthropologie.

Wasserman’s formula: “Give me the Indigos (coffee shop) and the BT’s and the Pottery Barns. And add residential and a gourmet market.”

*Complete renovation of the former Cactus Club building. The fa

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