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Real estate mogul Steve Witkoff buys troubled ‘Twists’ tower project in Chelsea for $900M

There’s life for XI after all. With help from billionaire industrialist and real estate investor Len Blavatnik, New York developer Steven Witkoff’s Witkoff’s Group snared the bankrupt, $2 billion, twin-towered condo project in a public debt auction on Thursday. The deal, which is worth around $900 million, means that work can resume on the 900,000 square-foot towers after more than two years. “Our partnership [with Blavatnik’s Access Industries] has deep experience in successfully developing large projects in Manhattan,” Witkoff said in a statement. He said construction can start up again after Jan. 1, and said the new plans call for a public plaza with access to the High Line. “This is a strong stroke of faith in the city’s future despite the pandemic and Omicron,” an industry insider said. The Post first reported that Witkoff was in the driver’s seat for the XI back on Nov. 9. XI, named for its Eleventh Avenue location next to the High Line, has been the city’s most buzzed-over development debacle for two years. Work stopped before the pandemic in late 2019, and park-goers have puzzled over the uncompleted eyesore ever since. Lenders and contractors who are owned hundreds of millions of dollars, on the other hand, have more than fumed. The purchase gives Witkoff’s investor group control of the project that was launched by Ziel Feldman’s HFZ Capital Group several years ago but fell into default on its $1 billion, debt, including $136 million owed to a prime lender, Britain’s Children’s Investment Fund. Feldman is also under siege by contractors. Construction manager Omnibuild alone filed a $100 million lien in 2020. The 26- and 36-story towers, at Eleventh Avenue and West 17th Street, are popularly known as “The Twists” due to the way architect Bjarke Ingels set them askew from one another. They were to have 236 luxurious condo units priced up to $25 million, a world-class hotel and a fancy, 90,000 square-foot spa. But only 38 units were sold at the time construction stopped, according to state attorney general filings. Feldman blamed the flop on former partner Nir Meir for HFZ Capital’s problems. He reportedly called Meir a “psychopath” in a lawsuit this past summer. Meir’s lawyer called Feldman’s charges “ludicrous.” A court gave Children’s Investment Fund the green light to sell the debt at auction. But Thursday’s auction – which was postponed from an October date – was not a court action but a public offering. Sources said the partners paid about $900 million to purchase the debt, giving them control of the property. That works out to a price of about bout $1 per square foot, as the completed structures are around 900,000 square feet. Witkoff is known for such projects as the partial conversion of the Woolworth Building to apartments and development of celebrity-strewn 150 Charles St. condos. But sources said he didn’t have the resources to take on XI on his own. Terms of Witkoff’s partnership with Blavatnik weren’t immediately known. A team led by Cushman & Wakefield’s Adam Spies and Doug Harmon was in charge of marketing the debt. They could not be reached, either.




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