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Docs reveal plans for fourth Apple mega-store in Manhattan (images)

Renderings of a possible fourth Manhattan-based Apple flagship store have surfaced on the Web site of a New York City architectural firm, revealing a distinctive 30-story building with a huge, three-story glass and steel facade marked with a large white Apple logo.

The illustrations coincide with mortgage documents prepared late last year for a $125 million hotel/residential tower at 21-27 W. 34th Street, where Apple previously had plans for a retail store across from the Empire State Building.

The firm Ismael Leyva Architects has posted the two illustrations in the "Projects" section of its Web site, under the simple listing "Project 2." The rendering is labeled as a "Project In Progress," and does not show the address of the building. However, a close examination of the rendering shows retailer Banana Republic in the lower-right corner, next to the proposed project. In fact, Banana Republic is at 17 W. 34th St., just east of the proposed building that includes Apple. The rendering also shows the name of the building housing Banana Republic— The Martin Building.

According to financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, a pair of developers obtained a $100 million, 10-year, interest-only loan to develop the two buildings at 21-23 and 25 W. 34th Street. The loan is part of a package of mortgage offerings by Wachovia Commericial Mortgages Inc. issued in October 2006. The filing states that Apple would be paying an average of $6 million a year in rent over the life of the 15-year lease. Under the terms of the loan, Apple was required to build a two or three-story retail store covering 27,900 square-feet.

However, the documents are confusing on the timeline of the project. According to Wachovia, the developers were to have the existing buildings demolished by Feb. 1, 2007 or "promptly after." At which point Apple would begin paying rent to the developers. However, New York City permit records show that only a scaffolding permit has been issued for the two properties. The scaffolding permit was issued Sept. 17, 2007.

According to the filing, "...The collateral improvements are planned for completion by January 1, 2008." This seems to indicate that the project is substantially behind its original schedule.

Ismael Leyva's proposed design for an Apple retail store at W. 34th Street.

There is also a difference between the loan documents and the renderings — the loan indicates that Apple would build a stand-alone store on the site and be the lone tenant. However, the renderings show a much larger building with Apple occupying the lower three floors.

Tipsters and local media noted Apple's original interest in the 34th St. property back in Dec. 2005. But there was never any activity at the site. Real estate sources said Apple abandoned the project in Jan. 2007 because the location didn't have the required "coolness" factor.

Apple Store Renderings
An alternative view of Ismael Leyva's proposed design for an Apple retail store at W. 34th Street.

The iconic Empire State Building is directly across the street from the site, and is one of world's most famous architectural wonders. The building opened in 1931 and was an instant hit with visitors who wanted to see the world's tallest building (1,454 feet). The building still attracts about 350,000 monthly visitors to the 86th floor observatory, a figure the building owner says is increasing each year. The building owner has extensively remodeled the skyscraper, and has added new tenants to the ground-floor retail spaces.

Apple Store Renderings
The current structure at W. 34th Street as seen on Google Maps.

An Apple flagship shop on W. 34th Street would be the Cupertino-based company's fourth in the New York City borough of Manhattan, joining locations currently operating in SoHo and Midtown, and another under development in the city's Meatpacking District.

Gary Allen is the creator and author of ifo Apple Store, which provides close watch of Apple's retail initiative. When Gary isn't busy publishing news and information on Apple's latest retail stores, he finds himself hanging out at one.