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NFL Star’s Harlem Hotel Project to Miss Deadline

The proposed building site at 125th Street and Lennox Avenue in Harlem.

Hall of Fame football star Emmitt Smith, who proposed building a hotel and retail project in the heart of Harlem, officially fumbled in his quest to meet a year-end deadline to be eligible for federally backed tax-exempt financing.

Earlier this year, a board controlled by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave the green light to award nearly $20 million in federal tax-exempt financing to a group of developers led by Smith. But the developers needed to close the deal by Dec. 31 to get the financing.

Julie Wood, a spokeswoman for the city’s Economic Development Corp., confirmed late Monday that the developers withdrew the funding request. Still, she said, the developers told the city they have “secured some other sources” of funding and plan to move forward.

In October, when The Wall Street Journal published a story citing city officials’ fears that Smith’s real-estate company, ESmith Legacy Inc., might miss the deadline, Brian Morris, the firm’s co-founder and president, insisted the deal would close on time.

Morris said the firm decided to return the bonds “in consideration of other New York projects.” He said, “We fully expect to close on our financing and begin construction in the first quarter of 2011.”

The firm has proposed building an $81 million hotel and retail project, including a supermarket and YMCA, on an open lot at the southwest corner of 125th Street and Lenox Avenue. The hotel was expected to create 129 construction jobs and 81 permanent jobs.

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