Guest Columnist

Making Development Pay

Our subways are jammed with riders, day and night, weekday and weekend. In September, daily ridership exceeded 6 million, the highest daily ridership since the figure was first recorded in 1985. Fortunately, the MTA is planning to purchase more than 1,800 new subway cars and by the end of the year, the new 7 extension will connect the city to Manhattan’s Far West Side.

The challenge for most riders is congestion on subway platforms, over-crowded stairwells, and the difficulty of maneuvering through stations. Nowhere is this problem more intense than in Midtown Manhattan’s Grand Central Station, where subways riders and suburban commuters converge in the outmoded corridors and passageways that make up Grand Central. Read More

Lease Beat

Financial Tech Firm Expands at Tower 45

Tower 45 at 120 West 45th Street.

Financial technologies company Curex Group Holdings has renewed and expanded its headquarters lease at 120 West 45th Street (aka Tower 45) in the Grand Central submarket for a combined 22,925 square feet of space.

The lease covers the entire 22nd floor and 5,003 square feet of expansion space on the 23rd floor. Read More

Stat of the Week

The Power 5: The City’s Top 5 Markets


In honor of this week’s Power 100 rankings of real estate professionals, I figured I would create the first annual Power 5 rankings of the top submarkets by year-to-date leasing activity. To make things even across all 17 submarkets, they are based on leases signed and renewed as a percentage of the submarket’s total inventory. So without further ado, here are the Power 5.

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Lease Beat

EverBank Inks Valley National Sublease at TIAA-CREF’s 780 Third Avenue

780 Third Avenue

Jacksonville, Florida-based EverBank has inked a 5,118 square feet sublease at its first New York location at 780 Third Avenue in Midtown East, The Commercial Observer has learned.

The sublease from Valley National Bank is for part of the 16th floor, which was already built out and designed for the needs of a bank, making for a perfect match.

“We acted immediately when we found out that Valley National was offering space at this location,” said CBRE’s Arkady Smolyansky, who represented EverBank with Gerry Miovski and Oliver Barakat, who works out of CBRE’s Florida offices.  “The space at 780 Third Avenue was already built and furnished, allowing us to get EverBank a great space quickly and with minimum up-front capital expenses.  It made a lot of sense.” Read More

The Sit-Down

Preserving Manhattan: Municipal Art Society’s Vin Cipolla

Vin Cipolla (Credit: Sasha Maslov)

Before becoming president of the Municipal Art Society in 2009, Vin Cipolla had founded three companies, presided over the National Park Foundation and been the executive vice president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. His ability to move between the corporate and public sectors prepared him well for his role at MAS, which is among the city’s most prominent civic preservation groups. Between the proposed rezoning of Midtown East and the sea change under way in Midtown West, the MAS has a full plate. Mr. Cipolla, 56, still had time to talk to The Commercial Observer about those two issues, as well as Mayor Bloomberg’s legacy and the future of Manhattan’s center. Read More


Sneak Peek: East Side Access, the $8 Billion Project Bringing Long Island Railroad to Grand Central

15 Photos

In January of 1999 President Bill Clinton’s budget proposal to congress included $20 million in funds for East Side Access, a project that would bring the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal, which turns 100-years-old on Saturday. The projected cost back then was $2.2 billion.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Capital Construction President Michael Read More

Stat of the Week

Grand Central Submarket Building Stock Growing Long in Tooth

Microsoft PowerPoint - Grand Central_Class Comparisons

Ahhh—the hustle and bustle of the Grand Central submarket.

It has it all: a spectacular train station with its shops, bars, restaurants and food hall (oh, and actual trains, too), a fantastic location within walking distance of everything from Times Square to Central Park (and you can always take the subway if you’re lazy) and a thriving commercial office market consisting of almost 59 million square feet of inventory (though only 27 percent of that is considered Class A).

But all there isn’t absolutely perfect—something about those wonderful buildings getting a bit long in the tooth, maybe? After all, it’s not really the Mad Men days of yore, and the building stock (average age: 72 years) doesn’t necessarily work for all those companies looking for wide-open floorplates and glass from floor to ceiling. That’s the reason a number of government and private-sector movers and shakers have decided to, well, shake things up by looking to upzone a large swath of the area. Read More


Among Developers, City Midtown Zoning Push Draws Fans, Foes

Grand Central Boundaries.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to spur development in the Grand Central area, Manhattan’s biggest office submarket with almost 44 million square feet of inventory, is winning mixed praise from real estate executives, who say New York may be at risk of losing its preeminence over such business hubs as London, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Shanghai.

“I think Mayor Bloomberg has this right,” said Stuart Eisenkraft, vice chairman at CBRE and co-chairman of the firm’s global cities practice. “It’s sort of a no-brainer the global economy is here and it’s here to stay.” Developers in Asia, he said, “don’t have the challenge of site logistics or governance that prevents them from building magnificent Class A buildings.”

The new Midtown East district would loosen restrictions in a 78-block area between Fifth and Second Avenues and East 57th and East 39th Streets, where buildings are more than 70 years old on average and have low ceilings and interior columns that are undesirable to Class A tenants, the Department of City Planning said in an overview. Most of the new development would be focused on the area around Grand Central Terminal, because it has the best transportation access and largest concentration of aging office stock, according to the department’s Midtown East study.

Some urban planners, community boards and City Council members have expressed concern that the addition of towers that may be taller than the 77-story Chrysler Building would worsen crowding, The New York Times reported.

Read More


The Heart of Manhattan: Why Midtown is Starting to Make Sense, Again

Midtown Manhattan

Midtown is starting to matter again.

At least that’s the view to take from commercial real estate deals like Japanese financial firm Nomura Holding’s $60-per-square-foot, 20-year lease for a plush 47-story headquarters at 825 Eighth Avenue.

The arrival of a Japanese multinational at the Worldwide Plaza property embodies the roller-coaster ride of the Midtown office market over the past five years. It was bought by Harry Macklowe for $1.7 billion in 2007, only to be sold at a 60 percent discount two years later in a fire sale that saw George Comfort & Sons snatch it up for $600 million in 2009 when the building was half vacant. Read More

Prospective Tenants

Apple’s Next Stop? Grand Central

Apple has begun a super-secret quest for a store in historic Grand Central Terminal, potentially creating a hive of buzzing techies in the glamorous Beaux Arts landmark.

Reliable sources tell The Observer that the maker of ubiquitous iGadgets–from computers to cell phones–hopes to open a store in the transportation and retail hub, though it has Read More