Mortgage Observer

Thor Refis Carlton House Retail with $175M from Morgan Stanley

680 Madison Avenue

Thor Equities refinanced its retail condominium at the base of luxury co-op The Carlton House at 680 Madison Avenue with Morgan Stanley, a source confirmed to Mortgage Observer. The $175 million first mortgage closed last month, according to records recently filed with the city.

Thor purchased the building’s block-long retail space for $277 million in January 2013—one of the highest prices ever paid for a retail property on Madison—from Extell Development, which is in the process of converting the upper floors into cooperative residential units. Read More

Year in Real Estate

Initially Yours: the Fight to Make ‘ESRT’ A Reality

Empire State Building

Lawsuits, investor squabbles and multiple bids to purchase the Empire State Building didn’t stop Peter and Tony Malkin and the Empire State Realty Trust from going public with the “ESRT” real estate investment trust.  

Back in March, The Commercial Observer reported that the IPO was expected to succeed, but it wasn’t until Oct. 2 that the initial public offering—71,500,000 Read More


Come Fly with Me: The Economic Impact of NYC’s Airports


Last week, just ahead of the Thanksgiving travel rush, the Global Gateway Alliance, an advocate for airport infrastructure improvement chaired by real estate developer Joseph Sitt of Thor Equities, released an economic impact report on the New York metro area’s major airports: J.F.K., LaGuardia and Newark-Liberty. The findings were promising. Over the past decade, jobs created by the region’s airports increased by nearly 100 percent, with the three hubs collectively employing close to 500,000 jobs in the region.

“These numbers confirm what we’ve long know to be true: New York’s metropolitan airports are incredible economic drivers,” said Mr. Sitt. “When studies like this are released, it is clear to everyone the role the airports play in supporting the region economically.”

Below, The Commercial Observer lays out some of the key facts and figures from the report.

Read More


Attorney General Reviewing Helmsley Estate Sale


The New York State Attorney General’s office is reportedly reviewing the Leona M. Helmsley estate’s liquidation of its stake in the properties launched as part of the Empire State Realty Trust REIT last month, which includes the Empire State Building.

The process will begin once the Helmsley estate files a final accounting of the sale Read More

Lease Beat

Charming Charlie Inks 15,500-SF Deal for First Manhattan Location


The fashion accessories retailer Charming Charlie signed a 15,500-square-foot lease at 445 Fifth Avenue, The Commercial Observer has learned. It will be the chain’s first Manhattan location.

Jeremy Ezra and Greg Covey of RKF represented the tenant along with Jonathan Lapat of Boston-based Strategic Retail Advisors. The landlord, Thor Equities, was represented in-house. Read More

Empire State Building

New Bid Could Complicate Empire State Building REIT


(Update appended)

Malkin Holdings has received an unsolicited $710 million offer for One Grand Central Place—another surprise twist that could stifle plans to make the Empire State Building past of a real estate investment trust.

The 1.3-million-square-foot, 55-story building at 60 East 42nd Street is the second largest building in the proposed Empire State Realty Trust and follows a string of previous unsolicited offers made on the Empire State Building itself.

“All these offers make it difficult for the Malkins not to take them into consideration,” said Jason Meister, a vice president at Avison Young who is representing both Joe Sitt and Rubin Schron in two separate bids for the Empire State Building. “It’s a very compelling offer because its value is above what they’re offering it at in the IPO.” Read More

Sales Beat

Joe Sitt’s Thor Equities Buys Barclays-Area Mixed-Use Development for $23 Million

Joe Sitt

Thor Equities has closed on the $23 million off-market purchase of Atlantic Gardens, a mixed-use development abutting the Barclays Center.

Atlantic Gardens consists of 24 rental units and nine retail spaces at 525-541 Atlantic Avenue between Third and Fourth Avenues. The seller, Bennat Berger of BCB Properties, bought the assets for $10.93 million just two years ago.  Read More

On the Boardwalk

Coney Island’s Roller Coaster Ride: As Brooklyn’s Amusement Mecca Opens, Operator Zamperla SPA Takes Stock

Alberto Zamperla (Credit: Billy Gray)

With three days to go until the traditional Palm Sunday opening of Luna Park at Coney Island, the temperature was just above freezing.

Alberto Zamperla, 60, president and chief executive of the Italian amusement park operator and ride provider Zamperla SPA, steered The Commercial Observer into the company’s warm, modest offices across from the landmark Cyclone roller coaster.

A central hallway was lined with newspaper clippings that recount the area’s history as a summer retreat and amusement park destination.

“Coney Island, that marvelous city of lath and burlap, should always be approached by the sea, as then, and then only, can the beauty of this ephemeral Venice be appreciated,” began an article published on August 15, 1908, in Scientific American. “Landward, the trains run through squalid neighborhoods, and past the back of everything. Its best foot is put forward toward the sea.”

Coney Island peaked before cars and planes allowed New Yorkers to easily escape the city heat far outside the five boroughs. Its decay during the second half of the 20th century is as mythic as its halcyon days. Its boardwalk and amusement area rivaled the squalor of surrounding neighborhoods. The seaside was, to put it kindly, down at the heels. Read More


Retail Brokers ‘Kicking and Screaming’ as Landlords Skip the Middle Man

Joe Sitt

Some commercial real estate brokers are “kicking and screaming” about the audacity of some city landlords who they claim are disregarding their “exclusives” with retailers by attempting to land tenants on their own.

The idea of “skipping the middle man,” once thought of as a tool for efficiency, is enraging some brokers, who tell The Commercial Observer that large retail owners including  Joe Sitt, Jeff Sutton and Joe Moinian, are steering out of their way – but digging deep under their skin.

“Totally not kosher,” one perturbed president of a top city brokerage wrote in an email to The Commercial Observer.  “It puts the retail brokers in a difficult spot and it is morally incorrect.” Read More

Art of the Deal: Colliers International’s Christel Engel on Butterflies & Brokers

Christel Engel

The mere mention of “the need for creativity in real estate” sparks a sudden shift in Christel Engel’s otherwise stoic demeanor, as a wide smile overtakes her face. It’s a necessity in today’s real estate world, she says, raising a finger.

“You want to see? I’ll be right back,” says the Colliers International team leader, who oversees a portfolio comprising 1.5 million square feet, springing up from her chair, dashing from the room and returning in a matter of seconds with a large black scrapbook. Read More