Putting the ING in Leasing

A gilded landmark once owned by Helmsley-Spear, 230 Park Avenue offers two features prized by New York office tenants and commuters alike: great views and the relative ease of working near Grand Central.

This isn’t to say that all of those who work in finance live in New Canaan or Scarsdale. But 230 Park Avenue, and Midtown in particular, has always been favored by the kind of high-net-worth financial and legal tenants who, besides committing to 10-year offices leases in Manhattan, sign pricy residential mortgages on tree-lined suburban streets across Connecticut and upstate New York.

230 park for web credit ahisgett via flickr Putting the ING in Leasing

Ahisgett. (Courtesy Flickr)

To change the make-up of 230 Park Avenue to make it more tech-friendly would be a short-sighted view. The floor-plate sizes, the transportation needs of those who work in 230 Park Avenue, even the close proximity to similar (and competing) kinds of firms—it all plays well to blue-chip companies, according to the building’s owner.

“Building’s don’t move,” said Monday Properties chief operating officer Brian Robin, whose firm has owned 230 Park Avenue since 2007. “One building at 46th and Park is not going to change its personality to try and be more suitable to a Midtown South client base.”

That’s because the Helmsley Building is, well, the Helmsley Building. It has the “unavoidable advantage” of being the Warren & Wetmore-designed building with the trademark cupola that is just steps from Grand Central and the financial center of Midtown Manhattan. Conversations with Monday Properties execs give the sense that the firm knows that the bread-and-butter tenant of 230 Park Avenue has historically been, and most likely always will be, financial and legal firms.

Which is why the global financial firm ING, and all its various affiliates, has spent the past 30 years occupying and growing inside 230 Park Avenue.

Earlier in April, ING signed a 10-year lease for 10,500 square feet on the 18th floor for ING Investment Management International, a division of the financial firm.

With that deal, the Holland-based ING now has approximately 229,510 square feet of usage spread over six floors throughout 230 Park Avenue. It has 55,000 square feet apiece on the 12th and 13th floors, 55,540 square feet on the 14th floor, and 43,820 square feet on the 15th floor.

Its two smallest spaces are on the highest and lowest office floors: 9,650 square feet on the ninth floor, and now its latest office space on the 18th.

With each space, those at Monday Properties said, ING has designed its offices to be both banker- and eco-friendly. Each floor can accommodate typical banking functions with trading areas, open-plan areas, large meeting facilities, and technology-intensive meeting and conferencing facilities.

The firm has also spent a good deal of money transforming its offices into LEED-friendly spaces, Monday Properties told The Commercial Observer.

“They’ve done a tremendous job investing in infrastructure within their space so that it works for them,” said Mr. Robin.
Some could say the same thing about Monday Properties.

After it bought the building in 2007, Monday Properties pledged $50 million to maintain its landmarked design while also improving its environmental friendliness.

It reduced its carbon emissions by 7,000 tons a year, installed energy-efficient lights, put exterior LED lighting on the 29th floor, and upgraded its electrical systems, among other improvements, according to its Energy Star webpage. Last year, it became the first prewar building to achieve a LEED-Gold status.

Like ING, Monday Properties also has a long-standing history with 230 Park Avenue. The firm was hired as the building’s managing and leasing agent by the Bass family in 1998.

Over the course of the next several years, as the building changed ownership a handful of times, Monday Properties maintained its relationship with the building as it worked to mature the building’s tenant base from its Helmsley-era past: namely, shifting from having a roster made up of several small firms mixed in with large firms to its current long-term plan of attracting larger and more sophisticated tenants while still leaving room for smaller-yet-growing firms or established names.

“By completing the 18th floor, on one side we have one local tenant [boutique real estate firm PBS Realty], and on the other we have the international brand of ING,” said Mr. Robin. “That’s a pattern that we pursue floor by floor,” he added.

The strategy, he explains, is to create a good landlord-tenant relationship that will enable the companies to have a prominent presence on Park Avenue while building their businesses.

For example, as Monday Properties worked with ING on a term sheet over the holidays in 2011, it was also finishing up a lease with a young law firm, Desmarais LLP, to expand into a second floor.

“It’s a growing firm with one excellently built floor and a second floor in process today, and our business plan is to work with tenants like that,” said Mr. Robin. “We will invest the capital to fit out high-quality office space in Park Avenue that’s suitable for that type of a firm.”
ING first spoke with Monday Properties about expanding to the 18th floor in the fall of 2011.

“I would describe it as a very fluid conversation of ‘here’s our requirement, size, term, etc.,’” said Mr. Robin

ING was given three options in the building, each one having different characteristics in different elevations and configurations throughout 230 Park Avenue. It wanted “high-profile space,” including views, proximity to the elevators, and an open-plan area and efficient space.
The 18th floor had those features. Half of the frontage of that northern Park Avenue view can be seen from the double hung windows on the floor.

ING and Monday Properties quickly spent December banging out business terms for a 10-year lease. Chris Mongeluzo and Moshe Sukenik of Newmark Knight Frank, both of whom represented ING, quickly came to an agreement with Jordan Berger at Monday Properties to take part of the 18th floor at an asking rent in the mid $60s per square foot.

Mr. Mongeluzo and Mr. Sukenik declined to comment for this piece. Mr. Berger declined to comment as well. A spokesman for ING did not return phone calls requesting comment.

With a tenant whom Mr. Robin characterized as being “higher credit, more stable, and more rent-paying,” Monday is convinced that its age-old strategy will continue to pay off for that blue-chip kind of tenant they’ve always liked.

“If you deliver a better product to the real estate market, you will attract tenants who are better able and more willing to pay premium rents for a premium products.”


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