The Plan: A Look Inside Equity Office’s $25M Park Avenue Tower Revamp

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By this summer, about 60 percent of 65 East 55th Street will become vacant—meaning it’s the right time for a makeover.

The law firm Paul Hastings, the largest tenant in the 36-story tower, is relocating to the MetLife Building at 200 Park Avenue, and professional race car driving organization NASCAR is zipping off to 590 Madison Avenue. Hedge fund Davidson Kempner Capital Management is also leaving the property for 520 Madison Avenue.

Equity Office, the landlord (which was purchased by Blackstone Group in 2007 for $39 billion), is pumping $25 million into renovating the East 55th Street building between Park and Madison Avenues, also known as Park Avenue Tower. The landlord bought the 615,000-square-foot tower just two years ago for $750 million, according to city records, and to make the property more attractive to prospective tenants, Equity Office will add a gym, outdoor plaza and recreation center among other hotel-like amenities.

“We felt the need to differentiate ourselves from the masses. We like to say we are incorporating the high-end residential and hotel boutique assets into this property,” Zachary Freeman, a vice president at Equity Office, told Commercial Observer. “It’s almost like a country club asset.”

The first phase of the renovation began in January with the gut revamp of the lobby, which has 41-foot ceilings. Its dated red granite and marble walls will be swapped for limestone, and artwork will be put up (what art or artists, exactly, have not been decided yet). Also, security guards will be equipped with iPads to check in guests of the building (a la a hotel), and turnstiles will be upgraded to read smartphones so employees can access the tower through their mobile devices. Elevators will be aesthetically and mechanically updated, too.

As soon as Paul Hastings, which has the lower level through the 17th floor in the building, leaves for its new digs, Equity Office will begin setting up “The Club,” a full 20,000-square-foot floor of amenities on the lower level. The space will have everything to make sure guests feel right at home—a fitness center with lockers, a recreation lounge with a pool table, a bistro serving continental breakfast and lunch and a conference center. And in a spirit of “Never stop working; never go home,” “The Club” will be open 24/7.

With Paul Hastings leaving, Equity Office can offer prospective tenants about 300,000-square-feet of contiguous space, its own entrance with branding and, of course, exclusive rights to three elevators.

In the spring, the landlord will begin working on creating an outdoor plaza in front the building with greenery, seating and newly paved walkways. They will also add an art sculpture (also not decided yet) and hope to get permits for an outdoor café and bar. Another renovation includes opening blocked windows throughout the building to expose floor-to-ceiling views. And they will renovate the penthouse, which NASCAR currently occupies.

After the change is complete, it may feel like it’s a tower for millennials and young startups or creative companies, but with rents in the Park Avenue Tower ranging from $100 per square foot to $200 per square foot, it’ll have to be a pretty successful enterprise to be able to afford it. Mr. Freeman said they believe space in the building will appeal most to established financial institutions, such as banks and hedge funds. Essentially, Equity Office believes the big guys like to relax too.

“You spend more and more time in the office than you at home every day,” Mr. Freeman said. “Basically people go home and sleep, and then they shower and come back to the office. We felt the need to bring a lot of services to the building.”

The lobby's dated granite will be swapped for limestone (Rendering: Real Estate Arts).

The lounge at "The Club" will make for comfortable social gatherings (Rendering: Real Estate Arts).

The gym will be part of the "The Club" (Rendering: Real Estate Arts).

The grab and go bistro in "The Club" (Rendering: Real Estate Arts).

Equity Office plans to open up the windows to reveal full floor-to-ceiling views (Rendering: Real Estate Arts).

A conference room (Rendering: Real Estate Arts).

A rendering of the penthouse level (Rendering: Real Estate Arts).

A rendering of what a potential tenant can do with the area between the second and third floors (Rendering: Real Estate Arts).

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