National Geographic Coming to Life With Interactive Exhibit in Times Square
Terence Cullen and Lauren Elkies Schram June 29, 2016, 5:20 p.m.
The ocean is about to flood the Crossroads of the World, with the first-ever National Geographic-branded immersive entertainment.
A joint venture called Times Square Attractions Live has signed a 59,137-square-foot lease at 226 West 44th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, according to a press release from the group. The tenant plans on opening National Geographic Times Square: Ocean Giants at the multi-level location next summer. A source with knowledge of the deal told Commercial Observer that includes about 4,550 square feet on the ground, 34,000 square feet on the lower level and the remainder in the sub-basement.
National Geographic Times Square: Ocean Giants will rotate its show every year or two, the source said. This year the exhibit showcases oceans and sharks, the next time it could be dinosaurs, the source said.
The current tenant, Discovery Times Square, an interactive museum, has been in the space for five or six years and will be departing by the end of the summer, the source said. Times Square Attractions Live will take possession of the space immediately, and will do much of the build-out off-site.
The deal is for 15 years, the release indicates, with no indication of the rent. The source said that the asking rent on the ground floor is in the $300-per-square-foot-range.
Times Square Attractions Live is a partnership between Washington, D.C.-based real estate firm Peterson Companies and SPE Partners, a New York City entertainment company. Lisa Truitt, an executive at SPE Partners, was a National Geographic employee for 20 years, according to The New York Post, which first reported news of the deal.
“National Geographic is one the world’s most respected and recognized brands and it is a tremendous compliment and honor to be a financial and strategic partner on this project,” Milton Peterson, the principal and chairman of Peterson Companies, said in the release. “Together with SPE Partners under the creative leadership of Lisa Truitt, we look forward to creating a world-class branded experience for National Geographic in the heart of New York City.”
Kushner Companies closed on the 250,000-square-foot retail condominium last October for $295 million from Africa-Israel USA, according to property records. (Disclosure: the company’s chief executive officer, Jared Kushner, owns Observer Media, which publishes Commercial Observer.) Atlanta-based Columbia Property Trust bought the 345,701-square-foot office condo of the property, formerly known as The New York Times Building at 229 West 43rd Street, from Blackstone Group last July for $516 million, as CO reported at the time.
“We’re excited to partner with Times Square Attractions Live to bring National Geographic to the Crossroads of the World,” Kushner said in the release. “This deal truly takes the consumer experience in Times Square to the next level, and exemplifies our work in repositioning one of Midtown’s most storied buildings as a world-class cultural and retail destination.”
A Kushner Companies spokesman declined to comment further.
In November, Gulliver’s Gate signed a 49,000-square-foot lease across two floors in the condo, as CO previously reported. The $30 million tourist attraction features a miniature world and will have body scanners for visitors to insert micro-versions of themselves into the model.
Trendy bowling alley Bowlmor Lanes has 64,000 square feet on the third and fourth floors of the retail condo in a lease running through October 2030, according to CoStar Group. Guitar Center has 28,600 square feet, the bulk of which is on a lower level, and celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar leases 15,670 square feet on the ground floor.
News about National Geographic comes as the Times Square area heats up in terms of theme restaurants and venues, as CO recently reported. The National Football League and Hard Rock International are just two other companies bringing new concepts to the area.
Eric Gelber of CBRE represented the tenant in the deal, while Morris Harary, Larry Rabinowitz and Ira Bloom of Kushner Companies represented the landlord in-house. Lon Rubackin, another retail broker with CBRE, said he and colleague Gary Trock also represented the landlord in the off-market deal.
“Gary and I had been marketing [the site] for a few years prior to Kushner [buying it],” Rubackin told CO.