Renovations at 717 Fifth Avenue Aim to Fill Empty Space

The work included the buildout of a 12th-floor tenant lounge


The 9,000-square-foot tenant lounge on the 12th floor of 717 Fifth Avenue has been open for two months now, and judging by the din of lunchtime conversation on a recent weekday afternoon, it’s been a hit with office workers.

In addition to three conference rooms, the MKDA-designed space contains a wet bar, a row of cafeteria-style tables, clusters of upholstered living room furniture and a few plush diner booths built into the back wall. Crucially, the fan coil units that line the floor’s perimeter have been lowered to knee level, providing a more substantial view of the outside world and adding a cheery strip of daylight that had been obscured by the old waist-high units.

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“That 18 inches is really very meaningful,” said CBRE (CBRE)’s Nick Hilton, a leasing agent for the 353,000-square-foot office condominium that spans the top 22 floors of the 28-story Plaza District tower originally built in 1958 for Corning Glass.

The firm hopes the new lounge, lobby renovation and elevator upgrade will help fill up seven vacant tower floors spanning 8,733 square feet each and three 31,704-square-foot low-rise floors, plus a few partial floor availabilities in between. (Bank of America had renewed its lease for Merrill Lynch’s 114,000-square-foot office at the Fifth Avenue building in 2009. It’s unclear when the bank left.)

Pei Cobb Freed came aboard in 2022 to draw up the designs. The architecture firm devised a plan to restore the original Midcentury Modern aesthetic to the lobby, which was last renovated in the 1990s. Pei Cobb Freed kept the original marble cladding in place on the lobby walls and sourced matching marble slabs from quarries in Vermont to line the columns throughout the space. 

The new, airy design blurs the transition from the building’s interior to the sidewalk of East 55th Street beyond, Pei Cobb Freed’s Christopher Jend explained. It also draws more attention to the abstract mural by Josef Albers that covers a large swath of the lobby’s right wall.

There’s a new exterior canopy over the main building entrance, too, and a bright, new design for the hallway that leads to a smaller entrance on East 56th Street.

“It doesn’t feel like a back door quite as much as it did previously,” said CBRE’s David Hollander. 

The CBRE team is offering signage rights and private access through the rear entrance to prospective anchor tenants.

717 Fifth Avenue captured headlines in January when French luxury conglomerate Kering bought the 115,000-square-foot retail portion on the ground floor from Jeff Sutton’s Wharton Properties for a staggering $963 million.

The office space above is positioned for a comeback after being saddled by low occupancy for several years. Blackstone sold the office portion of the building in 2015 to Chinese insurance giant Anbang for $415 million. Anbang has since been taken over by Dajia Insurance Group Co. LTD, which is a major insurance and asset management financial conglomerate.

Abigail Nehring can be reached at

CLARIFICATIONS: This article has been updated to reflect the current ownership of 717 Fifth Avenue’s office portion and to reflect that MKDA designed the 12th-floor tenant lounge.