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Harlem’s Urban Empowerment Center Inks First Three Office Deals

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The under-construction Urban Empowerment Center in Harlem just locked down deals with its first three office tenants, developer Taconic Partners announced.

In the biggest deal, the Studio Museum in Harlem leased 26,000 square feet to open a new office on the fifth floor of 121 West 125th Street between Malcolm X and Adam Clayton Powell boulevards, according to Taconic. 

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The nonprofit art museum’s office will be directly across the street from its brand new 82,000-square-foot museum, which is nearing completion at 144 West 125th Street, according to its website. 

The 144 West 125th site has been home to the Studio Museum since 1982, until it shuttered in 2018 to make way for the upgraded building, according to the Architectural Record

Thelma Golden, the director and chief curator of the Studio Museum, said in a statement that the Urban Empowerment Center appealed to the museum because of the “opportunity to be a part of a remarkable coalition of organizations” operating at the same address.

Aside from the Studio Museum, Virginia Union University also signed on for space on the fifth floor of the mixed-use Urban Empowerment Center. The Richmond, Va.-based historically Black university, leased 19,400 square feet to open its first satellite office in New York City.

Virginia Union will use the facility for recruitment, alumni engagement and other administrative activities, according to Taconic. 

“Virginia Union is going places we have never been before,” the university’s President and CEO, Hakim Lucas, said in a statement. “Students and the community have high expectations of this institution.” 

In a third, smallest deal, the United Negro College Fund, which offers scholarships to college-bound minority students, leased 5,700 square feet, also on the fifth floor.

A spokesperson for Taconic did not disclose the asking rents or length of the leases, saying only they were “long-term” deals. The New York Post estimated asking rents would likely be above the average range of $40 to $59 per square foot in Harlem.

There were no brokers involved in the deals, the spokesperson said. 

Empire State Development, the state’s economic development corporation, selected Taconic Partners together with L+M Development Partners, The Prusik Group and BRP Companies to develop the 414,000-square-foot, 17-story building on the formerly city-owned site in 2020 that will serve as the new headquarters for the National Urban League.

National Urban League will occupy 81,000 square feet on the building’s lower floors. The upper stories will contain 171 affordable housing units, including 51 supportive housing apartments that will be operated by the nonprofit New York Foundling, according to the developer.

And Target, Trader Joe’s, Pandora and Sephora have signed on for retail space on the first and second floors, according to Taconic.

There’s still 38,000 square feet of office space still available on the sixth floor of the building, according to Taconic.

Abigail Nehring can be reached at anehring@commercialobserver.com.