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Dealmaking all the fashion in Apparel Alley as leasing brokers stretch their imaginations

David Levy

By Orlando Lee Rodriguez

Even as the Fashion Center BID looks to rebrand the Garment District into something else, just south of its borders at least one building in what has become a children’s apparel alley is bustling with business.

Brokers for 34 West 33rd Street, which sits in the shadow of the Empire State Building, have announced that they have fully leased the building after renewing the 17,000 s/f lease of newborn and toddler playwear maker, Bentex Group, Inc.

David Levy, principal, and Brett Maslin of Manhattan based Adams & Co. represented both the tenant and landlord, Arcade Building Associates, in the transaction.

Representatives for the brokerage said that the lease renewal is for 10 years and the asking price was $44 per square foot. Bentex is taking an additional 6,000 s/f and will move to the sixth floor from the second.

The building, which was re-positioned to be dedicated exclusively to children’s fashion, has been a success, according to Adams, even as other small apparel makers leave the area just to the north. At least in this little corner of the Fashion District, deals continue to flow.

“Most of the tenants in the building have arrived within the last five years,” said David Levy. “There has been some resurgence, but I think, more importantly, we are the only building 100 percent dedicated to the children’s apparel industry.ˮ

The building, now renamed the Children’s Wear Specialty Building, is the second property on 33rd Street between Fifth and Broadway that is leased by Adams. Compared to other properties the brokerage leases, Levy said, leasing action on Children’s Alley has been better south of the traditional Garment District.

“I can say that, based on some of our other properties, like 231 West 39th Street, activity is stronger than it had been,” he said.

The Bentex signing means that the 12 story 34 West 33rd Street will be fully leased until a 1,600 s/f unit becomes available at the end of the month.

10 West 33rd Street, known as the Fashion Accessories Center and also leased by Adams, is almost 100 percent occupied.The decision to re-position 34 West 33rd as an exclusive children’s appeal building was made based a shift in strategy by nearby building owners more in sync with the wishes Fashion Center BID, according to Levy.

That desire to attract a different type of office tenant gave them an opening to make number 34 attractive to tenants looking to stay a stone’s throw away from the big department stores.

“The building is odd shaped and needed a direction,” Levy said. “Some of the other children’s apparel buildings [on the street] were attempting to attract traditional office tenants and we saw an opportunity and went with it.”

According to a report in the Commercial Observer, Bentex has agreed to a deal with Spain-based Zinkia Entertainment to make t-shirts with the likeness of one of their biggest children’s cartoon characters, Pocoyo. The company also has a contract to create t-shirts for the Voltron cartoon characters.

But despite the action on 33rd Street, calls for rebranding the Garment District to something other than its traditional home for fashion have made headlines in recent months.

In 2009, the New York City Economic Development Corporation suggested moving all of the area’s apparel makers into one single building. However a proposed re-zoning was rejected by the city council.

According to the Design Trust for Public Space, apparel jobs in midtown declined from 105,000 in 1985 to 26,000 in 2007.

Today only 1.1 million square feet of the neighborhood’s space is used for manufacturing, while 2.8 million square feet are used for reasons other than fashion.

However, Levy says that while each individual property owner has the right to decide what to do with their building, a push for change in the area by some does not mean that small fashion companies leasing space in Midtown is dead.

“Our outlook is very long term,” Levy said. “We don’t need to get the highest possible rents at any moment in time. We look for steady income, steady growth and keeping our spaces filled.  Industry buildings create that constant demand.”

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