The economy has been showing mixed signs of recovery and recent third quarter leasing statistics appear to indicate that the uncertainty could be leeching into the Manhattan office market.
But Boston Properties feels confident that its big bet on midtown’s West Side will pay dividends in the next few years.
The company, among the city’s largest commercial landlords and owner of a high-end collection of trophy office buildings, continues to proceed with its development of a new one milliion s/f skyscraper at 250 West 55th Street.
Boston Properties had temporarily shelved the project during the recession after investing about half of the tower’s estimated $1 billion cost to buy its development site on along Eighth Avenue, draft plans for the building, construct a foundation and purchase its structural steel.
Earlier this year however, with the city’s office market back on the upswing, the company announced that it would restart the tower. Because it had already done the substantial work of preparing the building’s subgrade structure, the company could come out of the ground quickly with the building and projects to finish it by the beginning of 2014, a shorter timeframe than other new office projects in Manhattan that has helped it draw interest from tenants in the market for space.
Boston Properties made a breakthrough at the property in May when it signed a lease with the law firm Morrison Foerster to take about 180,000 s/f feet in the building. Previously, the law firm Proskauer Rose had been arranging to take over 400,000 s/f at 250 West 55th Street but cancelled its deal in the weeks after Lehman Brothers’ collapse when the economy teetered near collapse.
Though Morrison’s commitment is smaller, the firm’s lease provided the anchor tenancy that Boston Properties needed to go forward. Yet some real estate executives have questioned whether the company would proceed with Morrison alone and not wait until it secured more tenants before building in earnest.
In a conversation with Real Estate Weekly, Robert Selsam, a senior executive at Boston Properties who oversees the company’s operations in the city, said he wanted to dispell any questions about the building’s progress. He said that 250 West 55th Street is proceeding on schedule and that two cranes have been installed at the site to begin raising the steel.
Selsam described a package of amenities, technology and infrastructure at the building that is hard to find in a city where most office properties are decades old. According to Selsam, 250 West 55th Street will have many of the bells and whistles that have been incorporated in other new buildings like One Bryant Park and 11 Times Square, but that its combination of features would also make it unique.
For instance, 250 West 55th Street 14-foot slab-to-slab height between floors allows for ten foot ceilings. In addition, it has tightly spaced mullions on its facade. The combination of structural features allows more windowed offices – a must for the law firm tenants the building is designed to attract – to be clustered along a floor’s perimeter.
“More offices can be built on a floor and the space will actually feel roomier than a less dense layout because the ceilings are so high,” Selsam said.
Boston Properties also created several operational conveniences for tenants such as running a larger copper emergency power riser through the building’s 39 stories that will provide easy access to a backup power generator at the property. Normally, connecting a space to backup power can be tedious, requiring tenants to install electrical connections to a building’s basement or roof where the generator is usually located. Selsam said that heating and ventilation systems in the tower will also be controlled floor by floor, allowing a tenant to pay to heat or cool its space only when it is occupying it. The feature comes in handy for large space users who have more floors than they actually use during a given period or tenants who only want to run the HVAC for only a portion of space after hours to cater to employees who stay late.
Selsam also said that Boston Properties had prepared one of the building’s fire stairwells to be used by multifloor tenants who would like stair access between floors, equipping it with card readers that secure the entryways. Usually tenants are forced to cut and install their own stairways into a space.
Designed by the architecture firm SOM, 250 West 55th Street echoes some of the city’s most iconic office buildings. The tower rises from a low-rise pedestal of larger base floors that will cater to users who need bigger floor plates, a nod to Park Avenue’s Lever House. Gensler, one of the city’s most notable office space designers, drafted plans for 250 West 55th’s interiors.
With recent news that the U.S. economy grew by a better-than-expected 2.5 percent in the third quarter and of a tentative deal to work out the Euro-zone’s debt woes with Greece, the economic forecast and the prognosis for Manhattan’s office market suddenly seems far less unsure.
Selsam said that he is confident the building will continue to attract tenants given its quality.
“We approached this property from the standpoint of creating the perfect floor plan for law firms and financial tenants and packaging it in a building that will be just stunning to look at,” Selsam said.