BY SARAH TREFETHEN
Newmark Knight Frank is looking to make some more headlines.
The brokerage firm — whose parent last week announced a plan to buy Grubb & Ellis — is marketing 480,000 s/f of office space in the building that was, for most of the last century, home to the New York Times.
“We think it’s a phenomenal product and we think we’re going to find a tenant that will make it the flagship building of their enterprise,” said Lance Korman, executive managing director at Newmark and a member of the building’s leasing team.
Just blocks from Times Square and occupied by a single tenant since construction, the building is a little-known opportunity in the world of Manhattan office space, according to Korman.
“The building has never really been shown to the marketplace. When you mention the New York Times building, people now think of the [new] tower on 8th Avenue,” he said. “Once they come see this building, they’re wowed.”
In one corner of the 52,443 s/f 11th floor, an almost-regulation sized basketball court is dwarfed by the surrounding space. The court is there to bring home the floor’s 21-foot ceilings and over 12,000 s/f of column-free space.
“When you say it’s a column-free area big enough to hold a basketball court, people say ‘What would that mean?’” said Brian S. Waterman, vice chairman at NKF. “Here, you say, ‘This is what it looks like.’”
But, he added, if a tenant wanted to keep the court, that could be arranged. “There are companies that have creative-type environments that would have something like that.”
Newmark is representing the Blackstone Group, which purchased the space in 229 W 43rd St. from Africa Israel in April last year for $160 million. Africa Israel retained the first three floors and half of the fourth floor.
Interest in the space has been steady, according to Korman, with the majority of inquiries coming from companies in marketing, media and communications.
Some tenants in the financial services sector have also expressed interest, but the building’s open space, ample light and long terraces are the kind of features the creative companies taking the city by storm are looking for in real estate. “This is something you’d normally see in the meatpacking district or one of those areas that a tremendous number of people have gravitated to because of the type of space,” Waterman said.
Times Square is home to throngs of tourists and the Naked Cowboy, but also has major offices for Thomson Reuters, Conde Nast and Viacom. “It’s the ‘Who’s Who’ in the world of corporations,” Waterman said. “When you look at the migration into this district, it’s been tremendous.”
The layout of the building includes an opportunity for a second private entrance half a block down 43rd Street from the main lobby, allowing tenants to operate a “building within a building,” complete with a space for indoor, off-street parking.
On the higher floors, windows on all four sides of the building look out over the Theater District. The air above those theaters has been sold, Waterman said, ensuring no new development will block the sun.
“It’s a unique opportunity if you really wanted to create a campus environment in a single asset,” Waterman said. “It has all the makings of being an iconic, branded asset for a major corporation.”
Newmark has spoken to prospective tenants interested in leasing anything from 50,000 s/f chunks of the building through to the whole 480,000 s/f. For the owners, that means a particular kind of calculus. “We’d love to lease to a larger tenant, but we’re talking to smaller ones too, and we’re trying to manage the space. Do we rent this much and have X left to rent, or do we hold our breath and look for the big deal?” Waterman said. “There’s truly no large block of 480,000 s/f available in this area.”
The Times moved into its new building on Eighth Avenue in 2007 and Africa Israel’s holdings on the lower floors have filled in with retail tenants. But the 12 upper stories in the 15-story building, located on 43rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, are open for interpretation.
In Newmark’s marketing materials for the office space, the small tower that sits atop the ornate, 1912 building is rendered with the word “tenant” in the big white letters that once said “Times.”
“The Times made history there and wrote history there, but new tenants can make their own history,” Waterman said.