Blackstone abandons 1950s office tower in ominous sign for struggling Midtown market
Commercial and residential hybrids line this corner of Midtown. Among the first to rise is this 43-story, block-long, red granite tower that Jack Resnick & Sons developed in 1987. Occupying the base’s eight stories is the corporate headquarters of Universal Music Group, which has leased it to at least 2028. On 33 floors above is Symphony House, a 482-unit rental building where two bedrooms start at $6,630 a month, according to online listings. The building, on a stretch of Broadway known in the 1940s as Auto Row for all car showrooms, once housed a Chrysler dealership. Abko Properties, an owner whose partners included chemical giant Koch Industries, bought it and hundreds of other struggling Chrysler sites in 1979. The following year, Resnick arrived and took over the site for 15.7 million dollars, according to an act.
300 W. 57th St.
The undulating spire atop a cast concrete base is the Hearst Tower, home to a media company. In the 1920s, Hearst intended to erect a large tower on the site, but the only part ever built was the 6-storey base; the Great Depression stopped the project before it could be completed. This is how things have been for decades. But in the early 2000s, Hearst finished finishing the skyscraper and brought in London-based Foster & Partners to create a flashy addition. Today, publishers publish magazines like Elle, Esquire and Harper’s Bazaar in the 46-story, 704,000-square-foot tower, whose tenant appears to have survived the pandemic mostly unscathed. No periodical has folded, although Hearst resorted to layoffs, on the business side, last spring.
224 W. 57th St.
This corner 11-story pre-war building, dating from 1909, was steeped in the neighborhood’s automotive history. Two companies, AT Demarest and Peerless Motor Car, both had showrooms and offices here. Shifting gears, the building housed the offices of Hearst magazine from the 1970s until 2006, when Hearst consolidated into its new 300 W. 57th St. spire. In 2010, Hearst sold the site, known as Argonaut Building, to M1 Real Estate, a Lebanese company, for $85 million. A renovation and reorganization of the site into three commercial condos followed. The desktop portion of the Argonaut was later sold to the Eretz Group for $214 million in 2015. Open Society Foundations, an inequality-focused grantmaking group founded by billionaire George Soros, is now the only office tenant.
This 53-story, block-wide tower, which was developed by a team led by The Related Cos. in 2002, offers a combination common to the district. Part of it is apartments and part offices, a holdover from a time when office space was a more reliable investment. The lower half houses the headquarters of Random House Books; the publisher’s owner, German media conglomerate Bertelsmann, has a lease on the site until at least 2098, records show. Atop the publishing offices, meanwhile, is the $350 million 107-unit Park Imperial condominium, which offers views of the Hudson River and Central Park at 230 W. 56th St. way. at $425 million, according to dispatches. Some recalcitrant landlords have resisted Related’s pleas, and to this day one appears to control one of the tower’s two commercial spaces. The cheapest unit in the building earlier this month was a one-bedroom unit at $1.65 million. The Imperial Park, popular with investors, also offered several rentals, starting with a two-bedroom apartment at $5,500 per month, according to StreetEasy.
200 W. 56th St.
The massive 1927 building on this site was originally built as a 1,600-room hotel, and it continues to serve in that capacity, although there are three accommodation options today. The best known, the Park Central Hotel, whose awning beckons at 870 Seventh Ave., has more than 700 rooms. Then there’s WestHouse, which appears to be an upscale offering and can be accessed at 201 W. 55th St. The 30-story site also includes Manhattan’s first timeshare vacation property, The Manhattan Club, which sold split memberships. The club, developed by Ian Bruce Eichner – who bought the entire property in 1995 following bankruptcy for $60 million – has faced several disgruntled timeshares over the years. Some sued Eichner, claiming that the rooms they sought to use were unavailable because they had been offered to the general public. In 2014, the state attorney general halted sales there due to the alleged fraud. The Manhattan Club seems like a hotel today, with rooms starting at $206 a night.
Blackstone, a private equity firm that has purchased dormitories, apartment buildings and power lines since it began investing in real estate in 1991, bought this 1950s office building in 2014 from Vornado Realty Trust for $601 million, records show. It was a somewhat unusual game, as offices make up less than 1% of Blackstone’s global portfolio. But the company renovated the lobby to improve the tower’s amenity offerings, including removing a floor to create a double-height atrium. Yet L Brands, the former parent company of Victoria’s Secret, which occupies 418,000 square feet, plans to move to 55 Water St. after major restructuring and a name change to Bath and Body Works. The other major office tenant, law firm Davis & Gilbert, plans to head a few blocks south to 1675 Broadway. Meanwhile, Blackstone’s loan is in the hands of Green Loan Services, which manages distressed debt. A message left for Green about the status of this effort was not returned.