By Steve Cuozzo
March 21, 2021
In a breakthrough for closely watched 425 Park Ave., global private-equity firm Hellman & Friedman has signed a lease for two full floors — the first new office commitment there in more than two years.
The firm will move from Lever House across the avenue later this year. The 15-year, 27,800 square-foot lease, although modest in size, marks a big step for the Foster + Partners-designed, 47-story tower crowned by a trident of 136-feet-tall, illuminated fins.
The leasing needle was paused at 331,000 square feet since January 2019, when Ken Griffin’s Citadel added 124,000 square feet to an earlier agreement. The tower has 690,000 square feet of offices.
The $1 billion project’s fortunes have been viewed as a bellwether for the future of Park Avenue, which lost some big tenants before a recent revival.
Developer David W. Levinson told us two months ago that he expected more than 100,000 square feet of new signings at 425 Park in 2021. He said that due to what’s “clearly not a good market,” he’d “adjusted” lofty rents at 425 Park, but wouldn’t discuss numbers.
Anchor tenant Citadel famously signed to pay more than $300 psf on the top two floors four years ago and is said to be paying plus-or-minus $200 psf on 14 other floors.
Levinson’s L&L Holding Co. developed 425 Park with co-equity partner and co-developer Tokyu Land Corp. and co-managing partner BentallGreenOak.
Times Square’s Marriott Marquis Hotel is going through turbulent times. As we reported last week, it recently fired 850 employees, including its entire food and beverage department — a massacre that resulted in housekeepers voting to unionize for the first time.
The Marquis, the city’s largest hotel, plans to hire an outside company to run its restaurants and bars. Like the few other Times Square hotels that remain open, it’s reeling from the loss of 85 percent of its business.
But Vijay Dandapani, Hotel Association of New York City president, has seen much worse times at the Marquis, which opened in 1985 when Times Square was full of drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes.
“I was there,” Dandapani recalled. “I lived in the neighborhood. Times Square then was not a place you wanted to go.
“It took courage to do this project and it wasn’t profitable for a long time, not until 1997 or ’98. To call them pioneers is to understate the importance of that hotel.”
The Marquis was criticized for its 45-story interior atrium filled with restaurants and stores to keep guests off the mean streets. But its eventual success presaged Times Square’s eventual overall renewal.
Dandapani, meanwhile, is fuming that the federal $1.9 trillion pandemic stimulus bill doesn’t include any relief for the nation’s reeling hotels.
“The industry is on its knees, but we didn’t get a nickel,” he said. “All the talk about vaccinations is fantastic, but right now, we still have only 15 percent occupancy.”
Some 266 of the city’s roughly 700 pre-COVID hotels have yet to reopen, including some of the largest, such as the New York Hilton and the Sheraton New York.
Gov. Cuomo’s rules requiring visitors to the state to quarantine for three days and to be tested for COVID-19 on the fourth day “were an absolute deterrent to anyone coming here,” Dandapani said. “It was like putting the Great Wall of China around the city.”
It was worse before December, when the rule was a 14-day quarantine.
The current rules are to expire on April 1, but only for US travelers — not for international visitors who spend more than domestic ones.
At least three Manhattan pubs that were shuttered by the pandemic have risen from the dead — a cheering mini-trend amidst the gloom of restaurant and bar closings
Latest to return is Theater District favorite The Mean Fiddler, which closed last October. The pub, at 266 W. 47th St., drew the likes of Liam Gallagher, Jimmy Fallon and Bono.
Co-owner Mike McNamee told us at the time that business was off 90 percent and he couldn’t persuade his landlord, Lloyd Goldman’s Building Management, to lower his $38,000-a-month rent.
But he said last week the landlord came back to him and they struck a “strictly confidential” deal that let the Fiddler reopen in time for St. Patrick’s Day.
Also back is the Irish Punt at 40 Exchange Place. The cozy haunt was “open in fits and starts as dining regulations changed over the year,” the Downtown Alliance reported.
But now it’s back serving shepherd’s pie and other pub grub — let’s hope for good.
Craft-beer mecca Pony Bar, at 1444 First Ave. at East 75th Street, similarly popped back up after a hiatus two weeks ago.