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November 21, 2008



There’s never a dull moment at the W&H Properties-owned Empire State Building, which has been undergoing perhaps the largest upgrade program in Manhattan—the $500M top-to-bottom, inside-and-out renovation of the landmark space. We dropped by this week to get an update from the building’s director of leasing, CBRE’s Stephen Eynon.


From reworking the exterior to improving house infrastructure like the HVAC, corridors and restrooms, the owner is leveraging the building’s historic charm with the added goal of making it more effective for modern corporate users, Steve says. It tapped architects Beyer Blinder Belle, the force behind former Rockefeller Center, Chrysler Building and Grand Central Terminal rehabs, to redesign the space. Renovations started in late 2006, and the lobby should be completed by March.


The first thing you notice walking in the building is the extensive scaffolding covering the lobby (above, you’ve probably realized, is a post-rehab rendering). Steve notes that the intricate Art Deco ceiling is being recreated by hand, and will be the most striking part of the building. A more prominent, central concierge desk will be located at the 34th Street entrance, as well as a satellite concierge desk at the 33rd Street entrance, which will allow separate tenant and visitor space in the lobby.


Leasing overhaul is also part of the rebranding. Before CBRE stepped in two years ago, there were over 500 tenants averaging 1,600 SF each. Through lease rollovers and relocations, Steve has been consolidating the space into blocks aimed at larger users—and now there are only 320 tenants. Over the summer, Coty took 90k SF of space on the 14th and 15th floors, which used to house 42 tenants. Skanska also took 24k SF on the 32nd floor, once home to 12 different companies. Steve is currently closing 8,900-SF and 11k-SF leases, but he wouldn’t divulge the goods.


The space fusion has also led to a unique opportunity in the building—the largest block of office space at such a height in Manhattan. The 27k-SF 61st floor offers a 360-degree view of the city, rivaled only by the tower’s observation desk, Steve says. Even though he’s been consolidating at work, Steve’s been multiplying at home—he and his wife Hope are expecting twin boys in mid-December, joining older sis Mabel. He was also recently honored by the Boy Scouts of America as the “Good Scout of 2008” for raising $75k to send inner-city kids to summer camp.


Morton’s steak, that is. Last night we stopped by the grand opening of the steakhouse’s newest (and 80th) location at 339 Adams St. in downtown Brooklyn. Mayor Mike and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz were on hand for the celebration, which also raised money for the Brooklyn Friends School’s Horizons Academic Enrichment Program through a silent auction.


Marty is center, with (landlord) Muss Development’s James Whelan, Jason Muss, principal Joshua Muss and Morton’s CEO Tom Baldwin. Joshua tells us the restaurant was a grand slam for the borough, considering the bustling location and visitor potential from the Marriott next door. The crowd was good practice for him, as he’s having a family reunion on Thanksgiving with 200 relatives (no typo).


Marty didn’t sell Morton’s a piece of the Brooklyn Bridge, but he did present Tom, sales & marketing manager Lola Kent, president Edie Ames and GM Tom Roken with a nice replica. He’s quite a fan of the restaurant, and gave us his top picks: salmon, macaroni and cheese, hamburgers and carrot cake. And he’ll soon have even more Morton’s to choose from—Tom Baldwin tells us that the restaurant is aggressively searching for additional opportunities around New York City, in addition to its Brooklyn and 551 Fifth Ave. locations.

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