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Four Things You Didn't Know About Rockefeller Center

New York Office

Tonight, tens of thousands of people will converge on Rockefeller Center to celebrate the 82nd annual lighting of the world-famous Christmas tree. Here are four things you didn't know about the Norway spruce's urban backdrop.

1) Hundreds of rooftop solar panels power those 45,000 LED lights.


Rockefeller Center owner Tishman Speyer (click the video above to see co-CEOs Jerry Speyer and Rob Speyer at last year's lighting) has 300 solar panels installed on the roof of 45 Rockefeller Center to power the lights. (The building is also the HQ of the real estate giant, who's owned the complex with the Lester Crown family since 2000.) This year’s tree, from Bloomsburg, PA, is 85 feet high, the AP reports, and after Christmas, the tree will return to Pennsylvania, where it'll be turned into real estate—its wood will be used to build homes for Habitat for Humanity

2) The tradition started when Rockefeller Center only had a few buildings.


The formal Christmas tree lighting began the same year the 70-story 30 Rockefeller Plaza delivered, in 1933 (above, what the site looked like then). Two weeks ago, The New York Times reported that the Rockefeller family—which has had its offices, known as Room 5600, at 30 Rock since the Great Depression—is moving out of its iconic home for 1 Rockefeller Plaza. In the '30s, over 40,000 people were employed in construction of the mega-project, which initially had 14 buildings in 1939, according to Tishman Speyer; it's now 19 unique commercial buildings in Midtown, encompassing 7M SF—1.5M of that shopping and dining—and boasts 15,550 windows. (We’re not counting the little plastic ones that The Lego Store sells at 620 Fifth.)

3) At one time, only Thomas Jefferson’s design topped Rockefeller Center.


In 1976, the American Institute of Architects declared Rockefeller Center the second-most significant piece of architecture in America, just behind the University of Virginia (above), according to the complex's history page. Its original buildings were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987, and the complex nabbed ULI’s first-ever Heritage Award—the org’s most prestigious property honor—in 1989.

4) The number of people who visit the complex each day equals the population of Sacramento.


Tishman Speyer reports that approximately 125 million people visit Rockefeller Center annually—that’s 470,000 on an average weekday. Among its attractions: Radio City Music Hall, Top of the Rock (above), NBC Studios, The Rainbow Room, and the Prometheus and Atlas statues. And tenants want to be there too: Overall, the Sixth Avenue and Rockefeller Center corridors led Midtown for Q3 absorption, at 545k SF with 600k SF of leases signed, according to CBRE, which clocks the average rental rate at $83.04/SF and availability at 9.5%. Some big leases signed this year include White & Case (440k SF, 1221 Avenue of the Americas); MUFG Union Bank (210k SF, 1221 A of A); First Republic Bank (140k SF renewal and expansion, 1230 A of A); Haynes and Boone (38k SF expansion, 30 Rock); and Trammo (20k SF, 1 Rockefeller Plaza), according to CompStak.