Upscale restaurants are must-have anchors for top NYC towers

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What do 1271 Sixth Ave., 280 Park Avenue, luxury condo tower 53 West 53 and the Waterline Square residential complex have in common?

To say nothing of sprawling Manhattan West and Art Deco rental landmark 70 Pine St. — and soon, 425 Park Ave. and probably 550 Madison Ave. as well?

The connecting link is restaurants.

Mostly big-name restaurants with major operators and chefs. Developers have never lured so many glamorous eateries at one time to lure tenants and burnish their projects’ images.

There were always a few glamorous restaurants at marquee Midtown locations — the old Four Seasons at the Seagram Building, for example. But the party has spread everywhere.

“Everyone’s talking about amenities, and one way to amenitize your building is with food,” said Peter Turchin, a CBRE vice-chairman who represents owners. “Restaurants are a big part of that, especially when a restaurant caters to the type of tenants in the building.”

Owner Gero Fasano at his Northern Italian restaurant Fasano.
Gero Fasano opened his eponymous dining hub at 280 Park Ave.
Brian Zak/NY Post

He said, “At Fasano at 280 Park Ave., all the tenants in the building eat there.”

Turchin declined to name the tenants, but the website of SL Green — which owns the tower with Vornado — lists Cohen & Steers, Franklin Templeton Companies, Harvest Partners, Viking Global Investors and Antares Capital.

“Everyone’s talking about amenities, and one way to amenitize your building is with food.”

Peter Turchin, a vice-chairman at CBRE

Classy restaurants have become so important to both new developments and redevelopments of older properties that Turchin is holding space for yet-to-be-named eateries at 295 Fifth Ave. and 360 Park Ave., both of which are undergoing capital upgrades and repositioning.

“We have about 10,000 square feet of retail at each building but we’re aiming for restaurants — real restaurants,” not fast-casual ones, Turchin said.

“I think the key, as an agent, is finding the types of restaurants that will work with office tenants in the building. For example, a few years ago, we put Quality Bistro” – a huge, modern-American place much larger than a bistro – “at 1345 Sixth Avenue as part of a major renovation. And, again, the tenants eat there all the time.”

The phenomenon is most recently epitomized at 1271 Sixth Ave., the former Time + Life tower where owner Rockefeller Group aimed to bring in a powerful and successful restaurant from the start of its $600 million redesign.

Interior of people dining at Avra Madison on 60th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
Avra is opening its third Manhattan restaurant at 1271 Sixth Ave.
Stephen Yang

Avra Group just launched its third and largest Manhattan outpost of the Greek seafood brand there. Staff from office tenants including MLB, Latham & Watkins and Bessemer Trust have already making the 16,000-square-foot venue their regular canteen.

Although an Avra partner told us his company had invested more than $10 million in the project, he credited Rock Group with providing enormous help in getting it off the ground.

The lease is of the hybrid type that includes both rent and revenue-sharing.

Chef Daniel Boulud poses after a ribbon cutting for his new restaurant Le Pavillon.
Tasty office anchors like Daniel Boulud’s Le Pavillon at SL Green’s One Vanderbilt help attract top tenants.
Reuters

Daniel Boulud’s Le Pavillon made a similar splash at SL Green’s One Vanderbilt when it opened early last year. Coincidentally or not, both One Vanderbilt and 1271 Sixth are 100% leased.

Except for at the Seagram Buildings, many past places inside office towers were oriented more toward tourists than to tenants, such as La Fonda del Sol at the former Time + Life building and Top of the Sixes at 666 Fifth Ave. (which is now 660 Fifth).

“A restaurant does a lot more for a building than a bank branch. It’s more about the operator than about the rent.”

Peter Turchin, a vice-chairman at CBRE

Today’s developers are increasingly picky about which types of eateries belong in their buildings. L&L Holding Co. chief executive David W. Levinson recently scrapped a deal with Eleven Madison Park’s Daniel Humm when the chef decided to make a restaurant at 425 Park Ave. all vegan.

“We didn’t want a vegan restaurant there. We want a place where our customers will come back several times a month,” Levinson told us recently.

He’s now in advanced talks with Jean-Georges Vongerichten — who surely will have a more popularly-attuned menu — to take the tower’s 10,000 square feet.

Levinson knows the value of a marquee-name restaurant tenant. He brought Nobu to 195 Broadway several years ago, redefining the landmark where food offerings previously were a cafeteria and a Starbucks.

“A restaurant does a lot more for a building than a bank branch,” Turchin chuckled. “It’s more about the operator than about the rent.”

Exterior of 53 West 53rd Street.
A sprawling Asian restaurant, aptly dubbed 53, has opened at the base of 53 W. 53rd St., a condo tower that grandly soars above MoMA.
Hayes Davidson

The phenomenon now includes residential properties. A massive Asian restaurant called 53 just opened at the base of the 53 W. 53rd St. condo skyscraper; the Cipriani organization’s sprawling Harry’s Table by Cipriani market, which includes a large sit-down restaurant, opened last week at Waterline Square.

“Rose Associates did a wonderful job converting 70 Pine St. from offices to luxury apartments, but without Crown Shy on the ground floor and Saga on the top floors, it would be another jumbo rental tower in the public eye.”

Anonymous broker

A broker who specializes in the Fidi area said and asked not to be named said, “Rose Associates did a wonderful job converting 70 Pine St. from offices to luxury apartments, but without Crown Shy on the ground floor and Saga on the top floors, it would be another jumbo rental tower in the public eye.”

The strategy isn’t a cure-all. Not even a very good and popular new restaurant can rescue a property with insufficient other appeal.

Blackstone recently put a $308 million loan on 1740 Broadway at West 56th Street into special servicing.

The tower will soon be empty of office tenants despite the success of Iris, a middle-Eastern ground-floor restaurant that won good reviews and is almost always busy.

Blackstone is said to have overpaid for the building and the loan terms left it unable to reduce high asking rents on a dull part of Broadway.

But the property inevitably will fill up once again, and tenants will be very happy to have Iris in their midst.

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