Stefan Soloviev’s office tower at 9 West 57th Street is approaching maximum capacity after an investment firm signed a lease for three floors there earlier this week.
The 50-story tower — sometimes called the Solow Building, after Soloviev’s late father, Sheldon — has been one of the major success stories in New York’s office market this year. But it’s a far cry from the trophy towers that have dominated the city recently.
The tower’s success reminded me of something Related Companies CEO Jeff Blau said in June. “There is a big difference between a 50-year-old, well-taken-care-of building, and a new building,” Blau said.
Well, 9W (as Soloviev calls it) is less than a year away from its 50th birthday. Yet, strangely enough, it may have never been healthier, at least in terms of rents and occupancy, if not in cachet.
The building’s location — in the easily accessible Plaza District with views of Central Park — helped cement it among the city’s most coveted addresses for much of its history. It was a primary setting for KKR’s infamous acquisition of RJR Nabisco, memorialized in the classic book “Barbarians at the Gate.”
But the building’s occupancy sat around 50 percent for years. Solow wanted brand name tenants at top-notch rents, and stubbornly turned away potential tenants who didn’t meet his standards or couldn’t afford his lofty prices.
Soloviev has been as ambitious as his father about rents, saying he wants the building to command “the highest rents in the city.” With an ask of $180 annually per square foot (for the higher floors), Soloviev seems to have achieved that. The difference is Soloviev has been able to fill the building while charging such rents.
The secret seems to be Soloviev’s upgrades — he installed an 11,000-square-foot fitness area, modern conference facilities, and two pools — and his hands-on approach to tenant relations. Lessees can text him directly with concerns or suggestions related to the building. Soloviev said some recent upgrades came in response to tenant suggestions. Not bad for a guy who has outwardly expressed more interest in farming than in Manhattan real estate.
Can every office owner provide the same tenant experience? Probably not. But it shows even aging buildings can thrive in the competitive landscape of Manhattan.
What we’re thinking about: New York Magazine published a list earlier this week of “The Most Powerful New Yorkers You’ve Never Heard Of.” But the list was conspicuously devoid of real estate players. Is that because we’ve heard of them? Maybe people in real estate have, but the average New Yorker certainly hasn’t. Which industry insiders do you think belong on the list? Send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Residential: The priciest residential closing Friday was $6.3 million for a townhouse at 324 West 22nd Street in Chelsea.
Commercial: The most expensive commercial closing of the day was $10 million for a mixed-use building at 163 East 69th Street in Lenox Hill.
New to the Market
The priciest residence to hit the market Friday was a townhouse at 245 West 18th Street in Chelsea asking $16.5 million Douglas Elliman has the listing.
The largest new building filing of the day was for a 73,000 square-foot residential building at 929A Rogers Place in the Longwood neighborhood in the Bronx. GF55 Architects filed the permit application.
A thing we’ve learned: Robert De Niro prepared for his role in Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” by actually driving a taxi in the city. A photo of the actor’s TLC license resurfaced on social media this week after the release of the tenth installment in the Scorsese-De Niro partnership, “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
Elsewhere in New York
— A New York landlord was hit with $4 million in fines in response to “horror movie” conditions at his properties, Gothamist reports. The man behind the camera, landlord Daniel Ohebshalom, racked up violations at properties in Hell’s Kitchen and Washington Heights. Apart from disgusting conditions — including fungus on the walls and collapsing ceilings — Ohebshalom turned rent-stabilized units into illegal hotels after evicting the tenants.
— The City launched the first installment of its new “12 Hours…” multimedia series this week. The project will explore 12 New York neighborhoods as they’ve evolved over the years. This week, the publication looked at FiDi, a neighborhood that has seen a huge influx of young people in recent years. With several major residential conversions in the works (and other favorable dynamics), that trend seems likely to continue.