Leasing brokers can search CoStar for a host of amenities for their office clients: balconies, a fitness center or even an on-site manager. A regulation-sized basketball court is not one of them. That’s not a deal-breaker for most prospective tenants, but it is when the client is the National Basketball Players Association.
After shooting around ideas like building a full-length court on the roof of a skyscraper near Rockefeller Center and in a basement near Times Square, brokers Arthur Mirante and Martin Cottingham brought the NBPA to the Durst Organization’s 1133 Avenue of the Americas, where the union could hold court in the double-height space RCA once used as a recording studio.
The 20-year, 48,000-square-foot lease not only helped the NBPA score its long sought-after Midtown headquarters, but it netted the brokers a nomination for the Real Estate Board of New York’s Most Ingenious Deal of the Year Award.
The submission, entitled “A Slam Dunk: Moving the National Basketball Players Association to Midtown,” is one of nine deals under consideration in the lease category.
The Real Deal reviewed several of these transactions for an inside look at how some of the city’s biggest deals get done.
The story goes back to 2014, when the NBA players union tapped Michele Roberts to be its new executive director.
The union owned a roughly 30,000-square-foot building at 125 Lenox Avenue in Harlem where it operated out of 10,000 less-than-optimal square feet.
“They wanted to act quickly so that this move would be symbolic of the new leadership at the NBPA,” the brokers wrote.
The assignment presented some challenges. In addition to space for a regulation-sized court, the union also needed a separate entrance for superstar athletes, who required extra security.
The NBPA had identified a residential development in Downtown Brooklyn that would provide space for their offices. The union brought its brokers to negotiated the deal, but when the project fell apart it was up to the new team of Mirante and Cottingham to find a new space.
When the DoBro deal fell apart, the Avison brokers suggested searching for a new headquarters in Midtown.
But the NBPA instructed them to look for an alternative site in Brooklyn after previous brokers had told the union that Manhattan was not a viable option.
The NBPA was told a separate entrance for players was unrealistic, and even if the union could find a building with 20-foot-high ceilings that could accommodate a regulation basketball court, it would be prohibitively expensive.
“This would certainly not be a searchable option on CoStar,” the brokers wrote.
The Avison team started started with a list of 54 potential sites. Of those, they visited 40 locations and created financial analyses for a dozen of them, eventually carving the list down to six possibilities.
Mirante and Cottingham found the existing spaces in Brooklyn unsuitable, and new ground-up construction didn’t fit the NBPA’s timeline. The brokers started looking at roofs, in basements and at buildings where slabs could be removed.
All the while, the brokers refused to accept the idea that Midtown simply wouldn’t work.
“Listening to their client’s true desires, in spite of the directive to search only in Brooklyn, the team ran a parallel search in Midtown,” they explained in the submission.
Avison identified possibilities such as Mitsui Fudosan’s 1251 Avenue of the Americas, where they considered building a basketball court on the roof. They also scouted Paramount Group’s 1633 Broadway, which had a basement option.
Realizing they were getting involved in matters that reached beyond their market expertise, Mirante and Cottingham brought in a team of consultants. The consultants included niche architects who could reroute a fuel line to allow a court to be built. Acoustical specialists mapped out spaces where pickup basketball games wouldn’t inconvenience other tenants in the building.
The team landed on 1133 Avenue of the Americas as its top choice, but Durst was considering a larger, multi-floor tenant for the space the NBPA was looking at. Mirante and Cottingham kept in contact with Durst, though, and when the previous deal fell through the NBPA in September inked a 100-page lease for 48,000 square feet in the building for 20 years.
The Final Score
The players union retained Avison Young’s investment sales team to market its Harlem headquarters, and was reportedly in contract to sell the property for $21 million.
That’s about six times what the union paid when it bought the building back in 2007. At the time Mirante and Cottingham submitted their deal for the contest, Avison’s project management team was overseeing the build-out, which they wrote “hopefully will delight the superstar members.”
“The NBPA, LeBron James, Chis Paul, Kobe Bryant and their colleagues are coming to Midtown Manhattan after all,” they concluded.
REBNY will announce the Ingenious Deal award winners Tuesday, April 12 during a ceremony at 101 Park Avenue.