Rockefeller Group abandons Times Square project

Midtown-based Comjem assembling big parcel a block north of Witkoff site

Nov.November 14, 2014 12:10 PM

The Japan-based Rockefeller Group Development gave up long-held plans to build another skyscraper at Seventh Avenue between 48th and 49th streets with the sale of two parcels for $49 million, city records show.

Rockefeller Group sold the properties to Midtown-based Comjem Associates, headed by Jack Cohen, which has assembled a large site at the northeast corner of 48th Street and Seventh Avenue just north of the city’s second most valuable retail shopping district, the Times Square “bow-tie.”

Developers are reconstructing the center of Times Square as asking rents have skyrocketed in recent years to more than $2,300 per square foot on the ground, the most recent retail report from the Real Estate Board of New York shows. Other sites under development include Vornado Realty Trust’s Marriott Marquee at 1535 Broadway and Witkoff Group’s 701 Seventh Avenue, at the corner of 47th Street.

One retail broker who is active in the area, Jeffrey Roseman, of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, expected a developer of the Comjem site would ask between $1,000 to $1,500 per foot. He was not involved with this transaction.

“Retailers are going north of the bow-tie because there is more product up there, and still you capture the hotel, theater and restaurant [crowd],” he said. “Times Square is expanding, just as Soho and Meatpacking are expanding.”

In the Comjem deal, which went into contract in June and closed on October 20, the firm purchased the six-floor building at 152 West 49th Street for $30 million. The 22,634-square-foot residential and commercial building has an additional 44,000 square feet of air rights.

The second site at 163-165 West 48th Street sold for $19 million, which is a four-story building and a one-story building with a total of 47,880 square feet of development rights.

Cohen already owns 721 Seventh Avenue, a 13-story building at the corner of 48th Street, just north of the Times Square “bow-tie,” which it acquired in 2012 for $8.5 million. Cohen also owns the adjacent 167 West 48th Street, which it acquired in October 2013 for $8.25 million, according to city records.

The four properties together have a total of 173,446 square feet of development rights, an analysis of information on data site PropertyShark shows.

Comjem borrowed $60 million from the German Aareal Capital to fund the purchase, property records show.

The Rockefeller Group is a major landlord in Midtown, particularly along Sixth Avenue. It developed the 1 million square foot 745 Seventh Avenue in 2001, and owns partially assembled sites between 47th and 48th street. A spokesperson for Rockefeller declined to comment. Comjem did not respond to a request for comment.

The firm owned one of the parcels it sold to Comjem since at least 1981, when it purchased 152 West 49th Street from Sol Goldman, city records show.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of the firm Comjem Associates. The name has been corrected.

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