Aby Rosen’s plan for the Chrysler Building is still under wraps, but one thing is clear: Its longtime retail tenants were not part of it.
The arcade space of the Chrysler Building, now largely vacant, used to be home to a collection of mom-and-pop stores that answered the daily needs of the building’s stream of commuters.
A barber shop, a shoeshine shop, a dry cleaner, an optometrist and a locksmith have all left in recent months, and Friday was the final day for a deli that serves inexpensive yet quality sandwiches for customers on-the-go. Storage and gym facilities of the law firm Blank Rome are also no longer there.
Of the vacated tenants, Midtown Barbers shut its doors at the end of January and has relocated to a storefront on 52nd Street and Third Avenue under the new moniker Manhattan Barber Shop. Dr. Alan Kurfirst’s practice, Madison Avenue Eye Care, moved out the first week of March to a space about a block away.
It’s unclear whether the shoe shiner, deli or cleaning service have set up shop elsewhere. Lexler Deli did not answer the phone Monday. Alco Lock & Safe has left the space at 405 Lexington Avenue and no longer has a retail location. Rosen’s RFR Holding did not respond to requests for comment.
RFR bought the ground lease of the famous skyscraper with partner Sigma Holding GmbH for $151 million a year ago from Tishman Speyer and an Abu Dhabi government fund. The Cooper Union owns the land and RFR and Sigma pay the school an annual ground rent of $32.5 million, which is due to reset to $41 million in 2028.
RFR took out a $30 million mortgage from Mack Real Estate Credit Strategies last year, according to public records. A source said that RFR gave the arcade tenants notice in June 2019 that their leases would not be renewed because the owner wanted to “restore, renovate.”
Last April, Rosen offered a glimpse of his plans for the Chrysler Building in interviews with various media. He told Bloomberg that he plans on bringing back the Cloud Club venue and expanding amenities for the public and tenants on the arcade level, including restaurants, hair salons and shoeshine shops, but no hotel.
He also told the New York Post that he was thinking about a food court and a new observation deck and was in talks with the Major Food Group and restaurateur Stephen Starr about restaurants. A sign facing East 43rd Street says RFR is “reimagining” the building and promises “a new retail arcade, tenant amenities, concierge services, destination dining and entertainment, and reinvention of the Cloud Club.” Full floors are offered for lease.
The law firm Blank Rome was the first to clear out of its arcade space, in April 2019. In fact it vacated its 130,000 square feet of space in the entire building, including in five office floors.
Martin Luskin, a Blank Rome partner involved in the office lease, said the firm has been in the building for about 40 years. Though they were engaged in talks with the Chrysler Building’s previous owners about renewing, he said that the firm ended up gravitating to offices that were “more technologically current and efficient space-wise.”
Iconic though it may be, the skyscraper — which for 11 months was the tallest in the world — dates to 1930. It does have the advantage of a passageway from the arcade level to Grand Central Terminal under Lexington Avenue at East 43rd Street.
Blank Rome moved to 1271 Avenue of the Americas in May 2019. Luskin said that their new office was able to accomodate a roughly 30 percent growth in headcount despite being roughly the same area. He attributed that to a gut renovation.
Some of Blank Rome’s old footprint at the Chrysler Building — which ranged from the arcade to half of the 14th floor, the entire floors on level 15, 16, and 22 through 24 — has been re-leased, an inside source confirmed.
Tenants still in place include coworking company Spaces, Amazon Go, the Creative Artists Agency and law firm Moses & Singer.
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