It Pays to be Iconic in Manhattan

Eliot Brown explains the starchitectural math driving a Manhattan developer to demolish their existing Park Avenue office tower in order to make room for the city's next architectural gem.
April 27, 2012, 6am PDT | Alesia Hsiao
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Last week, L&L Holding Co. began the process of seeking a top architectural firm to design a new tower to replace their existing office building along Park Ave. David Levinson, L&L's chief executive hopes to replace the 1950's boxy tower with a more iconic design in order to increase rental revenue, and is prepared to spend $750 million to do so.

"While older, unremarkable buildings similar to the current 425 Park Ave. tend to fetch annual rents in the $50-to-$70 per square foot range, top architectural icons [like] the Seagram Building at 375 Park Ave. easily win tenants paying over $100 a foot."

The plan will have to overcome the challenging financing environment to proceed. However, Levinson has faith that a great architectural design will bring investors and renters to the building.

More challenging may be the quirky zoning restrictions attached to the site: "complicating the redevelopment for 425 Park and other buildings on Park Avenue is a quirk of the city's zoning code that would force Mr. Levinson to build a smaller tower if he demolished the existing building in its entirety. To avoid this, Mr. Levinson plans to leave in place the steel skeleton for the bottom 25% of the building, the minimum required," states Brown.

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Published on Monday, April 23, 2012 in The Wall Street Journal
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