Bryant Park

Whole Foods, others mull space near Bryant Park

October 14, 2013
Daniel Geiger, Crain's

The Bank of America Tower and other office properties overlooking Bryant Park, where high-end retail is finally emerging.   Photo: Buck Ennis

For years, retail space around Bryant Park has lived in the shadow of two of the city's priciest retail districts, Fifth Avenue and Times Square, nearby. Courtesy largely of the efforts of one big landlord, that may now be changing.

Whole Foods, the high-end grocery chain that has become one of the leading emporiums for organic produce in Manhattan, is mulling a lease for 36,000 square feet in the base of 1095 Sixth Ave. on the building's ground and second floor. The location could be a first-of-its-kind concept for the company, which sources say is planning to have a store that focuses on prepared foods and eating stations geared to diners and not just shoppers. That lease is not yet done, but sources familiar with the deal say it could be completed within the next month.

News of the possible deal comes after the landlord, private equity giant the Blackstone Group, spent over two years and tens of millions of dollars building a group of glass cubes with a total of 75,000 square feet of retail space just west of its office tower at 1095 Sixth Ave. Together with space it has gut renovated and is leasing in the base of 1095 Sixth Ave. and also a nearby office property it owns on the corner of West 40th Street and Sixth Avenue, 1065 Sixth Ave., Blackstone has created an unprecedented block of retail in an area that has never before had such a collection of grand storefronts.

The effort is paying off. During the summer, SRS Real Estate Partners, a retail brokerage company that represents Blackstone at the three properties, inked a deal to have the high-end gym Equinox take about 30,000 square feet in the basement level of the cubes, whose address is 120 W. 42nd St. In addition to the Whole Foods deal, Sushi Samba, a a mash-up of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisines is taking over 20,000 square feet in the cubes to open its third Manhattan location. It will be joined there by two other concepts it has launched that will get their first outposts in the city--a restaurant called Duck and Waffle, and a bar named Sugarcane.

Meanwhile, high-end watch store Tourneau, is in talks to take about 3,000 square feet at 1095 Sixth Ave. on the southwest corner of West 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue while the gym Blink, a discounted version of its higher end parent company Equinox, is in talks to take 20,000 square feet in the basement of 1065 Sixth Ave.

All told, the deals promise to bring in amenities that many real estate experts felt were overdue in a neighborhood with such a huge population of office workers. Rental rates for the transactions were not immediately clear, but Blackstone is asking for rents as high as in the mid-$600s per square foot for the most prominent in its collection of Bryant Park spaces, the corner location in 1095 Sixth Ave. that Tourneau is looking to take.

A spokesman at the Blackstone Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the deals. Whole Foods also would not comment on its potential lease at the property. Patrick Smith, a principal at SRS Real Estate who is a veteran of leasing large blocks of retail and led the effort to fill the tens of thousands of square feet of retail space for Blackstone could not be reached.