By, Lois Weiss
AFRICA Israel USA is lucking out big time.
The company that bought the landmarked old New York Times building at 229 W. 43rd St. has signed its first lease – and it’s a whopper.
The deal is for a hunk of retail space consisting of portions of the ground, lower level and basement and totals a stunning 59,294 square feet – 4,406 feet on the ground floor, 20,349 feet in the basement and 34,539 feet in a subterranean section.
Sources say other retailers are negotiating for the remaining 121,000 feet, which features entrances on both 43rd and 44th streets.
The lease signed Feb. 11 with TSX Operating is for its Running Subway division, an entertainment group responsible for events like “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex NYC in SoHo and “Bodies. . .The Exhibition” at the South Street Seaport. Other works are in development.
The space could become a new theater or simply an exhibition space, though permits filed at the Buildings Department don’t specify its future use.
Cora Cahan, head of The New 42nd Street, the non-profit that runs revitalized area theaters, said, “If they have tenants or tenants for the retail space on the ground floor that’s major news and good news in this climate.”
Cahan noted the space previously held The Times’ massive printing presses and had very high ceilings but also contained many columns.
The asking rent through Robert K. Futterman & Associates on CoStar was $275 a square foot for the ground floor and $60 a foot for the lower level. The rent on the 52,115-foot basement had been “negotiable.”
Futterman repped both sides of the “very” long-term deal.
AI USA bought the building from Tishman Speyer Properties in 2007 for $525 million. Last year it sold a 49 percent interest to China Sonangol, a Hong Kong based investment fund, for $50 million, plus the assumption of half the property’s $720 million in debt.
Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post reported that Africa Israel Investments has written down the value of the 770,000-square-foot former New York Times building by 53 percent, to $315 million, from $671 million in the fourth quarter.