Small-Obsessed Firm Takes First Retail Lease At Big Times Tower

Japanese retailer Muji has signed the first retail lease at the future New York Times headquarters on Eighth Avenue. The retailer, with products supposedly based on a “philosophy of simplicity, minimalism and consumer functionality,” has taken 5,000 square feet in the tower for its American flagship.

The store, according to a release from Times tower developer Forest City Ratner, will overlook “the moss-and-birch-tree garden on the ground floor,” and will open in time for the 2007 holiday season.

Full release after the jump.

- Tom Acitelli

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 5, 2007

Forest City Ratner Companies Signs Innovative

Japanese Retailer to Open U.S. Flagship Store in New York Times Building

MUJI First Retail Tenant in New Renzo Piano-designed Tower

NEW YORK–Monday, March 5, 2007–Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) announced that MUJI, the environmentally conscious retailer based in Japan, has signed a lease for its first flagship store in the Americas at The New York Times Building. The store will open in time for the 2007 holiday season, serving thousands of workers in The New York Times Building at 620 Eighth Avenue as well as the half-million New Yorkers and visitors who pass through Times Square every day. MUJI is leasing approximately 5,000 square feet along 40th Street overlooking the moss-and-birch-tree garden on the ground floor.

Bruce Ratner, President and CEO of FCRC, said, “We are honored that MUJI–a retailer known the world over–has chosen to put its American flagship store in The New York Times Building. I’m especially pleased that a global pioneer in environmentally friendly retail practices will be a centerpiece of our retail mix. MUJI’s dedication to useful and well-designed products makes them a perfect fit for the elegant and environmentally advanced tower Renzo Piano has designed.”

Hiroyoshi Azami, President of MUJI U.S.A. LIMITED, the U.S. subsidiary of MUJI’s corporate entity, commented, “We feel that the ideal location for our American flagship store is at the crossroads of the world–and that describes The New York Times Building exactly. MUJI products are known as ‘essential elements of living,’ and are based on a philosophy of simplicity, minimalism and consumer functionality. We look forward to sharing both our products and our philosophy with New York City and America at large.”

Derived from the Japanese phrase “mujirushi ryohin,” MUJI’s name means “no-brand quality goods.” The company, Ryohin Keikaku Co., Ltd., is dedicated to bringing high-quality consumer goods to the market place at reasonable prices. The MUJI flagship store in The New York Times Building will feature distinctive stationery, housewares, furniture, fabrics, clothing and personal accessories.

MUJI emphasizes use of original and innovative materials and efficient clear-cellophane packaging to reduce costs. It places a premium on using recycled products and avoiding unnecessary waste in manufacturing. The results are streamlined, environmentally sound and extremely attractive products.

MUJI’s philosophy of marrying environmentally sound practices to exceptional design follows the ethos of The New York Times Building, which strives to create a healthful environment for the building’s workforce. The MUJI store will overlook the internal moss garden that will be visible from the street, open to the sky and accessible at the ground level. The building also features a double-skin curtain wall that incorporates ceramic rods as a sunscreen.

The renowned Japanese interior design architect Takashi Sugimoto, principal of Superpotato Co. Ltd.–the international firm known for its retail interiors–will design the MUJI store so that it is seamlessly integrated with the dramatic New York Times Building designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, in association with FXFOWLE Architects.

MUJI’s products are considered sleek yet simple and have attracted devoted customers in Japan and around the world. Some of its products are currently available at the MoMA Design Stores and its wall-mounted CD player, designed by award-winning Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa, is in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection.

“Finally, a flagship Muji store in midtown,” said acclaimed New York graphic designer Michael Bierut, partner at Pentagram, who has designed the wayfinding system in the new Times tower. “New York designaholics have been waiting a long time for this. Now I won’t have to fly to Tokyo to get my Muji watches.”

Since its founding in 1980 with just 40 products, MUJI has expanded around the world and now sells more than 7,000 top-quality, competitively priced products. It has 318 stores in Japan, 69 stores in other countries across Asia and Europe, and 4,000 employees worldwide. Ryohin Keikaku Co., Ltd. is a publicly owned company traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange (symbol: 7453) with $1.3 billion in sales in 2006.

MUJI was represented by Naomi Okada of the New York City-based Okada International in the lease negotiations. FCRC represented itself.

The 52-story New York Times Building, located between 40th and 41st Streets on Eighth Avenue, is currently completing construction and is scheduled to open in Fall 2007. When finished, it will be topped by a 300-foot steel rooftop masthead bringing the building’s height to 1,142 feet.

FCRC owns 700,000 square feet of The New York Times Building from floors 28 through 52 as well as 21,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space. The New York Times Company owns the rest of the building, which will serve as its corporate headquarters beginning later this year.

Forest City Ratner Companies owns and operates 35 properties in the New York metropolitan area–including 4.4 million square feet of office space. FCRC is an affiliate of Forest City Enterprises, Inc., a $7.8-billion NYSE-listed (ticker: FCE-A & FCE-B) national real estate company.