Holy Cow! Downtown’s Biggest Leasing Challenge

Only three tenants returned after 9/11—one of these, the Jewish Émigré Association, is rumored to be occupying the 16th floor “by the grace of Tamir Sapir himself,” according to an Observer story from March 2009—and the building has remained about 50 percent vacant.

Along the way, brokers have come and gone and prospective tenants have balked. In 2005, a group of toy companies walked, followed by the Omnicom Group in 2007, and Newsweek in 2008.

In 2006, the Sapirs flirted with the idea of a residential conversion, but opted to remodel the interior instead in the hopes that their prospects would rise along with the then-booming commercial market. They hired Cushman & Wakefield to re-market the building in 2006, and dropped them for CB Richard Ellis a year later.

Neither a new broker nor crystal chandeliers and fountains in the lobby have attracted new tenants. Lawsuits filed by CBRE and Newmark Knight Frank brokers over lost compensation have also done little to enhance the building’s reputation.

In the spring of 2008, the Sapir Organization announced a major facade makeover that would replace the building’s dated blue brick exterior with black granite, as well as update its 50-year-old window panes. It proclaimed the face-lift part of “the re-birth of Downtown New York.”

Of course, Sapir’s financial troubles go back further than 2001. Sapir took out a $24.175 million mortgage with Fleet in December 2000, and was released from the agreement less than three years later after failing to make scheduled payments, according to the termination document filed with the city registrar in March 2003. Salomon Brothers Realty released Sapir from a $10.5 million mortgage in 2001, after it failed to make scheduled payments. In October 2007, the Sapirs refinanced their $145 million mortgage with Wachovia with a $255 million loan.

This winter it looked like the Sapirs’ luck might be turning when the Claremont Preparatory School and a data management company announced two new leases at 100 Church. Claremont’s parent, MetSchools Inc., however, refused Sapir’s request for an extension in April and forfeited more than $150,000 in lawyers and architects’ fees related to the 255,000 square feet it had planned to take, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations. In August, Sapir filed a suit against SL Green and Gramercy Capital for allegedly delaying their approval of Claremont’s lease to prevent Sapir from qualifying for a loan extension.