When Bill Clinton arrived in Harlem on a sweltering summer day in 2001, Governor George Pataki proclaimed it “William Jefferson Clinton Day” in New York. Thousands of people flooded Adam Clayton Powell Jr. plaza and serenaded him with saxophones while the ex-president beamed like he’d invented jazz.
It’s therefore impossible to overstate the news that ”America’s first black president” is leaving the neighborhood. But brokers for the William J. Clinton Foundation confirmed to The Observer that the foundation is giving up most of its offices at 55 West 125th Street.
Reports circulated last year that Mr. Clinton had renewed his Harlem lease for 10 years at a lower rate, but in fact, the federal government’s General Services Adminstration had merely extended its hold on a small 8,000-square-foot space at the top of the 14-story building. Now we learn that the foundation will, in fact, move most of its offices to a 25,000-square-foot space on the 18th floor of 77 Water Street for 10 years, as also reported by the Post this morning.
There’s been much griping about the ex-president’s lavish taste in office space (though certainly not by us). The move, according to CB Richard Ellis‘ Roshan Shah, who represented the tenant along with Keith Caggiano, was about the nonprofit’s desire to control costs. “That was probably the biggest factor,” Mr. Shah said.
Asking rents for both the Harlem and Goldman Sachs’ FiDi spaces were both $40 a square foot, but the tenant was able to negotiate a lower rent downtown. Mr. Shah declined to say how much the foundation will pay because the deal is expected to close in three weeks. He did note that the sublandlord, Goldman Sachs, is going to build out the space.
The move will also allow the foundation to expand from 18,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet, while occupying a single floor instead of potentially being spread out over five. “With every crisis that occurs in the world, when something happens in Haiti,” for example, they need more staff, Mr. Shah noted. “They’ve grown tremendously in terms of size.”
Mr. Clinton will maintain a small office in the 8,000-square-foot space. But, after all, he can spread some of that love around. “He’s had a very active role with Obama in some of the economic reform,” Mr. Shah said, “and it sends a positive message that he’s going downtown.”
Additional reporting by Matt Chaban.