In Pre-Recession Twist, Solow Eyes $200-Per-Foot at 9 West 57th Street

Manhattan hasn’t seen too many $200-per-square-foot commercial rental offerings since the recession brought rates crashing down.

But Sheldon Solow, the enigmatic and private owner of 9 West 57th Street, plans to lease some of his best office space in that prized trophy tower at those sky-high, pre-recession rents.

9 west 57th street 2 In Pre Recession Twist, Solow Eyes $200 Per Foot at 9 West 57th Street

9 West 57th Street. (Courtesy Property Shark)

According to Scott Panzer, a leasing broker and executive at Jones Lang LaSalle who took over leasing for 9 West 57th Street in 2011, Mr. Solow drew up plans just before Christmas to carve the 30,000-square-foot, 49th floor of 9 West 57th Street into four pre-built office units. And he plans to charge about $200 per square foot, said Mr. Panzer.

The plan will allow the floor to be dealt out to smaller users, an approach that has several advantages. According to Mr. Panzer, while few office tenants have the financial standing to take an entire floor at those exorbitant rates, smaller, deep-pocketed office users such as hedge funds and private equity firms are less sensitive to real estate occupancy costs on a per square foot basis.

Mr. Panzer said the units, which will be sized from about 5,000 square feet to 12,000 square feet, will appeal to the same type of tenant who lives in 15 Central Park West, the residential equivalent of 9 West 57th Street.

“There are people out there who want to be able to look at where they live from where they work and vice versa,” said Mr. Panzer, noting that 9 West and 15 Central Park West are clearly visible to one another across the Central Park. “You could have a telescope and look out to see if your nanny is home.”

Floors at 9 West—a storied building in the commercial real estate industry and one of the most expensive office properties in the city—have been leased in this manner before. Mr. Panzer helped oversee a successful program to fill the building’s 31st floor by carving the floor into prebuilt spaces.

But in the past, Mr. Solow has shied away from employing the strategy for the 50-story tower’s marquee floors, space he has preferred to dangle at exorbitant rates only to users who would take them wholesale. In a building that is more than 50 percent vacant, Mr. Solow also appeared to care little that there few takers for his offerings.

The new approach would seem to better tap into potential demand. Mr. Panzer said that small office users approach him frequently asking about offerings in the building. Now he will no longer have to turn them away.

If the lease up of 49 is successful, Mr. Panzer said that the 50th floor—9 West’s penthouse space and one of the highest profile vacancies in the city—could be leased in the same manner.

Daniel Geiger, Staff Writer, is reachable at DGeiger@Observer.com and can also be followed at Twitter.com/DanGeiger79.