Famed chef Michael White, who re-invented classic Italian cuisine at Marea and other Michelin-starred Manhattan eateries, is coming back to town.
In a move reflecting East Midtown’s slow-but-steady revival, he signed a lease for a new restaurant at Tishman Speyer’s 520 Madison Avenue, the landlord and the chef revealed.
It’s the sixth marquee-name restaurant deal signed in the past year for the supposedly dying East 40s and 50s — a phenomenon overlooked amidst “doom cycle” chatter that under-populated offices are killing Midtown restaurants.
White’s new, modern-Italian place will open next year behind the tower’s recessed plaza.
White once ran celebrated Alto at the same location.
East Midtown dining spots depend on the lunch trade driven by office workers.
Although every week brings another tale of possible foreclosures and downgrades of commercial debt, the back-to-office trend is accelerating at high-end properties.
Tishman Speyer’s and White’s confidence in the future of the Manhattan office market is shared on a larger scale by private lender Fortress Investment Group, which recently acquired $1 billion of office loans from Capital One, as the Commercial Observer first reported.
The purchase represents a “big bet on the rebound of New York City’s office sector,” a source told the CO, because Big Apple office loans accounted for a large chunk of the portfolio.
Real Estate Board of New York director of market data Keith DeCoster cited Placer.ai data for 190 Midtown buildings that showed “device visits” up 11 percent in July over the previous July and 64 percent office visits in prime A-plus properties in the first quarter of 2023.
The restaurant influx reflects East Midtown’s improved fortunes.
Opening this fall are Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Four-Twenty-Five at L&L Holding Company’s 425 Park Ave. — easily the district’s most momentous debut — and David Burke’s Park Avenue Kitchen at 277 Park Ave.
Next year will see the launches of Simon Kim’s as yet-unnamed, “multi-faceted” venue at The Olayan Group’s 550 Madison Ave.; Rocco’s steakhouse on the former BLT Steak site at 106 E. 57th St.; and a new outpost of mini-empire Rosemary’s at the Durst Organization’s 825 Third Ave.
All the arrivals except for Rocco’s are in office towers whose owners wanted signature restaurants for their marquee properties.
Some landlords helped tenants with shared build-out costs and flexible lease terms, but, “Nobody gave away the store,” one restaurateur said who didn’t want to be named.
“I only wish they did.”
L&L Holding Co. chairman/CEO David W. Levinson, who lured Vongerichten to the Norman Foster-designed 425 Park Ave., said, “We’ll have over 1,000 people in the building by March. Our tenants including Citadel are still in the process of moving in.”
“Midtown is very, very busy,” Levinson said. “The talk doesn’t match up at all really with reality.”
Reflecting the renewed energy, Ralph Lauren’s Polo Bar on East 55th Street plans to resume its pre-pandemic, seven-night schedule in October after serving only on Tuesday-Saturday since mid-2021.
Simon Oren, managing partner of two-year-old Monterey on East 50th Street, told us, “We definitely have more events being booked for the fall,” including designer Zang Toi’s party for Fashion Week. Cellini owner Dino Arpaia also cited a large uptick in private-event bookings before the July doldrums kicked in.
Gracious Hospitality Management principal Kim, who’s behind Flatiron’s Korean steakhouse Cote, said, “What makes us especially confident is the others who are coming along for the ride, like Jean-Georges and David Burke.”
Burke plans to open his brasserie at 277 Park on Dec. 1. “It will be fully leased by the time we open,” he said.
“Is there risk given the current week office market? Sure, but that’s the restaurant business. There’s always risk,” Burke said. “We can either take it or sit home and do nothing.
“We believe in the city and we believe we will do well.”
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