New office-tower restaurants are a defining theme of the rebounding commercial market — and their upscale fare is red haute.
There are Daniel Boulud’s just-opened Le Pavillon at SL Green’s One Vanderbilt, Daniel Humm’s planned luxury eatery at L&L’s 425 Park Ave. and Danny Meyer’s upcoming Ci Siamo at Brookfield’s Manhattan West.
A giant new outpost of Greek favorite Avra is coming to Rockefeller Group’s rebooted 1271 Sixth Ave. Vornado Realty Trust plans to launch a full-service restaurant called The Landing inside Penn 1, where it’s creating a “WorkLife” amenities package for new tenants.
Those venues, as well as Nobu at 195 Broadway and the Grill and Pool at the Seagram Building, all are distanced from the main portions of the towers of which they’re a part — either with separate side entrances, divider walls or by requiring long walks from the areas where office tenants enter.
But at 1740 Broadway, owner EQ is more closely integrating its office functions with a fine restaurant than any other landlord has done in Manhattan.
Mediterranean-style, 115-seat Iris, helmed by Michelin-starred chef John Fraser, is so seamlessly woven into the lobby that tenants and clients arriving to meet them might mistake the ground floor for that of a hotel.
“I don’t think this has ever been done before,” said EQ senior vice-president Simon Wasserberger. “The restaurant, the business lobby and our private tenants’ club The Mezz on the mezzanine are all conceived as a single space. So imagine being able to meet your customers, partners and investors in this space and have them greeted as they would be in a high-level hotel.”
However, the 5,000-square-foot restaurant is entirely open to the public, with a sidewalk entrance as well. With a menu emphasizing dishes from Greece and Turkey, it’s currently open for dinner only but will open for lunch soon.
The sleek and comfortable design includes rich wood accents and large round booths. Fraser, who earned accolades at the Times Square Edition’s Terrace restaurant, Nix and the Loyal among others, will be in charge of all the edibles in the tower. His company operates Iris and the other food facilities under a 10-year management contract with EQ.
Like a number of other older properties, the 600,000-square-foot tower’s owners and brokers are at battle stations as they scramble to fill all or most of the office space as previous tenants move out.
At landmark-quality 1740 Broadway, opened in 1950 and designed by Empire State Building architects Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, EQ is preparing for the exit of L Brands in 2021.
Iris opened far ahead of that time because, “Replacement tenants are in the market now,” Wasserberger said.
“The restaurant is our marketing campaign. I couldn’t get it open soon enough,” he added.
Many older buildings in Midtown and FiDi are undergoing capital improvements to compete with newer product. Part of the trend is what Wasserberger called “an amenities arms race” as owners primp up properties with health clubs, tenants-only food courts and other features.
But not all campaigns are equal.
“When it fails, it’s because they’re just box-checking some conveniences. For it to work, it must all work together,” he said.
Therefore, 1740 Broadway’s Iris “is integrated into the entire life of the building,” Wasserberger said.
“If you’re having a meeting in the building, you can have it catered by a Michelin-star chef. Under our contract with Fraser, he’s keeping a database on all our tenants and their preferences.”
Of course there are skeptics. One landlord whose buildings do not have restaurants and didn’t want to be named snickered: “Everybody’s bringing in restaurants because they think they give buildings an identity, the way the old Four Seasons did at Seagram and Le Bernardin does at 787 Seventh Ave. But restaurants can be difficult to have as tenants, and if a building is any good, you don’t need them.”
But today’s office tower zeitgeist clearly adores a restaurant — especially a good one.
Asking rents at 1740 Broadway will be in the $70s and $80s per square foot. A CBRE team including Mary Ann Tighe and Howard Fiddle is the leasing agent, along with EQ’s Wasserberger and Scott Silverstein in-house.