The Chrysler Building illuminated at night

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What Is a Piece of Manhattan History Worth? The Chrysler Building Is Now Up for Sale

| Commercial Real Estate News, Deals, Office| Views: 0

UPDATE: The Chrysler Building was acquired by Austria-based Signa in a joint venture with NYC’s RFR Holding, for a price tag of roughly $150 million, according to reports.

The Chrysler Building, one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks and an essential part of the Midtown Manhattan skyline, is up for sale. The owners, Tishman Speyer and the Abu Dhabi Investment Council, have hired CBRE’s Darcy Stacom and Bill Shanahan to market the property. The asking price has not been made public.

The 1.3 million-square-foot Art Deco office tower at 405 Lexington Avenue, better known as the Chrysler Building, was built between 1928 and 1930 by architect William Van Allen. It held the title of the world’s tallest building for 11 months, until the Empire State Building was completed. Its steel crown, gargoyles and lobby ceiling painting—Edward Trumbull’s “Transport and Human Endeavor”—as well as its rich history make it a unique and prominent asset.

“For [some], that is an absolute trophy—it’s right up there with Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building,” Thomas Birnbaum, President of NYC Realty Advisors, told Bloomberg.

Despite all of this, it looks like the sovereign wealth fund of the United Arab Emirates might have trouble recouping the $800 million it used to buy its 90 percent stake in the building in 2008. The 90-year old Chrysler Building faces strong competition in the form of new, modern, amenity-rich office towers.

Developments such as Hudson Yards or One Vanderbilt, are guaranteed to attract attention in a world where WeWork is Manhattan’s largest office tenant. Natural light, open spaces, on-site gyms, and impressive views of the city are today’s must-have amenities. Renovations and even maintenance work at the Chrysler Building could prove difficult and costly for the new owners.

The Chrysler Building, New York City (courtesy of Yardi Matrix)

The Chrysler Building, New York City (courtesy of Yardi Matrix)

Moreover, the rising rent for the land beneath the building, owned by Cooper Union, might bring the building’s valuation down. In 2017, it cost $7.75 million to lease, but the price surged, reaching $32.5 million last year. According to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news, the rent will rise to $41 million in 2028.

In the end, does the future of the iconic Chrysler Building depend on the nostalgia of the rich?

“There might be a billionaire who comes along and says, ‘I want to tell the world I own the Chrysler Building,’” Adelaide Polsinelli, Vice Chair of the Commercial Investment Sales and Leasing division at real-estate services firm Compass, said in a statement for the Journal. However, she added that “[w]hen things break, it takes much longer to fix because there’s only one guy on the planet that has the tools to fix something from the 1920s and 1940s.”

Polsinelli estimates that the ultimate sale price of the landmark will be between $500 million and $800 million. Even the upper end of this range would probably mean a loss for Speyer and the Abu Dhabi Investment Council, so there can be little doubt that they are hoping to close above it.

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