Famed chef Michael White, who reinvented classic Italian cuisine at Marea and other Manhattan Michelin-starred restaurants, is coming back to town.
As a sign of East Midtown’s slow but steady revitalization, he signed a lease on a new restaurant at Tishman Speyer’s 520 Madison Avenue, the landlord and chef revealed.
It’s the sixth high-profile restaurant deal signed in the past year for the supposedly dying East 40s and 50s — a phenomenon overlooked amid the “doom cycle” gibberish of underpopulated offices destroying Midtown restaurants.
White’s new modern Italian eatery will open next year behind the tower’s sunken plaza.
White once operated the famous Alto on the same site.
East Midtown’s food service establishments depend on the lunchtime trade, which is run by office workers.
Despite new reports of potential foreclosures and commercial debt downgrades every week, the back-to-office trend in high-end real estate is accelerating.
Tishman Speyer and White’s confidence in the future of the Manhattan office market is shared more broadly by private lender Fortress Investment Group, which recently acquired $1 billion in office loans from Capital One, the Commercial Observer first reported.
The purchase is a “big bet on the recovery of New York’s office sector,” a source told the CO, as Big Apple office loans made up a large portion of the portfolio.
Keith DeCoster, director of market data at the Real Estate Board of New York, cited Placer.ai data for 190 midtown buildings showing an 11 percent increase in “device visits” in July compared to the previous July and 64 percent office visits in prime A -Plus real estate in the first quarter showed quarter 2023.
The restaurant influx reflects the improved situation in East Midtown.
This fall, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Four-Twenty-Five will open at 425 Park Ave. by L&L Holding Company—arguably the borough’s most significant debut—and David Burke’s Park Avenue Kitchen at 277 Park Ave.
Next year, Simon Kim’s yet unnamed “eclectic” venue at 550 Madison Ave. opened by the Olayan Group; Rocco’s Steakhouse on the former BLT Steak lot at 106 E. 57th St.; and a new outpost of the mini-empire Rosemary’s at 825 Third Ave. the Thirst Organization.
With the exception of Rocco’s, all guests arrive in office towers whose owners wanted unique restaurants for their showpieces.
Some landlords helped tenants with shared fitout costs and flexible lease terms, but “no one gave the store away,” said one restaurateur, who asked not to be named.
“I just wish they had.”
David W. Levinson, Chairman/CEO of L&L Holding Co., who moved Vongerichte to the Norman Foster-designed 425 Park Ave. lured, said: “By March we will have over 1,000 people in the building. Our tenants, including Citadel, are still moving in.”
“Midtown is very, very busy,” Levinson said. “The talk does not correspond to reality at all.”
As a reflection of the new energy, Ralph Lauren’s Polo Bar on East 55th Street plans to resume its seven-day pre-pandemic service in October, having been open only Tuesdays through Saturdays since mid-2021.
Simon Oren, managing partner of two-year-old Monterey on East 50th Street, told us, “We definitely have more events booked for the fall,” including designer Zang Toi’s party for Fashion Week. Cellini owner Dino Arpaia also cited a sharp rise in private event bookings before the July doldrums set in.
Kim, director of Gracious Hospitality Management, which is behind Flatiron’s Korean steakhouse Cote, said, “What gives us extra confidence is the others who are participating, like Jean-Georges and David Burke.”
Burke plans to open his brasserie at 277 Park on December 1st. “It will be fully leased by the time it opens,” he said.
“Given the current week, is there a risk in the office market? Sure, but that’s gastronomy. There’s always a risk,” Burke said. “We can either accept it or sit at home and do nothing.
“We believe in the city and believe that we will do well.”