Iconic Empire State Building Now Goes for Hip
"The last thing an office worker wants to see is a dad in a tank top with three screaming children," said Malkin, whose grandfather, Lawrence A. Wien, bought the Empire State Building in 1961 with Harry Helmsley.
Despite the investment, a dowdy reputation can be hard to shed, and some prospective tenants are reluctant to visit the building for a tour. Even some current employees perceive it as an unappealing tourist magnet.
"It's not in the Fashion District and it's not cool downtown," said Sarah Levine, who works in the building as a senior technical designer at Li & Fung, the consumer goods giant. Levine, who was not speaking on behalf of her company, did not know about the coming gym or restaurant, and doubts she would use either. As a working mother, she mostly appreciates the manageable commute from New Jersey.
Some tenants are welcoming the changes. Jacques Catafago, a lawyer, began leasing space in 1990. He pays $32 a square foot for a 4,900-square-foot space on the 48th floor. But his rent will soon rise to about $52 a square foot.
Given the building improvements, Catafago didn't balk at the new bill. Instead, he is looking forward to the gym. "I'll lose 20 pounds," he predicted.