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Realtors savor Clinton's move.

Bill Clinton officially moved into his 8,300 SF office penthouse at 55 West 125th street last week, ending one of the most highly publicized quests for office space. It was a day of rejoicing and celebration in Harlem as the former president made reference to the cost of gentrification in his speech.

"I don't want small business people to run out because I'm coming in," said Clinton, receiving applause from the crowd.

With the possible exception of mom-and-pop businesses that rely on minimal rents for survival, Harlem's commercial real estate owners stand to benefit from Clinton's move which has shined a national spotlight on this once-barren area of Manhattan.

Not that vestiges of this past no longer exist--across the street from 55 West is an abandoned, four-story brownstone building, a hair salon and a pharmacy. Several underutilized properties line 125th Street not far from this building, located between Lenox and Fifth Avenue. Cogswell Realty, the owners of 55 West 125th street, spent $14 million to renovate the building, which they bought four years ago.

The General Services Administration signed Clinton's 10-year lease for $354,000 in April. In addition to the $354,000, the GSA is expected to pay more than $300,000 to upgrade his office space, which is located on the penthouse floor. Though Clinton's new office is markedly cheaper than the space he initially sought in Carnegie Hall Tower, his office space still tops the list as the most expensive of any former president.

Joel Burns, managing director of Brown Harris Stevens, said that he and Clinton visited several locations before settling on the 125th Street space. Since the terms of the transaction were confidential, Burns could not elaborate on it.

"We are delighted to have him there," Burns said, who along with Kathy Sloane and Gregg Slotnick brokered the deal.

The same could be said of Clinton's new neighborhood. Harlem itself has been the focus of several economic revitalization projects, one of which includes the nearby Harlem USA complex. This development cost $65 million to build, and is located near a $15 million Pathmark supermarket. There is a dearth of quality office space in this area, however. Harlem has become somewhat of a tourist draw, with double-decked buses crossing 125th Street and camera-laden tourists passing by.

Clinton's presence could boost this sector's interest in the area, and it may already have done so. Ernst & Young's real estate advisory services are reportedly conducting a feasibility study for some private investors interested in opening a boutique hotel in Harlem. Some commercial projects are in the works up here, one being the Gateway Building. This development-on the corner of 125th Street and Lexington Avenue-will house retail space and some 15,000 SF of office space.

"There's no question that Clinton's move to Harlem will give this street more credibility, especially in terms of retail. And there are already several national retail tenants here," said Barry Fishbach, executive vice president at Robert K. Futterman Inc, a retail leasing firm.

In the very building that Clinton now works inside, there are 3,000 SF of ground floor retail available. Costar reports that the space has been on the market for over 23 months.
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Title Annotation:Bill Clinton in Harlem
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 8, 2001
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