BNY Mellon Seeking to Sell Wall Street Headquarters Tower

Bank of New York Mellon Corp. plans to sell Manhattan’s 1 Wall St., the Art Deco skyscraper that serves as its corporate headquarters, and has hired brokers to find a smaller amount of space to lease elsewhere.

CBRE Group Inc., the world’s biggest real estate services firm, will market the 52-story limestone tower, said Kevin Heine, a BNY Mellon spokesman. The bank hired Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. to seek space for some employees who work in the building.

“We will only make the move if it makes sense financially,” Heine said in a phone interview. “We’re exploring the possibility of moving our headquarters to our other main downtown location at 101 Barclay St.”

BNY Mellon, the world’s biggest custody bank, would join other large financial companies in scaling back their offices to reduce costs and boost efficiency. JPMorgan Chase & Co. has agreed to sell a nearby skyscraper, 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza, and move employees to other locations. Citigroup Inc. is in talks to consolidate its New York operations into a Tribeca complex, people with knowledge of the negotiations said in October.

BNY Mellon has about 1,700 employees at 1 Wall St., which has about 1 million square feet (93,000 square meters) of space. Some of the workers would be moved to 101 Barclay, a 25-story tower it owns nearby, said a person with knowledge of the plan.

New Jersey

BNY Mellon probably will concentrate its search for new space on lower Manhattan or in the Jersey City, New Jersey, area across the Hudson River, with price being a key consideration, according to two people familiar with the matter. It is seeking about 400,000 square feet, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the details are private.

The plan is almost certain to trigger competition between the developers of lower Manhattan’s World Trade Center, which has about 2.4 million square feet of unrented space, and Brookfield Place, where 2.2 million square feet of space formerly leased by Merrill Lynch & Co. is available. It may also test Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s resolve to avoid giving tax breaks to businesses, should a landlord in New Jersey make a compelling offer, sweetened by subsidies from the state.

“The fact that a legacy iconic New York company may find it difficult to survive the cost structure of Manhattan should be a big concern,” said Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, an advocacy group for city businesses. BNY Mellon is one of more than 200 companies in the partnership, according to its website.

Lower Rents

Asking rents on New Jersey’s Hudson waterfront, which encompasses Jersey City and Hoboken’s riverside offices, averaged $36.70 a square foot at the end of the third quarter, according to data from Cushman & Wakefield Inc. Lower Manhattan’s average was $46 a square foot.

BNY Mellon’s Pershing LLC financial advisory unit is already in Jersey City, at 1 Pershing Plaza.

The Bank of New York, a predecessor of BNY Mellon, has been on Wall Street since 1798, 14 years after it was founded by Alexander Hamilton. One Wall Street was completed in 1931 for the Irving Trust Co. The tower sits at the western end of Wall Street on its southeast corner with Broadway.

Bank of New York has been in the building since the late 1980s, when it acquired Irving Trust.

Moving Workers

This is the second time in less than four years that BNY Mellon has explored vacating and selling its Wall Street tower. In November 2010, it told its employees that it would stay put. Ron Gruendl, a bank spokesman, said four months later that given the economic environment, coming out of the deepest recession since the Great Depression, “we were not willing to make any move that would increase expenses.”

Prices for Manhattan office properties have risen 30 percent since November 2010, according to research firm Green Street Advisors Inc. JPMorgan agreed to sell 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza, once the headquarters of Chase Manhattan Bank, to Shanghai-based Fosun International Ltd. for $725 million, the most ever paid for New York building by a Chinese buyer, according to Real Capital Analytics Inc., which tracks commercial real estate sales.

Bob McGrath, a spokesman for CBRE, and George Shea, a spokesman for Jones Lang LaSalle, declined to comment on BNY Mellon’s moves.

Lower Manhattan office-building prices averaged more than $400 a square foot in the second and third quarters, when transactions totaled about $2.5 billion, according to Real Capital data. Three years earlier, prices averaged less than $150 a foot, and only $485 million of deals were done. The Chase transaction was about $324 a square foot.

Condo Conversion

One Wall Street’s value could be boosted if the upper floors can be converted to condominiums, taking advantage of record demand for luxury residences, said Jeffrey Oram, executive managing director for capital markets at Colliers International, a brokerage not involved in the marketing effort.

“That could be spectacular resi on the top,” he said. “It would be incredible views.”

Mayor-elect de Blasio wants to change or eliminate programs that subsidize “wealthy corporations,” saving about $250 million, according to his campaign policy book. The money would be better spent helping the City University of New York and raising the skills of the city’s workforce, he said.

Wylde said that short of providing tax breaks for companies like BNY Mellon, de Blasio could advocate for a corporate tax structure and a regulatory environment that would be attractive to employers.

Tax Issues

“Bill de Blasio has actually been supportive of the financial industry on some of the regulatory and tax issues,” she said.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has awarded at least $2.1 billion of tax breaks to keep or lure businesses, including Panasonic Corp. and Revel Entertainment Group LLC, according to an analysis published in April by New Jersey Policy Perspectives, a Trenton-based non-profit group critical of such subsidies.

In September, Christie merged five incentive programs into two: the Grow New Jersey awards focused on attracting employers from other states, and the Economic Redevelopment and Growth program aimed at retaining businesses. He said the overhaul was designed to make the state more competitive and make it easier to navigate the hodge-podge of government programs.

In 2009, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority awarded the Depository Trust and Clearing Corp., a company that manages Wall Street securities on behalf of stock brokers, $89.1 million of incentives to move to Jersey City.

BNY Mellon’s cost considerations can probably be met in lower Manhattan given vacancies downtown and the competitive environment between office landlords such as Brookfield Office Properties, Larry Silverstein and Douglas Durst, said Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York.

“There’s a wide variety downtown which I think can be put on the table for Mellon, and I think we can win the argument there,” he said. “Until see them go through the tunnel, I’m an optimist.”

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