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Grand Plans for a New York Tech Hub in the Bones of an Old Hotel

Manhattan’s old Biltmore Hotel, where people once met each other “under the clock,” is being reconfigured as a tech incubator.

(Bloomberg)—How about a little high-tech synergy in ... Midtown?

Manhattan’s old Biltmore Hotel, where people once met each other “under the clock,” is being reconfigured as a tech incubator across from Grand Central Terminal -- or at least that’s the ambition. The building, at 335 Madison Ave., will be a kind of Silicon Valley in the center of New York, said Matt Harrigan, co-founder and chief executive officer of a company named Company. That’s a partnership between the building’s longtime landlord, Milstein Properties LLC, and Grand Central Tech, which incubates technology startups.

It’s unclear whether tech and media companies, which have flocked to the classic old buildings south of Midtown and in Brooklyn, will want to set up shop alongside the glass pillars of high finance. But Harrigan noted that commercial rents in neighborhoods such as Chelsea and the Flatiron District, popular with the tech set, have shot up.

The renovation, in which Milstein is investing more than $100 million, will concentrate talent and resources “so people know where to go to interact with the very best,” he said. He added that traditional tenants, such as a hedge fund with a disruptive model, would be welcome if they fit into the “spirit” of the enterprise.

It all depends on how well the project is executed, said David Falk, president of Newmark Knight Frank’s New York tri-state region, who has worked with Havas Digital Media and Sandow Media LLC to find spaces.

“Clearly some of these tenants, especially the very young companies, would rather be in West Chelsea or lower Fifth Avenue. But I think that’s starting to change,” Falk said, noting that prominent players like Salesforce.com Inc. and Indeed Inc. have set up in Midtown in recent years.

Milstein, a multigenerational family firm, has owned the 1.1 million-square-foot (100,000-square-meter) building for decades. In the early 1980s, it stripped the old hotel, which dates back to1913, to its metal bones to create a modern office building known as Bank of America Plaza, after its principal tenant at the time. The building features an atrium of glass that soars straight to the top.

With co-working spaces and dedicated offices in a range of sizes, the renovated space will accommodate tenants ranging from entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 divisions, Harrigan said. The plan calls for 150,000 square feet for retail and amenities, 250,000 square feet for startups and 700,000 square feet for corporate tenants.

As for the gold-embossed clock, it now sits over the security desk in the lobby. It will be moved to a more prominent place, along with a player grand piano from the old days.

To contact the reporter on this story: David M. Levitt in New York at [email protected] To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Taub at [email protected] Peter Jeffrey

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