NEW YORK CITY-The pre-war, art deco style of the Fred F. French Building at 551 Fifth Ave. helped entice the International Gemological Institute to take over the entire seventh floor starting in January 2013. The Feil Organization recently leased 20,400 square feet to IGI and is building the space to suit. “There’s always a lot of activity in the Grand Central marketplace,” says Brian Feil, vice president of leasing at the firm that bears his name. “It’s a landmark 1930s building and it’s got that old art deco prestige.” IGI wanted to be within a specific geographic area and on a full floor to accommodate its business, said Jarod Stern of Studley, who brokered the deal.
IGI is the largest independent gemological laboratory in the world. Headquartered in Antwerp, Belgium, it has offices around the globe, including New York City, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Bangkok and New Delhi. IGI was established in 1975 and runs Schools of Gemology in several locations.
Feil has owned the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, since 2001. The 38-story building was built in 1927 and was the business headquarters for the famous real estate tycoon Fred Fillmore French who also built Manhattan’s famous Tudor City and Knickerbocker Village residential complexes. Other tenants include DHG Management Co. LLC; Kleinberg, Kaplan, Wolff & Cohen; and Tommy Bahama’s 5,000-square-foot flagship store and a 6,700-foot restaurant, which opened on Saturday.
The only tricky part of the deal was the move of an existing tenant from the seventh to the 16th floor. Kevin Driscoll, director of commercial leasing for Feil, described it as “a feat that other less nimble landlords couldn’t accomplish.” Driscoll says the building’s low vacancy rate of 2.9% is due in part to The Grand Central submarket, which is the largest and most active submarket in New York City and the iconic, pre-war design of the building.