Sun, Jan 05, 2003 - Page 11 News List

AP decides to transfer its flag

LOCATION Associated Press has resided in a Rockefeller Center building that has borne its name since it opened, but the agency has decided to leave the landmark

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

The Associated Press is close to a deal to move out of its headquarters in a Rockefeller Center building that has borne its name since it opened in 1938.

PHOTO: NY TIMES

The story of New York is written in the ever-changing names of its skyscrapers.

The Pan Am Building was renamed the MetLife Building after the airline died in the 1990s. The AT&T Building on Madison Avenue became the Sony Building in the same decade, after Ma Bell retreated to the New Jersey suburbs.

In the latest chapter, The AP is close to a deal to move out of its headquarters in a Rockefeller Center building that has borne its name since it opened in 1938. The AP, the international news agency, will in all likelihood move to a more anonymous location somewhere in Midtown as its name is erased from 50 Rockefeller Plaza.

It is even considering 450 W. 33rd St., at 10th Avenue, the building occupied by The Daily News, another victim of the name game. In the 1990s, the tabloid left the 42nd Street skyscraper that was built as its headquarters in 1930.

"There's no denying that Rockefeller Center is one of the most extraordinary locations on the planet," said David H. Tomlin, assistant to the president of The AP. "To be here with our name on these historic buildings has meant a lot to us. But things change."

One thing that is changing is the rent. AP's lease at 50 Rockefeller Plaza expires in September 2004, and according to real estate executives the company's base rent is scheduled to jump to more than US$60 a square foot from slightly more than US$30, an increase of more than US$4.6 million a year. So AP hired Cushman & Wakefield, a real estate company, and started looking elsewhere.

Tomlin said the news business, too, had changed. A different building with larger floors would better accommodate the company's Internet, broadcast and news-gathering operations, which are now spread across four buildings.

The AP's pending move was first reported by The Daily News on Wednesday.

Tishman Speyer, the company that heads the group that owns Rockefeller Center, sees the departure of AP as an opportunity to hammer a new corporate name into the limestone building and demand a higher rent from executives who want the cachet of an address in one of the great urban complexes of the 20th century.

Much can be learned about New York and American capitalism by the succession of companies that have had their names emblazoned across Manhattan skyscrapers.

"Judge the building by the company it keeps," said Jonathan L. Mechanic, who heads the real estate department at the law firm of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson. "The name changes at major buildings in New York reflect the changing fortunes of global industries."

The RCA Building located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza was renamed the GE Building after General Electric took over RCA, the parent company of NBC. Like Pan Am, Eastern Airlines, before it went out of business, had its name atop 10 Rockefeller Plaza.

The Manufacturers Hanover building at 600 Fifth Ave. became the Chase Manhattan building when the banks merged. But the tower, now occupied by Fiduciary Trust, is nameless today.

The Gothic tower now known as the Bryant Park Hotel, at 40 W. 40th St., has a history that illustrates New York's shift away from industrial headquarters. Designed by Raymond Hood, who was also the architect of the Daily News building, it was originally named the American Radiator Building, and had a gold crown lighted to simulate a hot radiator in a tribute to the automobile age. It took on a somewhat different cast when it was renamed the American Standard Building, after the plumbing fixture manufacturer. Now it has been converted into a chic designer hotel.

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