Rockefeller Center plans to fill vacant office space with its first luxury hotel

April 19, 2023

Photo courtesy of qwesy qwesy on Wikimedia

Rockefeller Center has announced a deal with Aspen Hospitality to open a luxury hotel at the iconic Midtown campus. Aspen plans to open the second location of its Colorado-based Little Nell Hotel on 10 floors of vacant office space above the NBC “Today” show studios, the Wall Street Journal reports. The proposed conversion of unused office space is the latest move to address the substantial shift away from full-time office work since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Aspen Hospitality says it plans to open the new 130-room hotel in 2026. The proposal is now being reviewed by the Department of City Planning and must also be approved by the city’s Planning Commission and City Council.

The office-to-hotel conversion coincides with several initiatives that address changes to the city’s business districts since the pandemic. Tishman Speyer, the firm that manages the property, told the WSJ that office space at Rockefeller Center is 93 percent leased, but the majority of its office buildings–14 in all–are only about 50 percent occupied during peak midweek office times.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams recently announced plans to reimagine the city’s central business districts, Midtown and Lower Manhattan, by transforming them into 24/7 destinations that will attract more residents, businesses, and tourists, as 6sqft previously reported. Several Midtown locations are currently competing for three new casino licenses approved by the New York State legislature last year, and the city is looking to amend zoning restrictions that have historically prevented the creation of new, flexible residential areas and businesses.

Another initiative involves the conversion of vacant office buildings into housing, including a conversion plan announced by the city this year that would create 20,000 homes. Recent residential conversions include the Financial District’s luxury residence One Wall Street, the city’s largest office-to-residential conversion to date.

Tishman Speyer’s renewal plans for the 84-year-old Rockefeller Center environs had begun in the pre-pandemic years. The redevelopment has included the addition of several new hip restaurants and retail establishments, a new park on the rooftop of Radio City Music Hall, restoration of the sunken plaza, a new roller-skating venue, and improvements to the Top of the Rock experience.

Aspen Hospitality is owned by the Crown family, who co-owns Rockefeller Center with Tishman Speyer; both family firms had been discussing the addition of a hotel at Rockefeller Center for years, family member Paula Crown told the WSJ. The company’s original Little Nell Hotel has been operating since 1989 in Aspen.


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