Fourteen floors of office space in a prime Manhattan location has come to the market with just one caveat: The landlord is a war-torn African country in economic and political upheaval.
Libya, thrown into chaos after the 2011 ouster of Muammar al-Qaddafi, is renting out 14 floors of its 24-story Permanent Mission to the UN at 309-315 E. 48th St. between First and Second Avenues.
According to Stuart Siegel, who is representing the country along with CBRE colleague Matt Bergey, the sign that once declared the building as “Libya House” has been removed.
“When you walk into the building, you don’t feel like you are dealing with a government building,” Siegel says of the white marble lobby that’s set back from the street.
“No one has said to me they are not coming to see the building because of the ownership,” he said of prospective tenants that have toured the space.
Real estate attorney Steven Sladkus concurs that unless there is an embargo against the country or a reason that the country could detain tenants because it is their “land,” no legal issues around renting space from Libya should come up.
“There may be a stigma of some kind and a prospective tenant may need to consider if there would be a backlash from their own clients by giving money to a Libyan landlord,” he added.
That raises another issue: It’s unclear which Libyan government entity might be in control over coming months and years as Libya wages a complex civil war as extremist groups fight for power.
Currently, the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), run by Fayez al-Sarraj, is in control. But his hold on power is being tested by General Khalifa Haftar, who heads his own Libyan National Army and controls Benghazi and many of Libya’s oil reserves — and is being backed by Russia.
Complicating matters are the Islamist militias, including the Islamic State, that are using the chaos to try and gain a foothold in the country.
The building acts as Libya’s NYC-based mission to the UN down the street. This could also prove uncomfortable for those old enough to remember the 1984 hostage crisis, kicked off in London after Metropolitan Police officer Yvonne Fletcher was fatally shot from gunfire coming from within the Libyan embassy in St. James’s Square in London. That incident resulted in a breaking of diplomatic relations with Britain. Hostages were rounded up in Libya and detained for 294 days.
Still, Siegel believes the space may appeal to financial and tech firms that want a big block of space or a floor of their own. Countries and nonprofits that value being close to the UN Singapore Consulate and Trump World Tower might also be interested.
Any tenant taking all 78,870 square feet could even create a building-within-a-building with a private entrance, two dedicated elevators, signage and other perks.
Each petite floor is a mere 5,705 square feet but has plenty of light, with ribbons of windows stretching the length of the building on both the north and south sides.
A 1,500-square-foot terrace comes with the second floor’s event space. Floors three through 15 have new bathrooms but are otherwise gutted and ready for fit-outs. An interior staircase connects the ninth and tenth floors.
The asking rent is $65 per square foot.