Starrett-Lehigh Building leases space for food hall

If anything reflects long-range faith that the city will recover from the pandemic crisis, it’s the counterintuitive commitment to new eating venues even though nobody knows when indoor dining will again be permitted.

The latest example: RXR Realty just landed a 13,000-square-foot lease for a sprawling food hall at the Starrett-Lehigh Building. Tenants of the massive, Art Moderne-style structure at 601 W. 26th St. — such as Ralph Lauren, McGarry Bowen, Johnson & Johnson and OXO — will finally have an array of choices without having to walk several long blocks.

The hall is leased to 16” on Center or 16OC, a well-established, Chicago-based hospitality collective outfit that specializes in creating new food and beverage venues in far-flung neighborhoods.

The Zagat Survey included founders Bruce Finkelman and Craig Golden among “Superheroes of the Chicago dining scene.” Starrett-Lehigh is their first New York City venture. In case you’re stumped, “16 inches on center” is a construction term for a point on a piece of wood used to space wall studs.

The new hall won’t exactly be a restaurant, but rather a collection of sit-down and takeout counters “sourced and curated by 16” on Center” and slated to open in the second quarter of 2021. The company makes license agreements with third-party operators for short-term vendor leases.

No one at RXR or 16” on Center would comment specifically on the timing, other than to say through an RXR rep that the landlord “has faith in the New York City market and the vibrant environment to come.”

RXR bought Starrett-Lehigh for $920 million in 2011 and put in $50 million of improvements.

In the past few days, The Post has reported two other major newly signed eatery leases: a 10,000 square-foot Urbanspace food hall at 124 E. 14th St. and a third Avra seafood brasserie of 16,500 square feet at 1271 Sixth Ave. in the heart of corporate Midtown.

Why such confidence? Although Midtown and other office districts are quiet — in part because employees now working from home are reluctant to return when there’s no place to eat indoors due to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s lockdown — a new survey by architectural firm Gensler found that fewer than 10 percent of lawyers across the US want to work from home full-time — a figure that likely applies in most other white-collar professions.

The colossal Starrett-Lehigh Building opened in 1931 as a freight-distribution warehouse. It was designated as an official city landmark in 1986. It takes up the whole block bounded by 11th and 12th avenues and West 26th and West 27th streets, encompassing 2.3 million square feet of office and retail space.

RXR’s Reed Zukerman, Brian Cheeseman and Whitney Arcaro represented the landlord in-house, along with Newmark Knight Frank’s Peter Fine and Janey Steinmetz.



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