Blood centers throughout the U.S. are grappling with the same question now as a new president takes over the presidency of the New York Blood Center: What do you do with a brand-new building?
The blood center is contemplating making a decision now, as its old headquarters on Park Avenue in New York City gets readied for redevelopment. A building for a new home was set to be acquired earlier this year with the aim of moving staff there from its existing office on West 53rd Street, but that acquisition was cancelled after the New York City Council, concerned about the increased traffic it would cause, invoked the zoning code to block the deal.
But the blood center is still alive. And now, it seems, considering its need for space, its brand-new lease on life and its urgent need for blood donors, it’s pursuing a solution to the problem of paying for real estate. The Blood Center, located in an office tower known as the High Line, has the option to buy the 31-story building outright, according to a zoning code for Manhattan deemed retroactive in May after the City Council passed its Community Benefits Agreement to address some of the deleterious effects of development in the neighborhood. (Sometime in the next few weeks, the HDAs for 42nd and 42nd streets will also be approved. In that case, the project for the Midtown West building where the Blood Center is currently located will have to be revisited and resubmitted.)
The new prospect of ownership has already sparked a feud. The Blood Center, which is owned by Lewis S. Eisenberg, disagrees with the HDAs and has instructed its attorney, Stuart J. Findley, to appeal the permit needed to sell the building to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. The Blood Center says it cannot sell the building now without completing a purchase agreement with the city. But the city, the Blood Center notes, is not interested in buying it on “short notice.”
That has brought into question the timing of the Blood Center’s proposal to the LPC. Since the deal can only proceed if the Blood Center has acquired the land in question from the current owner, RSW Development, the Blood Center says it would have no right to sell the building at this moment and so would have to find a new purchase option. The Blood Center was intending to do so from a building close to the High Line at the Columbus Circle location, but its broker—a team of two investors: hedge fund manager Ari Feilperin, and John R. Perez, the director of real estate investments—says the building is not big enough to accommodate the Blood Center. But the Blood Center hasn’t yet notified the other tenant at Columbus Circle, Christie’s, that it’s out. According to Nicole Midlath, a representative of the Blood Center, the negotiation period on the Columbus Circle deal will last for 90 days from the time that the agreement with RSW ends.
The Blood Center says it has raised more than enough money to buy the High Line building. Mr. Eisenberg declined to disclose specifics on what funding that he and his investors have put in for the purchase.
“The New York Blood Center’s workforce is largely volunteers,” Ms. Midlath said. “The only way to find a large number of volunteers in a short time is to have a new facility.”
Seth Solomonow, a broker at CBRE who is running the sale for RSW, said that the possibility of owning the High Line building on the new deal would not be “reprioritized” in any way.