BY MARIE REINHOLZ | Once home to a symbol of political corruption, the bloodthirsty Tammany Tiger, a historic building on Union Square East will be filled with hamsters, birds, snakes and frogs – plus a brand new pet hospital.
Petco, the national pet supply and welfare chain that provides a host of services, including dog grooming and the sale of small animals, signed a multi-year lease for a sprawling space in the former Tammany Hall headquarters building on Union Square East.
The 30,000-square-foot lease with Reading International will bring a downtown Manhattan branch to three floors of the renovated former Tammany Hall headquarters, according to sources and New York Petco dispatches.
The historic Tammany building was recently topped with a massive new glass and steel dome designed by BKSK Architects and marketed as 44 Union Square East by brokerage firm Park Avenue Newmark. However, the building has been vacant since New York City became the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Expensive makeover of the structure over four years forced out the Union Square Theater and the New York Film Academy, two long-term tenants, as well as four retail storefronts on Park Avenue South, including a delicatessen and liquor store.
San Diego-based retail giant Petco is set to move its current store to 860 Broadway on the northwest corner of Union Square, across the square to the renovated seven-storey building. floors of Tammany Hall at the end of this year, taking over the ground floor, basement and second floor, according to three New York Petco staff members.
“That’s the plan and everyone is excited” about the move, said Michael J. Jiminez, assistant manager of the Petco branch at 860 Broadway, itself a landmark building on the corner of E. 17th Street. It served as one of the locations for Andy Warhol’s famous Factory studio from 1974 to 1984.
Jiminez noted that the upcoming move will move “all” of the store’s approximately 50 employees, its pet products and its small animals for sale – such as hamsters, rats, fish, birds and reptiles – to the Old Historic Tammany Political Aquarium at E. 17th Street and Park Avenue South, just over a block away. The store’s services will also continue those of a separate point of sale, just for dogs, which is part of a chain based in Irvine, California. Just for Dogs prepares fresh special meals daily for dogs and offers special treats and food for dogs with disabilities.
The Petco branch will also maintain space in Tammany for kind of kitty, a cat adoption service, Jiminez said. Additionally, he noted that the branch will establish a “pet hospital” at its new location.
“We’re going to announce a grand opening,” he told this reporter from the future pet health facility.
Meanwhile, Petco’s San Diego headquarters has yet to confirm the rental deal with Reading International, a real estate and entertainment conglomerate, despite repeated requests for comment from The Village Sun. Reading operates live theaters and cinemas around the world, including downtown venues such as the Orpheum Theater on Second Avenue in the East Village (“Stomp”) and the Minetta Lane Theater in the West Village .
Margaret Cotter, Reading’s executive vice president of her family business, leads her real estate division and subsidiary, Reading Tammany Owner, LLC, which owns Tammany. Cotter purchased Tammany Hall in 2001 from Local 91 of the Ladies Garment Workers Union, which had owned it since 1943.
Cotter did not comment last week on the imminent arrival of a Petco store at the address, but had previously announced in early February the rental of all three floors of the Tammany space to an “international retailer”, but without mention Petco’s name. She did not disclose any other potential tenants, but made it clear that approximately 43,113 additional square feet spanning four floors in Tammany were still available for commercial tenants.
“Signing this long-term lease with a retailer with strong credit is a significant milestone for our development of 44 Union Square and a testament to New York City’s resilience and Union Square’s opportunity as a key and vibrant location for tenants,” Cotter said in a press release. “We are delighted to make this announcement and look forward to completing the lease of the remaining four upper levels of the building in New York City, which continues to be one of the fastest growing cities in the world for commercial real estate. .
Andrew Mandell, vice president and director of Manhattan brokerage Ripco, represented Petco in the transaction with Reading. However, Mandell said in an email that he could not comment on the lease, noting that Petco is public and only Petco can discuss the deal. It has been billed as the largest commercial real estate transaction in New York in the past year, although the terms are unclear. Ask for rents would have been $450 per square foot for the first floor of the Georgian Colonial Revival building, $125 per square foot on the second floor, and $100 per square foot in the basement.
The reconfigured space was once an auditorium where legendary Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke as Governor of New York when Tammany’s last clubhouse opened in 1929. (FDR later turned against the patronage with the Reform Republican Mayor Fiorello La Guardia.) The new prize added – the winning glass and steel dome was designed to mimic the shell of a turtle, a religious symbol of the Lenape Indian Nation, whose chief Tamanend there is long, inspired the name of Tammany Hall in the 18th century when political organization began.
Reading’s renovation of the red brick and limestone building was financed by a $55.7 million construction loan from Ozarks Bank and Fisher Brothers. Construction of the renovation overseen by contractor CNY has created congestion on E. 17th Street between Park Avenue South and Irving Place in Gramercy. Several tenants on a block of brownstones have received concessions on their rent, according to REM Residential, the managing agent. (Full disclosure: this writer lives on the block but did not ask for a rent concession).
Tammany’s new dome was controversial, with Cotter gaining approval to proceed with its construction after a larger version was rejected by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The dome in both sizes was opposed by the late Gramercy curator, Jack Taylor, who called it “inappropriate” for the building’s original design. Taylor, who died aged 93 in 2019, was widely considered a driving force behind the marker Tamman Hall and other historic New York buildings in the city.
Taylor was a member of the Union Square Community Coalition, which also fought for Tammany’s historic designation. He told this reporter that the property, built in 1929, was designed to mimic Federal Hall on Wall Street. He said the Federal Colonial architectural design of the Union Square building was meant to “give it a certain respectability at the height of the Tammany Club scandals.”