When Brian Williams unveils NBC's newsmagazine show on Monday night, he'll be broadcasting from the venerable office complex that gives Rock Center its name.
As Daniel Okrent writes in Great Fortune, Rockefeller Center - which now covers 19 towering buildings and 22 acres - is built on what was an undistinguished swathe of low-rise houses and ground formerly owned by Columbia University. John Rockefeller, Jr. leased the space with the intent of building a new Metropolitan Opera house, but plans feel through. The goal shifted to a broader set of office buildings, although some cultural presence would remain in the form of Radio City Music Hall. Before building, Rockefeller, known as Junior, would spent around $250 million in acquiring parcels, evicting tenants and demolishing buildings in the way, in the tricky process known as assemblage.
Construction finally unfolded over the course of the 1930s, overseen by architect Raymond Hood and the Rockefellers, who reluctantly gave their name to the site. It was an Art Deco masterpiece, with the statues of Atlas and Prometheus becoming icons of the city. The original buildings in the complex were later joined by four international-style towers built in the 1960s and 1970s, including the News Corp., McGraw Hill and Exxon Buildings. NBC had previously occupied 711 Fifth Avenue, but moved to 30 Rockefeller Plaza -- first called the RCA Building, now the GE Building -- in 1933. It has achieved modern fame as the namesake of the comedy 30 Rock and for its towering observation deck. (It is the 10th tallest building in the city.)
In 1989, Japanese firm Mitsubishi Group bought the complex, but it would fall into disrepair by the mid-1990s and went into bankruptcy. A syndicate led by Tishman Speyer bought the Art Deco buildings for $1.85 billion, followed by extensive renovations and an overhaul of the building management. Elevators, electrical systems and office renovations led to lease renewals and the retail stretches were developed. The office occupancy rate has increased from 86 percent in 1996 to over 98 percent, according to Tishman Speyer. In a recent large deal, the accounting firm Deloitte took 430,000 square feet at 30 Rockefeller Center, with asking rents in the $70s per square foot.
Write to Roland Li at r.li@IBTimes.com.