Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

Q4 horror

Downtown posted nearly a 10 percent vacancy rate at office buildings across Lower Manhattan, in line with the citywide rate that reached double digits for the first time in almost five years.

According to a report issued by Jones Lang LaSalle this week, overall vacancy Downtown went up 13.1 percent over the past quarter, rising to 9.8 percent in fourth quarter of 2008 from 8.6 percent in the third quarter. Class B office space took the biggest shot, with vacancy rates in those buildings increasing 24 percent, to 13.2 percent from 10.6 percent quarter-over-quarter. Lower Manhattan’s trophy buildings fared better, however, with Class A space climbing only 3.4 percent during the same time period, to 7.7 percent from 7.4 percent.

Downtown also weathered the largest drop in average asking rental rates, slipping more than 6 percent for all properties in Lower Manhattan. Class B rents fell by more than 9 percent, from $45.94 per square foot to $41.73 per square foot quarter-over-quarter, while Class A rents decreased more than 3 percent, from $54.61 per square foot to 52.95 per square foot. Overall asking rents across Manhattan fell 4 percent quarter-over-quarter, dropping to $70.19 per square foot from $73.14 per square foot.

Midtown, which saw the greatest jump in available space over the past quarter, showed an 18.2 percent increase in its overall vacancy rate, rising to 10.8 percent from 9.1 percent quarter-over-quarter. Overall, Manhattan posted more than a 43 percent jump in vacancy rates over the past quarter.

“Demand for office space has slowed throughout Manhattan as businesses continue to retrench and announce cutbacks,” James Delmonte, vice president and director of research for Jones Lang LaSalle, said in a statement. “In the final quarter of the year, the city’s overall vacancy rate breached the 10 percent mark for all property types for the first time since the first quarter of 2004.”

Moondance 2.0

Former Soho standby the Moondance Diner is finally set to open in its new home this week after relocating more than 2,000 miles to Wyoming a year and a half ago.

The 1920s diner, which stood for decades at the corner of Sixth Ave. and Grand St., was purchased in 2007 and moved to the tiny town of La Barge, Wyoming, before a series of setbacks delayed the reopening.

The Moondance had originally been slated for demolition before a preservationist convinced the site’s developer to sell the diner to Vince and Cheryl Pierce, who relocated it to the small western Wyoming town. The couple purchased the diner for $7,500, then hauled it through nine states to its final destination.

“It was bittersweet, since the Moondance isn’t close to its roots in the Big Apple, but miraculous as to how it will take on new definition in a small town of nearly 500,” said preservationist Michael Perlman. It was Perlman who successfully swayed developer Extell to donate the Moondance to the American Diner Museum in exchange for a tax write-off, before the eventual sale. “I take pride in knowing that it found a secure new home, and La Barge will have its first restaurant in awhile.”

According to reports, the Pierces had planned to reopen the restaurant by Jan. 9, the main delay coming after heavy snow collapsed much of the diner’s roof. The new owners spent most of 2008 renovating the original structure, which appeared in numerous movies and television shows during its time in New York City.

“The Moondance Diner is a rare piece of Americana, and such establishments are the ultimate public institutions,” Perlman said. “I believe history shouldn’t be sacrificed at the sake of progress, but appreciated and enhanced. It goes unacknowledged way too often.”

Dive wire

Fears are being stoked that another classic East Village dive bar, the Holiday Cocktail Lounge on St. Mark’s Place, could be on its last legs.

Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York reported this week that the longtime local tavern — once the haunt of literary luminaries like W.H. Auden and Allen Ginsberg — has been shuttered since its elderly proprietor recently checked into the hospital.

The no-frills pub, between First and Second Aves., has served as a watering hole for artists and eccentrics for more than four decades. It’s worth noting that another East Village dive, Sophie’s on E. Fifth St., encountered similar trouble a year ago due to the failing health of its owner, but managed to negotiate a deal to remain up and running. Stay tuned.