Bumps in the road are common when repositioning buildings, which can take years to reach full earning potential. But the retail tenants at the former New York Times building at 229 West 43rd Street posed special risks. Disclosures for potential lenders show that none had a credit rating from Fitch, Moody's Investors Service or S&P Global Inc., unlike many large retail properties that tend to be anchored by stores with known credit profiles.
In truth, maintaining full occupancy looked tough from the start. When the debt was sold to investors, the 500-seat Guy's American Kitchen & Bar had been beset by negative reviews, and Todd English and his partners hadn't yet taken possession of the space for his food hall. The chef, who has pulled out of another project, was scheduled to open for business there last April. Gulliver's Gate, reportedly a $40 million endeavor, had not yet opened and was an untried competitor amid the glitz of Times Square.
On a recent Monday afternoon, the area reserved for Todd English was empty and unfinished with no sign of construction. Banners hung outside read "AFI Retail," the name of a subsidiary of the building's previous owner.
"We continue to work towards delivering this project," Richard A. Chinsammy, executive vice president of Outstanding Hospitality Management Group, English's partner for the food hall, wrote in an email. A spokeswoman for English said the restaurant is now scheduled to open in December.
Logos for Fieri's restaurant had been ripped from windows, though a large metal sign remained above the doorway. A spokeswoman for Fieri declined to comment.
Upstairs, about 50 people were visiting Gulliver's Gate. Two attendants said it was busier on weekends. Tickets for the 49,000-square-foot space filled with miniature buildings are $36 for adults and $27 for children and seniors. Tickets are also included with purchases of nearby hotel rooms, according to online reviews.
When Kushner Cos. bought the property in 2015 from Africa-Israel, the distressed firm of Russian diamond magnate Lev Leviev, online retailers were ascendant, and the future of brick-and-mortar stores was uncertain. So filling the property with tenants offering experiences seemed smart.