Complexities of Office Conversions Exemplified by Former Lord & Taylor Repositioning

The conversion of aging and under-utilized office and retail buildings is being considered by some landlords and investors however, it can open the door to several complex challenges. Cited as an example is the conversion of the former early 1900s-era Lord & Taylor building nearing completion at 424 Fifth Avenue. Acquired by Amazon in 2020 for $978 million, the building has been repositioned from a flagship department store into a modern office building that will house approximately 2,000 tech employees. Since many of the large parts of the building’s 55,000-square-foot floors are far away from windows, there was a lack of daylight. While some developers are cutting courtyards into buildings to add windows, Amazon opted to “build a staircase with plants and daylight-mimicking lamps, giving the illusion of a courtyard” to minimize the loss of valuable office space, and instead use the interior for meeting rooms which don’t need windows as badly. In addition, bathrooms, kitchens, new elevators, and stairs wide enough for a rush of office workers had to be constructed, while a vertical expansion added two floors on top of the building’s roof.