Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Miami: Home of the International Toy Center?

The International Toy Center (ITC) in New York, site of the annual International Toy Fair each February, is looking for a new home. Cities like Atlanta, Dallas, and Los Angeles actively recruited the organization. At one point last year, there was talk about moving the October trade show to Dallas. I brought this up to the Mayors of Miami and Metro-Dade county way back in 2005 and only Miami Mayor Manny Diaz acknowledged my email with a promise that his staff would look into it.

The ITC is basically a merchandise mart for toy companies and because they are being evicted from a building they have been in since 1968, the search for a new home began over a year ago. The group is looking for a minimum of 300,000 s.f. with access to a major convention center (like the Javits Center) for the annual International Toy Fair. Currently, the ITC favors the following from building owners:

• Leases of five, seven and 10 years will be offered ranging from $39.20 to $44.20 per square foot, depending on the length, with increases of 2 percent to 3 percent, depending the term, after the first year.• The landlord will provide basic showroom build outs at no additional cost. In the alternative, the tenants may design the space themselves and receive an $35 per square foot "cash contribution," along with the landlord's base building work.• Included in those rental amounts, $1 per square feet will revert back to the NYTT (New York Toy Tenants).• Tenants will split the cost of the building's electricity plus a 10 percent fee, and pay for their own cleaning services.• Tenants will also pay a pro rata portion of future real estate tax increases and fuel increases above the 2007 calendar year level.• Tenants will have one option to extend their leases.Space allocations will be made largely on a first come, first served basis, along with other considerations, such as space demands.The landlord will also provide a 2,000 square foot multi-purpose space to serve as a buyers' lounge, conference and media room.

Right now the ITC is looking at a building built in 1903 in New York. It's not near the subway but the ITC is considering shuttling people working at the building to and from the nearest subway entrance. That's how desperate it is to find a new location-- and remain in New York.

What would it take for them to consider Miami?

First, an affordable space. Although the empty Omni Mall has 1 million s.f and would be a great location, plans now call for it being razed for new towers. 600 Brickell is a stunning 952,000 s.f twin office tower (the tallest is 903 feet) that could accomodate the ITC-- plus it is just footsteps away from MetroRail and MetroMover. Miami has approved its application to build, but it may be a few years down the road before it becomes reality.

Secondly, it would have to meet the above requirements and then some to entice the ITC to move out of NYC-- where many of the toy companies have set up shop since the end of World War I. Well, if the ITC can wait for 600 Brickell to be built, Miami fulfills all of its needs "and then some." For instance, who wouldn't want to attend the annual February Toy Fair at the Miami Beach Convention Center instead of in New York City in the dead of winter? I have attended the Toy Fair then, and let me tell you it is a brutal experience. The cold is hard to describe. Getting to and from your hotel to the Javits Center lugging your wares is a royal pain in the buttocks. With MIA and the Port of Miami servicing the world in people and freight and the cost of living being lower here than there, and moving into a building that is beyond state-of-the-art with mass transit right outside your window instead of a 106-year-old building seems to me to be a no-brainer.

With the proper incentives from the business community and the public sector, Miami is the place to be. I queried the senior VP in Miami for RTKL, the firm that is designing 600 Brickell, regarding the ITC as a possible tenant on June 28th and have not received a response. Right now, my blog, although it is only a few weeks old, seems to be the Rodney Dangerfield of blogs-- it "gets no respect." That's my opinion. What's yours?

Up Date: This toy industry link will take you to the latest (July 19th) on the subject.

Up Date (August 1st): Miami's chances are falling further and further away. The latest report from Playthings is that although the toy companies may have missed a July 31st deadline to sign on with a building in New York, the deadline has been extended. Over 200,000 s.f. of leases were sent out with expectation for the ITC to buy the building outright.

Up Date (August 23): Proposed NYC toy center still in works
By Brent Felgner
Playthings -- 8/21/2006 9:41:00 AM

NEW YORK—Three weeks after the deadline to commit to 636 Eleventh Ave. as the next industry showroom center, negotiations are apparently continuing to determine if another version of the plan might still work.

Representatives of the developer, 636's current owner and a tenants' group are reportedly in conversations about whether more time can be found to attract a broader toy company tenant base and whether the purchase of the building can or should move forward, Steven Greenfield, coordinator of the New York Toy Tenants, told Playthings. If the deal does come together, he said a move by February's Toy Fair might still be possible.

The original plan for 636 called for a minimum of 250,000 square feet in signed leases to be delivered by July 31 in order for the building's sale to a joint venture of The Feil Organization and Winoker Realty, who would then convert all but two of the building's floors to toy business-related showrooms. That didn't occur, Greenfield said, because of delays in architectural plans and companies' approval processes, among other reasons.

Up Date (August 30th): New Toy Center taking shapeBy Brent FelgnerPlaythings -- 8/28/2006 7:29:00 AM
NEW YORK—Developers of the proposed Toy Center at 636 Eleventh Ave. reportedly will move forward with the purchase of the building despite missing the original deadline and coming up short of their original plan.
The renovations and showroom build-outs will not be ready in time for February 2007's American International Toy Fair, according to Steven Greenfield, coordinator of New York Toy Tenants. However, Greenfield said he expects the building to be ready before the October 2007 Fall Toy Show.

Greenfield disclosed the developments late last week in an email blast to NYTT’s members. He claimed that more than 180,000 square feet in lease commitments have been made to date. The original plan called for 250,000 square feet in signed leases in order for the building to move forward as a replacement for the showroom space lost at the International Toy Center at 200 Fifth Ave. and 1107 Broadway.
Greenfield said new dates and guidelines for leasing in the building should be coming shortly from developers The Feil Organization and Winoker Realty. (from Playthings, newsletter for the toy industry).

It looks like this is a lost cause for Miami. Too bad because the city needs companies like this to fill vacant office space and people to fill empty downtown condos. MVB has to wonder with the heads-up they were given by this blog if the City of Miami or the Beacon Council made any effort to woo the toy industry. The last thing we heard was from the Miami mayor in an email saying he would have his staff look into it in 2005.

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