St. John's University's Manhattan campus at 51 Astor Place.
St. John’s University’s Manhattan campus at 51 Astor Place. (NYLJ/Rick Kopstein)

Starting this fall, St. John’s University will welcome students to its new Manhattan campus at 51 Astor Pl., in the East Village. The campus will be moving from its Tribeca location at 101 Murray St., which the university sold last year for $223 million (NYLJ, June 12, 2013).

St. John’s new 15-year lease was signed with an affiliate of Edward J. Minskoff Equities Inc. (EJM) for 71,000 square feet. The sleek new 12-story building with 400,000 square feet spans an entire block between Third and Fourth avenues.

The Astor Place location puts the university in the “heart of New York City’s most vibrant neighborhoods, with unlimited student engagement opportunities and access to a host of potential employers,” Martha Hirst, St. John’s executive vice president, chief operating officer and treasurer, said in a statement.

EJM, which has a 99-year ground lease with The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, began construction of the building in 2011 and completed the project in May/June 2013.

Nada Llewellyn, associate general counsel at St. John’s University, represented the school. The university’s outside counsel was Thomas Henry, a partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher, and Daniel Backer, of counsel.

Jacob Bart, a partner at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, along with associate Trevor Adler represented Minskoff on the lease with the university.

Peter Miller and Barry Shimkin, shareholders at Greenberg Traurig, represented Minskoff on its lease with Cooper Union.

Steven Simkin, a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, along with Allen Wieder, counsel, represented Cooper Union.

The university’s lease includes two extension options, one for five years and a second for four years. By the end of January, the building is projected to be 100 percent leased.

Several other agreements were signed between Cooper Union and the university, including a non-disturbance agreement and a memorandum of understanding for access to Cooper Union’s Great Hall in the Foundation Building at 7 E. 7th St., shared classroom space, satellite office space, and other concessions.

All parties declined to comment on the leases and capital investment toward the development of 51 Astor Pl. Depending on the floor, the asking range is reportedly from the $80s to over $110 per square foot. The university’s terms, however, were “very favorable,” a source said.

The development was about $300 million, including a contribution by Minskoff exceeding $135 million, according to The New York Times. Minskoff also paid a $97 million hold for 99 years, the report said.

The university will occupy space on the ground floor, concourse level and the second floor of 51 Astor Pl. The building’s main entrance is on Fourth Avenue. Access for the university will be through a private entrance facing the intersection of Astor Place and Third Avenue. The campus will include state-of-the-art classrooms and video conferencing technology, conference room space and areas designed for faculty and students.

EJM is “very happy to have reached a lease agreement with St. John’s University,” president Edward Minskoff said in a statement. “Fifty-one Astor Place’s forward-thinking infrastructure allows tenants to have a high-performance platform for employees and clients, and I am confident that St. John’s will flourish in the space.”

The new location will house the university’s School of Risk Management, a division of The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, and includes the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Library, the world’s largest collection of risk and insurance literature. The Language Connection, St. John’s intensive English language institute, along with yet-to-be-determined education programs will also be offered at the new facility.

Overall, more than 15,800 students are enrolled in the university’s undergraduate program and more than 5,200 students are in the graduate program, according to the university’s website. Based on fall 2013 records, 218 undergraduate students and 209 graduate students are enrolled at the Manhattan campus.

The university “has been proud to call New York City home for more than 143 years,” provost Robert Mangione, said in a statement, and the “wonderful opportunities” at 51 Astor Pl. will allow “our Manhattan campus to continue to excel.”

St. John’s, a private Roman Catholic university, dates back to 1870. It was founded by the Vincentian Community in France, influenced by St. Vincent de Paul. The university has locations in Queens, Staten Island, Oakdale, N.Y., Rome, Italy, and Paris, France.

On behalf of St. John’s, Hirst led a real estate team that included Brij Anand, vice president of facilities that negotiated the lease.

Jeffrey Sussman, executive vice president at Edward J. Minskoff Equities, led a team that handled the lease.