After many attempts by World Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein and state officials to keep brokerage Merrill Lynch downtown, the NY Times reports the firm "appears ready" to move to a new, yet-to-be built skyscraper on Seventh Avenue between 32nd and 33rd Streets.
Currently Merrill Lynch has offices at 4 World Financial Center, and it seems that it wants "extra large trading floors." It's questionable whether a Midtown building to accommodate 11,000 employees would be built in time (the 4WFC leases ends in 2013), but it seems that the less expensive options offered by Silverstein and the World Financial Center's management company were not acceptable. Merrill Lynch's Midtown option with Vornado involves a "billion-dollar 65-year lease" and vast square foot trading floors on the land where the Hotel Pennsylvania now stands. The hotel building would be demolished and a 3-million square foot tower would rise in its place.
The firm says it's still "evaluating" its options and will "come to a conclusion shortly." Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver who represents downtown Manhattan told the Times, “We have not given up on keeping them downtown. There’s more certainty downtown. Uptown, they need all kinds of approvals and zoning.” And Silverstein and his people should check themselves - if Merill does move to Midtown, they'll have struck out three times with big banks (previous strikes: JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs - everyone wants huge trading floors).
The news also comes as Merrill Lynch announced $2.9 billion in write downs yesterday, thanks to overexposure in sub-prime mortgages.