COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space

Public/Private Mix Key To Rockefeller Center

Dec 31, 2008
Dec 14, 2017

Rockefeller Center is a six-block complex of Art Deco office buildings, retail space, arcades, and outdoor public spaces, embellished throughout with architectural ornament, sculpture, and art. Built in the 1930's by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in honor of his father, the midtown-Manhattan complex spans from W. 48th to W. 51st Streets and from Fifth to Sixth Avenues. Its public spaces include Plaza Street (which stretches from 48th to 51st Streets); the central plaza, which contains a skating rink that converts to an outdoor cafe in the summer; the esplanades around the rink; the Channel Gardens (a promenade linking the central plaza with Fifth Avenue), and various connecting sidewalks, lobbies, and underground retail arcades.

The properties at Rockefeller Center include the Simon and Schuster Building at 1230 Avenue of the Americas; the GE Building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza; Radio City Music Hall at 1270 Avenue of the Americas; the Associated Press Building at 50 Rockefeller Plaza; La Maison Francaise at 610 Fifth Avenue; the British Empire Building at 620 Fifth Avenue; and the International Building at 630 Fifth Avenue. The Rockefeller Center complex includes 700 parking spaces. It has a direct underground connection from its arcade shops to the Sixth Avenue subway line; Fifth and Sixth Avenue buses stop next to it.

Owned by: Rockefeller Center Properties Inc. Trust, whose shareholders are the Crown family of Chicago and Tishman-Speyer Properties of New York, the operating partner. This group owns all of the properties in the original center; Tishman-Speyer manages all of them.

Managed by: Tishman-Speyer Properties, Inc. Rockefeller Center is not part of the 5th Avenue BID. The Sea Grill, Cucina and Co. Café, and the ice rink are managed by Restaurant Associates.

Management Program

Maintenance:There is a full-time maintenance staff of 235, plus additional workers in the summer. A director of operations handles infrastructure needs such as sidewalks, common areas, roofs, and coordinates tenant spaces. A director of cleaning is responsible for maintenance in public areas. The gardens manager is responsible for the four seasonal change-outs of the garden, as well as selecting the Christmas tree and supervising its decoration. The Chief Gardener, nine full-time gardeners, and additional seasonal staff are responsible for daily maintenance of the gardens.

Security and hospitality: The center uses non-professional, uniformed guards, who are in contact with uniformed police officers on paid detail. In addition to a director of security, there are 18 administrators and supervisors, two staff on the control board day and night, and 125 uniformed patrol guards (more in the holiday and summer season). A concierge at 30 Rockefeller Plaza provides brochures for a self-guided walking tour that include the history of Rockefeller Center; the concierge also gives brief presentations about the Center and its art work. The Center has an agreement with NBC for the "Today" show whereby NBC pays for the security provided by the Center as well as the cleaning after their Friday morning concerts.

Programming: A marketing director and assistant oversee several large-scale events put on by the Center each year, all designed to compel public interest; the Center never hosts events that explicitly promote commercial development. The skating rink and the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree are the Center's two most popular programs; others include the Flower and Garden Show, Louis Vuitton Classic, and a sculpture show. The Center works with the Public Art Fund, a non-profit organization, to locate and borrow artwork for its shows and public spaces. Event organizers must provide the property managers with a detailed description of the production elements of the event.

Marketing and promotion: The Marketing Director is involved in promoting all events that take place in the public spaces at Rockefeller Center. Outside marketing and production consultants are also used.


In order to make an impact at the Center, events need to be orchestrated on a large scale and thus are often very costly. Since the Center is an office and retail environment, crowds and noise are problems and require constant attention and coordination with the NYPD and event hosts.


The public-spaces operating budget is funded by Tishman-Speyer out of building revenues; it is considered part of the overall management of the complex.

Capital investment: Since 1996, Rockefeller Center Group Inc. has spent over $85 million in upgrades to the site.

Lessons from Rockefeller Center

In order for retail stores and a programmed space to co-exist effectively, the two must be coordinated. Food, newsstands, and souvenir shops work well in a space that has constant activities and events, because the people who attend the events will patronize the stores.


Tishman-Speyer Properties Tom Madden Managing Director of Property Management (212) 715-0315

Art Lamarche, Director of Administration (212) 332-6503

Patti Kellert, Marketing Director (212) 332-6503

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COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space