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Manhattan's Seagram Building lures workers back into the office with 'The Playground'

As the COVID-19 pandemic shows signs of easing, employers are getting creative in luring workers back into the office — and it's working. Earlier this month, office use hit a post-pandemic high of 47.5% within 10 major metro areas.

At the Seagram Building on Manhattan’s Park Avenue, the percentage is far greater.

Thanks to developer RFR Holding, employers at the Seagram have an edge over their New York City neighbors: a $25 million, 35,000-square-foot workspace.

The Playground inside Manhattan's iconic Seagram Building (Source: Dave Briggs/Yahoo Finance)
The Playground inside Manhattan's iconic Seagram Building (Source: RFR Holding)

Located at 375 Park Avenue, RFR converted the space from a parking garage into a first-of-its-kind amenity space known to employees as ‘The Playground.’

"It’s where the industry is going," Head of Marketing and Design Development Sheldon Werdiger told Yahoo Finance. "It’s going to become the norm. Amenity in the office business used to be a cliché. We don’t like working with clichés. We want to do something that’s outstanding, that’s different.”

From the moment you walk into the expansive space, you're greeted by a 22-foot climbing wall with 10 different tracks for different skill levels.

The space features a 22-foot climbing wall with 10 different tracks for different skill levels (Source: Dave Briggs/Yahoo Finance)
The space features a 22-foot climbing wall with 10 different tracks for different skill levels (Source: Dave Briggs/Yahoo Finance)

"We’re trying to create a community here," Director of Fitness Programming Allee Colon told Yahoo Finance. "We’re trying to get people to socialize again, to come out of their rut. We’re trying to establish a work-life balance culture.”

Colon said the most popular feature is the early morning spin class. Adjacent to the wall also features a pickleball court and full-court basketball.

Of course, there’s also a 3,500-square-foot fitness center with treadmills, Peloton bikes, elliptical machines, weights, heavy bags, and a high-intensity interval training system. Yoga, pilates, martial arts, and meditation classes are held in a “Flex Room.”

The multisport court and 150-person stadium (Source: Dave Briggs/Yahoo Finance)
The multisport court and 150-person stadium (Source: Dave Briggs/Yahoo Finance)

While working up a sweat before work is the most popular usage, the real fun comes after hours. That’s when a 16-foot by 9-foot screen drops from the ceiling and the basketball court turns into a 150-seat stadium-style theater. For those still up for some competition, there’s a pool table, foosball, and a ping-pong table.

"When Mr. Rosen, who owns the building, gave us $25 million to spend on this, he said we either do something extraordinary or don’t do anything at all," Werdiger said.

Prior to The Playground opening, the Seagram Building had 250-thousand-square-feet of unleased space.

They've since filled 95%.

Inside the 3,500-square-foot fitness center with treadmills (Source: Dave Briggs/Yahoo Finance)
Inside the 3,500-square-foot fitness center with treadmills (Source: Dave Briggs/Yahoo Finance)

“We’re helping out by giving you an alternative to sitting in your bedroom or home office versus coming here and having a pickup game with your colleagues,” Werdiger said.

If you’re a tenant, you’re automatically a member. Together with Arch Amenities Group, RFR built a smartphone app that allows employees to reserve time on the court, climbing wall, or the spin room.

“This is where our approach to hospitality turns from a physical experience into a digital experience," Zach Pointon, Arch head of hospitality, said.

David Briggs is an anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @davebriggstv

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