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Want to Buy the Empire State Building?

Selling the Brooklyn Bridge in New York refers to an American expression about gullible individuals who would buy it from scam artists offering bogus shares in the publicly-owned landmark. But shares in another of the city’s iconic structures, the Empire State Building, might become a reality.

The Empire State Building stood as the world’s tallest structure for more than 40 years after its construction in 1931. The Malkin family has owned it since a decade ago, paying more than $57 million for the iconic landmark. But this week, the Malkins filed papers with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, indicating that they might turn the property into a publicly-traded real estate company.

The details are sketchy. But Teresa Martin, founder of the Real Estate Investment Association in New York, welcomes the opportunity, even as she wonders why the Malkins might be going public.

“It may be that they’re in trouble and need to raise some funds," she said. "But it may just mean that they want to expand and need investment dollars to actually do what they foresee in their vision to do.”

People with offices in the Empire State Building declined to comment on camera about the possible stock offering. But off camera, several complained about poor elevator service, inadequate restroom facilities and other services in the 80-year-old building. The Malkin family have spent about $500 million on renovations, including replacement of more than 6,500 windows for improved energy efficiency.

Teresa Martin sees the Empire State Building as an opportunity for people to diversify their investment portfolios.

“If you’re telling me I can get it at $10 a share, let’s say, would I get 100 shares? Yes. Would I get like 200,000? Probably not," she said. "But I would get a piece.”

The building is often bathed in colored lights at night to commemorate various events or causes. The New York Times newspaper quotes a person familiar with the deal as saying that most people expect the building to be illuminated in green, the color of U.S. currency, if stocks in the Empire State Building are sold to the public.