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The Pluses and Minuses of Every City on Amazon’s HQ2 Shortlist

And then there were 20.

Following months of competition, this morning Amazon revealed the shortlist of locations for its second headquarters. The company will now work with officials in each city to “evaluate the feasibility of a future partnership” and will announce a final decision later this year.

The online retail giant expects to create 50,000 jobs and invest over $5 billion in the chosen city, calling it “a full equal” to its original Seattle HQ. As such, each of the locations have been wooing Amazon by promising tax incentives and submitting dramatic love letters about each area’s benefits.

But which of the 20 cities is best positioned to host Amazon’s HQ2?

We’ve assessed the pluses and minuses of what each city is offering Amazon. So listen up, Jeff Bezos—here’s what you’re working with…

To continue reading on Observer, click here.

Source: commercial

Mall Developers Bet on the Basics—and a Trampoline or Two

The death of the American mall has been a topic discussed ad nauseam. Whether through overdevelopment, the rise of Amazon or the financial woes of traditional anchor tenants like Macy’s and Sears, brick-and-mortar retail—and the mall meccas that house them—have had their obituaries posted for the last year, or more.

Yet, in seeming defiance of the mournful headlines, private investors, with the funds and ability to reinvent struggling properties, are buying into the regional mall model that has defined the U.S. retail landscape since its creation in the mid-1950s by Victor Gruen.

Way back when, Gruen, the Austrian-born architect created the nation’s first grand shopping center, the 800,000-square-foot Southdale Center in Edina, Minn., in 1956 and still operates as the oldest, fully enclosed shopping mall in the United States. He was inspired by the town center of Vienna where he was born. He envisioned a communal gathering spot with a lively mix of commerce, art and entertainment. A socialist who hated cars, Gruen designed the development with long promenades and parking lots built far away to encourage walking. Gruen also envisioned a property with medical centers, schools and residences, not just an array of retail.

He wasn’t alone. Matthew Bucksbaum and his brothers, Maurice and Martin, the founders of what would become General Growth Properties, bought a struggling shopping center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, around the same time and went on to expand to many small cities throughout the Midwest.

The model was widely embraced, and the rest is history. Today, there are an estimated 1,200 malls nationwide, primarily in suburban areas, inspired by Gruen’s conception—one he grew to despise. They didn’t bring about the vibrant urban centers Gruen envisioned; they led more to the rise of American car culture, suburban sprawl and the decline of walkable downtowns.

Is it any wonder then that the American mall—a concept dreamed up and later cursed by its own creator—would continue to stir debate and contradictory ideas about how to run, refashion or completely reinvent them?

Round1 Bowling
The Moreno Valley Mall is turning itself around by bringing in a bowling alley, gym and trampoline park. Photo: Dan Arnold Photos

Too Much of a Good Thing

“You know, the big question is, How many malls does the country need?”

This is the question asked by Thomas Dobrowski, the executive managing director at Newmark Knight Frank in New York, who handles regional mall investment sales nationally.

“Does it need 500? Does it need 800? There’s no question that the U.S. is over-retailed, and it’s really the regional malls that have been overbuilt. There are just too many, especially with people shopping more and more online and with people looking for more experiential experiences.”

Pete Bethea, an executive managing director at NKF, concurred.

Some of these centers that are in secondary and tertiary markets were just overbuilt with retail. So, instead of there being three viable centers, there might be one,” said Bethea, who is based in NKF’s San Diego office and focuses mainly on open-air suburban mall property sales. “What happens with those other two centers [depends on what] the market lends itself to, right? What is the next evolution of use of that space or that land?”

As mall real estate investment trusts (REITs) have been shedding their B- or C-level malls or noncore assets over the last five years, private equity investors have stepped up to purchase them.

“Contrary to all the news out there, there have been a lot of transactions happening in the enclosed mall space,” Dobrowski said. “Some of the malls we’re selling are almost exclusively to private equity or high-net-worth buyers who don’t have the same scrutiny that an institutional or typical mall REIT would have when it comes to repositioning or redeveloping these malls by bringing in alternative uses.”

Dobrowski said that a lot of the malls he sells are purchased to continue as malls with about one-third bought to be redeveloped.

He pointed to the Moreno Valley Mall in San Bernardino County outside of Los Angeles, which was previously owned by GGP before the company filed for bankruptcy in 2009 in one of the largest commercial real estate collapses in U.S. history, as a prime example of a mall turnaround.

NKF sold the property on behalf of CW Capital, which had bought it back from GGP, for $63 million in November 2017 to International Growth Properties, a small private equity firm in Beverly Hills.

IGP brought in a gym, Crunch Fitness—in a move most mall operators previously shunned, according to The Wall Street Journal—Round1 Bowling and Amusement, Action Time Bungee Jumping (a trampoline park) in addition to movie theaters and anchor tenants like Macy’s already on the premises.

“They really transitioned this mall from a kind of cookie-cutter enclosed mall with your traditional anchor tenants into a shining star of a lot of the malls that we sold this year,” Dobrowski said.

He and Bethea expect the trend to continue given market conditions.

“Pricing now is at a level where it makes sense to purchase a property and then go reinvest and reposition it,” Bethea said. “We’re in the early innings of that starting to happen. There are double-digit cap rates. Certainly, in the world of suburbia, we are starting to approach the 8 or 9 [percent cap rate] in submarkets.”

Dobrowski said the trend will likely accelerate in the next 12 to 24 months, depending on the state of major retailers.

“Last year was a big year in terms of stores closing and bankruptcies, and 2018 will probably be another big year,” he said. “But to redevelop a mall takes a long time. It’s a two- to five-year process, so we’re really just in the early phase of malls being purchased to eventually be redeveloped.” (For more from Dobrowski, see the Sit-Down on page 32.)

Adapt or Perish

IGP’s strategy of incorporating something like a trampoline park is exactly what the mall redevelopers are looking for to attract consumers to their properties, from families to millennials. Some are going even further. The long-stalled American Dream Mall in Northern New Jersey is back in business with construction resumed and developer Triple Five Group targeting a fall 2018 opening. The 6-million-square-foot property at the Meadowlands sports complex will feature the country’s first indoor ski slope, an aquarium, an indoor water park with a 1.5-acre pool capable of generating seven-foot waves and the largest indoor theme park in the Western Hemisphere with four roller coasters.

Triple Five, the Canadian company that already owns the two largest malls in the Western Hemisphere, the Mall of America in Minnesota and the West Edmonton Mall in Canada, is obviously betting big on the megaproject despite the pessimism surrounding traditional brick-and-mortar enterprises of which the shopping mall is emblematic. According to The New York Times, the developer has spent $700 million thus far on the project.

Ami Ziff, the director of national retail at Time Equities, is in the process of adding amenities to reinvigorate a few of its regional mall properties, including the Newgate Mall in Ogden, Utah, for $69.5 million in August 2016 from GGP, as CO previously reported and two malls in Tennessee purchased from Chattanooga, Tenn.-based CBL & Associates Properties for $53.5 million last May.

In addition to adding a Fly High Trampoline Park, which will occupy 41,000 square feet at the Newgate Mall, Time Equities is looking to add amenities that can meet the human’s need to socialize and appeal to social media and Instagram-addicted consumers.

There are plans for flash mobs as a special event, as well as immersive experiences, including a bubble and ball exhibit like the one the company has at its residential condominium at 50 West Street in Manhattan.

At Newgate, Time Equities will be renovating the food court area with the addition of a fireplace and common-area seating meant to evoke a ski lodge with seasonal and community programming—think caroling and hot chocolate around the fire during the winter holidays, s’mores and ghost stories come Halloween.

“There is such a difference in the kind of work that goes into owning a mall versus a strip center,” Ziff said. “You might have a lot of the same tenants, but the fact that you have this common space, there’s a significant burden on the landlord as well as the tenants to produce experiences. There needs to be a whole marketing agenda and program that we roll out at different malls based on different needs, timing and markets.”

Ski slope in Dubai
The long-stalled American Dream Mall will include an indoor ski slope like the one in Dubai . Photo: Getty Images

Alternative Uses

In addition to off-the-hook amenities, mall developers have turned to creating truly mixed-use properties, including creative office space, residential, grocery and, at some, alternative uses like medical facilities, thereby creating in effect the one-stop community center Gruen once envisioned.

“The same Baby Boom population that fueled regional malls and other retail property types in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s continues to do so,” said Mark Hunter, the managing director of retail asset services for the Americas at CBRE based in Chicago. “We’re now seeing Baby Boomers [are] now requiring additional medical services and [how they’re being integrated]. A perfect example of that is the 100 Oaks Mall in Nashville, Tenn.”

In 2007 100 Oaks Plaza, which bought the property the previous year for $49.2 million, redeveloped one of its department stores into a medical center for The Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which leases over half of the 850,000-square-foot building. “I think you’re going to continue to see this trend where there’s a mix of medical, office, entertainment and residential as different markets adapt to the changing environment,” Hunter said.

Data centers could also fill in space left by struggling retailers, given the rise in cloud storage needs, pointing to how Rackspace, a web-hosting company based in San Antonio, moved its corporate headquarters into the local now-shuttered Windsor Park Mall in 2012.

Then there is a model that turns the whole American mall discussion on its head. Billed as a “solution to the retail conundrum,” Case Equity Partners introduced a patent-pending concept called the Shopping Fulfillment Center last month. The SFC, a hybrid of brick and click, combines a vast fulfillment center in the back of a retail center component. In the proposed model, retailers would share logistics costs and require much less in terms of traditional square footage. It would allow customers to peruse or test out their products, but instead of, say, having to stock several varieties of a high-touch item like a sweater, one would suffice with a vast array of options housed in a communal warehouse in back. (For more on the concept, see Chopp’s column on page 35.)

Omnichannel and Co-Existence

Arthur Coppolla, the chairman and CEO of Macerich, one of the country’s leading owners of high-end mall REITs, is bullish about the future of brick-and-mortar retail.

“If you read the social media and the news media, you would come to the conclusion that Amazon and e-commerce are killing all legacy retailers, but I see digital as being the best of friends with brick-and-mortar retail,” Coppolla said during a keynote talk at “Rethink: Emerging Macro Trends in Real Estate” in Los Angeles this past December. (Coppolla declined to be interviewed for this article.)

Coppolla said the common misperception among investors is that Amazon is synonymous with e-commerce “and that there’s nothing else, which is not true.”

Digitally made, vertically integrated brands—brands that have a niche and identified a broad market to disrupt and are not Amazon—are where it’s at in terms of the next great brands.

“Digitally native is a very chic place to be born,” he said. “Digital brands are growing at a far greater rate than e-commerce itself. If you look at the next [few] years between now and 2020, the digitally native brands are going to be generating as much business as Amazon direct.”

If you want a glimpse into the future of traditional retail, he said, just look to its past.

“The future of retail is its past,” Coppolla said. “If you look at legacy retailers, department stores were everything. They distinguished themselves in how they curated brands for their customers. But they cut sales people on their floors and lost touch with their customers. We have to be curators of brands like how department stores used to be.”

Successful malls need to take over where legacy retailers faltered and curate brands. E-commerce, he said, is the driver of brand creation today, and as such, he is actively seeking digitally native brands to his properties and the feeling among these brands is mutual.

“These digitally native brands, they all believe that brick and mortar is where they want to go because, when they open their store, that’s when they feel that they have arrived. It’s the last mile for them in terms of having a relationship with their customer,” Coppolla said.

Not only can e-commerce and brick and mortar co-exist, but according to Hunter at CBRE, the perception that online selling eclipsed traditional retail is much overblown.

“When you really delve into where most retail sales are happening today, as of last year, 9 percent of all retail sales were online, meaning 91 percent of all other retail sales were done in a physical space,” he said. “Our research shows that peaking in the next, call it, eight to 10 years in the high teens. Still, the bulk of retail sales will be done in physical space.”

The more important point, he said, is that, to thrive, retailers must be adept at omnichannel distribution.

“Whether you’re on your smartphone, or you’re in the store, it’s going to be a much more seamless transaction. You’re going to continue to see that happen, and the retailers that can adapt to the omnichannel distribution, they’re going to be very successful,” he said. “Those behind the times, that don’t adapt to that, will struggle more.”


Source: commercial

Brookfield’s Takeover Bid Is the Latest Chapter in Mall Giant GGP’s Turbulent History

When Brookfield Property Partners lodged a $14.8 billion takeover bid for GGP last month, it raised the possibility of one of the biggest real estate mergers and acquisitions seen in recent years—one that would create a massive company with nearly $100 billion in assets globally and annual net operating income of roughly $5 billion, Brookfield said in announcing the bid.

It also marked the latest chapter in the tumultuous history of the Chicago-based real estate investment trust formerly known as General Growth Properties. The past decade, in particular, saw GGP emerge from the wreckage of one of the biggest real estate bankruptcies in history in 2009—when it was unable to refinance more than $27 billion of debt in the wake of the financial crisis—to re-establish itself as one of the nation’s major players in the Class A mall space, with assets ranging from prestigious shopping centers in Honolulu and Southern California to high-street storefronts on Fifth Avenue.

GGP’s renaissance has come under the guidance of Sandeep Mathrani, who left his role as head of Vornado Realty Trust’s retail division to become the REIT’s chief executive officer in 2010, when the company was just getting back on its feet after the bankruptcy. With the help of investment from the likes of Brookfield and hedge fund investor Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management, GGP shed dozens of properties, rid itself of burdensome holdings by spinning off Rouse Properties and the Howard Hughes Corporation into standalone companies and exiled to the past the legacy of the Bucksbaum family—which founded General Growth Properties in the 1950s but also oversaw its descent into financial ruin. Today, GGP has regained its status as one of the largest publicly traded owners and operators of retail properties in the U.S., with a portfolio of more than 120 properties spanning roughly 123 million square feet.

Yet, the Brookfield takeover proposal comes at a significant juncture for both the company and the market in which it specializes. The challenges facing the brick-and-mortar retail sector today have been well documented, with the Amazon-fueled rise of e-commerce having contributed to store closures at a rate unseen since the Great Recession.

Though GGP’s profile as an owner of high-quality, Class A malls has insulated it somewhat from headwinds that have most heavily impacted Class B and Class C malls and shopping centers throughout the country, the company has not been altogether immune from the great retail apocalypse of 2017. The struggles of department stores like Sears, Macy’s and J.C. Penney, which historically were counted on as mall anchor tenants capable of driving customer traffic, have prompted GGP to spend more than $2 billion to redevelop roughly 9 million square feet of space across its portfolio—mostly “anchor boxes” formerly occupied by such department stores that it has sought to reposition into restaurants, cinemas and other uses more relevant to the current retail market climate.

headshot mathrani e1512493521894 Brookfields Takeover Bid Is the Latest Chapter in Mall Giant GGPs Turbulent History
Sandeep Mathrani. Photo: GGP

Like fellow Class A mall REITs Simon Property Group, Macerich and Taubman Centers, GGP has seen its stock price undertake a slow and steady slide over the last 12 months as investors have increasingly subscribed to the doom-and-gloom narrative surrounding the retail sector. Market conditions have meant that GGP (also like its peers) has found itself consistently trading at a discount to its actual net asset value (NAV); by Nov. 6, the day before news broke of the Brookfield takeover talks, GGP’s share price had fallen to $19.01, down from its 52-week high of $26.63 and well below the company’s consensus NAV of more than $28 per share (analysts who spoke to Commercial Observer for this story pegged GGP’s NAV at anywhere from $26 per share to $35 per share).

Brookfield’s initial bid for GGP, meanwhile, came in at $23 per share, or $14.8 billion in total, and took the form of a 50-50 cash-equity offer comprising $7.4 billion in cash and another $7.4 billion in Brookfield Property Partners (BPY) stock. BPY, a subsidiary of Toronto-based investment giant Brookfield Asset Management, has held a sizable stake in GGP since helping bring the company out of bankruptcy in 2010, and the deal would see it acquire the 66 percent of GGP that it does not already own. (In the third quarter of this year, Brookfield exercised stock warrants to increase its ownership interest in the REIT from 29 percent to 34 percent by purchasing 68 million GGP shares for $462 million.)

“Brookfield’s access to large-scale capital and deep operating expertise across multiple sectors, combined with GGP’s high-quality retail asset base, will allow us to maximize the value of these irreplaceable assets,” Brookfield Property Partners CEO Brian Kingston said in a statement announcing the bid.

Brookfield noted that its takeover offer constituted a 21 percent premium on GGP’s “unaffected closing share price” of $19.01 on Nov. 6, as news of the proposal immediately pushed GGP stock to north of $22 per share the next day and above $24 per share on Nov. 13, when Brookfield officially announced its offer. In the wake of the bid, GGP said it had formed a “special committee” of independent directors—excluding Mathrani and directors affiliated with Brookfield, such as Kingston, BPY Chairman Ric Clark and Brookfield Asset Management CEO Bruce Flatt—to review and consider Brookfield’s proposal and “pursue the course of action that it believes is in the best interests of the company.”

Representatives for both GGP and Brookfield declined to comment for this story.

With the offer coming in well below most analysts’ valuation of GGP, many are split on whether the deal provides good value for GGP shareholders at a challenging time for the retail sector at large, or if it undervalues one of the top publicly traded commercial landlords in the country and could prove a mere starting point in negotiations between the two sides.

“I’m sure everyone would like to get a deal done; the question is, What is the price Brookfield is willing to pay?” said Alexander Goldfarb, a managing director and senior REIT analyst at Sandler O’Neill + Partners, who noted that the initial Brookfield bid “undervalues” GGP below Brookfield’s own internal net asset valuation of the company of around $30 per share.

Goldfarb and other analysts also called into question whether GGP investors would be willing to accept BPY stock as part of any deal. In a note released last month, BTIG equity research analysts James Sullivan and Ami Probandt described BPY’s stock, which has been trading between $21 to $24 per share for most of this year, as “relatively illiquid with very low average trading volume.”

“Our assumption is they’ll have to improve their offer; no one ever throws in their best offer first,” Goldfarb said. “I think Brookfield sees the real story, which is the company being undervalued by the Street.”

Anita Ogbara, a director and credit analyst at Standard & Poor’s, described the Brookfield bid as “opportunistic” at a time when there is “a lot of pressure on valuations” in the mall REIT sector. “We don’t know what the ultimate outcome is going to be, but there’s a clear sign that [Brookfield is] trying to take advantage of the discount versus the true value of [GGP’s] assets.”

While Brookfield’s first crack at a GGP takeover may have been “an underwhelming offer” for many stakeholders, Haendel St. Juste, a managing director and senior equity research analyst at Mizuho Securities USA, said that challenging conditions in the retail space could end up having outsized sway over whether a deal gets done or not. He noted that, speaking to participants at the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts’ annual REITworld convention last month, there is a sense that an offer of around $25 per share “would maybe carry the day.”

“People are disappointed [in the $23-per-share offer], but then again I think there’s been a resignation among folks—that maybe it’s not great on its face, but given the current dynamic, maybe it’s as good as you could hope for or expect,” St. Juste said.

gettyimages 171080470 Brookfields Takeover Bid Is the Latest Chapter in Mall Giant GGPs Turbulent History
Brookfield Place in Battery Park City, Manhattan. Photo: Getty Images

Should a deal go through and Brookfield acquire GGP, it is unclear what will become of the company’s leadership and whether the likes of Mathrani will remain in some position or capacity. What appears more certain, according to analysts as well as sources with knowledge of Brookfield’s operations, is that the combined company would look to leverage Brookfield’s exposure in nonretail sectors, such as office and residential, to potentially reposition underperforming properties in the GGP portfolio.

“We are excited about the opportunity to leverage our expertise to grow, transform or reposition GGP’s shopping centers, creating long-term value in a way that would not otherwise be possible,” Kingston said in his statement announcing the bid.

While GGP has already made steps toward pursuing such repositionings—having recently announced a partnership with residential REIT AvalonBay Communities to build apartments at one of GGP’s malls in Seattle—Brookfield would likely seek to further that approach, as it did with select Rouse Properties assets in New Jersey and Vermont in the wake of its $2.8 billion acquisition of the mall landlord last year.

Mizuho’s St. Juste said the integration of a more diverse array of uses at malls and shopping centers is warranted in an environment where “there’s too much retail in the United States” and landlords are seeking new ways to drive traffic.

Sources also said that while Brookfield would almost certainly look to hold long-term onto GGP’s premier retail assets—such as the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, Glendale Galleria in Glendale, Calif., and Tysons Galleria in Washington, D.C., suburbs—it would probably seek to offload other lower-quality properties either through outright sales or joint-venture partnerships.

It would also remain to be seen what happens to GGP’s high-street retail portfolio, a market in which former Vornado executive Mathrani upped the REIT’s exposure via the acquisition of pricey storefronts along luxury retail strips like Manhattan’s upper Fifth Avenue corridor.

Sandler O’Neill’s Goldfarb noted that GGP’s foray into the luxury street retail space was one of the few areas where Mathrani “got pushback” from investors and observers, given that the REIT entered that market “right at the peak” of New York City property values—via deals like its nearly $1.8 billion acquisition of the Crown Building at 730 Fifth Avenue, which GGP acquired alongside retail magnate Jeff Sutton of Wharton Properties.

“[Mathrani] had done [street retail] at Vornado and he saw an opportunity at GGP,” Goldfarb said. “It was just that the prices he was paying were top of the market.” While GGP has found success with its street retail assets—most notably signing luxury fashion brand Bulgari to a pricey lease to maintain its presence at the Crown Building—depressed Manhattan street retail rents could contribute to a change in approach.

Whatever direction is in store for a new Brookfield-helmed GGP, it is almost certain that a successful takeover would shake up the market as far as publicly traded retail landlords are concerned—and very well signal a time of heightened consolidation as the industry takes on virtually unprecedented headwinds.

“It’s created an M&A tailwind and brought some investors back in the space,” St. Juste said, citing how the likes of Simon, Macerich and Taubman have also seen their share prices run up in the wake of the Brookfield bid. “Next year is going to be tough from an operational perspective; without this M&A buzz, the stocks would be down. They’re not trading on fundamentals right now.”


Source: commercial

Pop to Perm

Traditionally, short-term leases (a.k.a., pop-ups) have been seasonal: Halloween costume shops, Christmas stores and sample sales have been a staple of this retail segment for years. But the advent of experimental fashion pop-ups and influencer events have paved the way for a broader pop-up retail strategy, which is looking better to both landlords and tenants.

These “pop-to-perm” strategies allow for new concepts, online brands to try out bricks and mortar and even established companies looking to expand into a new market.

For new brands, small businesses and emerging concepts pop-ups are an exciting opportunity to test the waters without committing to a long-term lease. There are no high buildout costs, co-tenancy clauses or penalties. Landlords, for their part, reap financial benefits of collecting rent and eliminating vacant storefront space at the base of a building.

Popping-up everywhere

According to a recent national study from Chicago-based marketing firm PopUp Republic, the pop-up industry has grown impressively over the past decade to the point today where total annual sales have reached $50 billion. It wasn’t so long ago that Target dropped a concept pop-up at West 42nd Street and Avenue of the Americas. At the time, some questioned the strategy for such a large retailer. They were just testing the waters back then, and apparently, they liked the temperature because now you can find Target stores throughout Manhattan.

Interestingly, there is a psychological component to the pop-up. There have been several consumer-psychology studies in recent years suggesting that pop-ups stimulate part of a consumer’s brain that enjoys new experiences. Aside from the immediate practical implications (more foot traffic and increased sales), the findings also support the effectiveness of pop-up retail as a lasting experiential marketing strategy.

A perfect example is trendy eyewear purveyor Privé Revaux. The inexpensive celebrity favorite sunglass brand—whose business partners include Hollywood luminaries Jamie Foxx, Hailee Steinfeld, Ashley Benson and Jeremy Piven—recently opted for a short-term lease at 120 West 42 Street for its first brick-and-mortar presence. The new store blends all the best elements of an experiential pop-up, including a graffiti-covered New York City subway car that was left by a previous tenant and cloud installation. Expectations, the company said, are to extend their stay after evaluating the amount of traffic the store generates. Because a pop-up tenancy can last from one day to one year or more, the idea of planting a flag with only a short-term commitment can be extremely attractive.

Made to stay: Brands extending their stay after successful debuts

Since 2015, we’ve seen an increase in commercial leases of three years or fewer, as landlords have recognized the value in negotiating for the shorter term as the market stabilizes. One particularly interesting development contributing to the shortening of leases is the steady stream of online brands seeking a brick-and-mortar presence.

To me, pop-up doesn’t always have to be experimental and edgy and on a shoestring budget. And nobody exemplifies that spirit more than The RealReal. Following in the footsteps of other online only businesses like Bonobos, Warby Parker, Birchbox and even Amazon, The RealReal is expanding from e-commerce into brick-and-mortar retail in a mature way.

While the San Francisco-based company—which offers authenticated, high-end resale items online for women, men and the home—has been busy in recent years rounding up more than $150 million in funding for its online business, it has also launched a brick-and- mortar strategy.

Almost one year after opening its first pop-up in Manhattan during last holiday shopping season—which recorded a reported $2 million in revenue in just two weeks—the luxury consignment website earlier this month opened its first permanent retail space on Wooster Street.

Although it didn’t migrate from the online world to the physical, multibrand boutique Northern Grade also recently made the jump from pop-to-perm. After several years as a roving pop-up shop offering indie fashion and décor, the brand initially took a short-term option at 203 Front Street and signed a six-month lease in the Seaport District. Today, it remains a fixture in the Seaport’s rejuvenated retail scene.

In fact, there are so many successful examples of pop-to-perm in recent years we could fill the pages of this issue. Once brands have found their footing, they seek their own long-term spaces, where they can create opportunities that will bond them with shoppers. Smart brands know the value of providing excellent customer service in a memorable, enjoyable and stimulating setting, one that will prompt shoppers to make a habit of returning. But until then, putting products directly into shoppers’ hands at a pop-up or in a store with a short-term lease is an important way for brands to launch an omnichannel approach to retail.

Retail real estate pioneer and investor Robert K. Futterman is Chairman and chief executive officer of RKF, a leading retail real estate brokerage firm in the U.S.

 


Source: commercial

What’s Happening With Chinese Investment in New York City Commercial Real Estate?

There was a lot of nail-biting from the New York real estate community heading into this year after hearing that the biggest whale in terms of investment might not be allowed to swim in our waters. We’re talking, of course, about China.

With China’s capital controls in place, the country was expected to tamp down outbound investment in 2017. While the number of New York City investment sales deals involving the country has dwindled significantly this year, China still represents the biggest cross-border player, according to Cushman & Wakefield.

Chinese investments dropped to 16 percent, or six, of the 38 foreign capital deals (excluding debt deals) in New York City in the first three quarters of the year, versus 28 percent, or 16, of 58 acquisitions at the same time last year, C&W data indicates.

Francis Greenburger, the chairman and chief executive officer of Time Equities, explained the issue in Commercial Observer’s survey for this year’s Owners Magazine: “Although there are exceptions, Chinese investors are subject to government restraints in arranging to transfer funds out of China. This has caused a reduction in transactions by one of the most active group of New York City buyers.”

But in terms of dollar volume the dip in Chinese investment in New York City hasn’t been dramatic, and the country still has spent more than its competitors. Chinese investments made up 11 percent of the $24.51 billion spent on commercial real estate in New York City this year through September compared with last year’s 13 percent of $45.87 billion.

Despite a slowdown in deal flow and a reduction in investment sums, the Chinese have been going for big deals in New York City.

“Starting in 2016 through the first half of 2017, China surpassed Canada as the largest foreign investor in New York City,” said investment sales broker Douglas Harmon of C&W. “Capital controls caused Chinese buyers to participate in less transactions, but the capital was consolidated into the larger deals.”

Harmon and colleague Adam Spies are representing SL Green Realty Corp. in the sale of a 49 percent stake in a 54-story office tower at 1515 Broadway between West 44th and West 45th Streets to China Investment Corporation (CIC), a Chinese sovereign wealth fund. It is a property valued at $2 billion. A spokesman for SL Green said the deal has not closed.

In the priciest foreign property acquisition of the 12 months ending in October, Chinese conglomerate HNA Group paid $2.21 billion for 245 Park Avenue between East 46th and East 47th Streets. The sellers were Canada-based Brookfield Property Partners and the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System. The deal represents one of the highest prices ever paid for a Manhattan office property. (HNA also bought a mansion at 19-21 East 64th Street for $79.5 million this year.)

At the end of last year, CIC bought a 45 percent interest in the former McGraw-Hill Building at 1221 Avenue of the Americas between West 48th and West 49th Streets from Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. The property was valued at $2.29 billion.

Two other large Chinese acquisitions in the last year include WanXin Media’s $68 million buy of an office building and vacant lot at 7-15 West 44th Street and office developer Soho China picking up the landmarked John Pierce Residence at 11 East 51st Street for $30 million.

Alex Foshay, a senior managing director in Newmark Knight Frank’s capital markets division, said the Chinese government’s restrictions have “really strangled all major investment out of mainland China.”

Foshay cited as an example, China’s Anbang Insurance Group’s pulling out of an investment in 666 Fifth Avenue. Kushner Companies was planning to redevelop its flagship New York office tower with Anbang but talks terminated in March.

Terrence Oved, the head of the real estate department and a partner in the law firm Oved & Oved, said he has seen the drop off in acquisitions generally, and those that are closing are taking longer to complete.

“That rapid-fire tennis-match-like quality that we saw in 2016 [between players] is glaringly absent in the foreign transactions in 2017,” Oved said. “The perception of foreign money is that New York is in the later stage of the cycle.”

Also, Oved said, New York City is facing global competition from other world cities that weren’t as competitive the last few years. He pointed to Silicon Valley’s appeal to the tech company likes of Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft.

HFF’s Andrew Scandalios said that deal flow is down this year because properties are overpriced.

“Buyers are less enthusiastic to pay 2015 prices, and the sellers aren’t going to move [them],” he said. “We haven’t seen the offshore capital abate. It’s just they’re waiting for better pricing opportunities.”

Scandalios worked on the deal in which Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC picked up a 95 percent stake in the 50-story office tower at 60 Wall Street from Paramount Group and Morgan Stanley with a $1.1 billion valuation. (He also helped secure GIC’s $550 million acquisition loan from German bank Aareal Capital.)

In the summer, Germany-headquartered Allianz SE contributed the 18-story, 352,000-square-foot office building at 114 Fifth Avenue (which it acquired in 2015 with L&L Holding Company) into a then-new joint venture with Columbia Property Trust to buy and manage U.S. trophy properties. Columbia contributed a Palo Alto and San Francisco property to the venture. The three properties were valued at $1.3 billion and HFF negotiated the deal.

Commercial real estate deal volume is down this year for all foreign buyers in New York City as of the third quarter to 28 percent of all investment sales, C&W found, from 34 percent a year prior. (A look at foreign investment in New York City is limited to investment sales deals because debt and equity transactions are harder to track.) The findings parallel the nationwide trend. As of mid-2017, foreign investors represented 13 percent of all U.S. transactions by volume versus 16 at the same point in 2016, Real Capital Analytics data indicate.

Foshay said that a number of overseas buyers are “skeptical” about plunking down large sums of money (over $150 million) in the U.S., out of concern about “where we are in the cycle.”

This doesn’t mean, of course, that foreign investors aren’t seeking out deals nationwide. And Canada heads the procession.

Canada has sealed 255 U.S. commercial real estate acquisitions in the last year, followed relatively closely by China with 215 before dropping off significantly with Singapore and its 36 deals, RCA data show.

In the last year, Canadian entities have closed some notable purchases in New York City. Oxford contributed $65 million in a $130 million deal for 427 10th Avenue and Brookfield Property Partners input $185 million of $370 million for 1100 Avenue of the Americas. In addition, Canadian pension fund Ivanhoé Cambridge and Chicago-based Callahan Capital Properties paid $652 million for Goldman Sachs’ former headquarters at 85 Broad Street (Ivanhoé Cambridge invested $326 million in the deal).

Finally, Canada-based Oxford Properties Group is in the process of purchasing the St. John’s Terminal site at 550 Washington Street from Westbrook Partners and Atlas Capital for $700 million.

In New York City specifically, foreign investment has been dropping because of a dearth of trophy property on the market, according to a couple of brokers.

“There just wasn’t as much property available this year as there was last year,” said CBRE’s William Shanahan, who along with CBRE’s Darcy Stacom brokered the 245 Park Avenue deal.

The duo also sold the 31-story office building at 685 Third Avenue for TH Real Estate and Australian sovereign wealth fund the Future Fund, to Japanese real estate firm Unizo Holdings for $467.5 million.

Foshay concurred about the lack of inventory.

“I would say there has been a lack of trophy product to be purchased,” he said, but “there’s been quite a lot of availability in investment sales of non-trophy assets, meaning Class B product, and it is that trophy investment product that particularly appeals to overseas investors.”

Going forward, Shanahan expects to see “more participation” from Japanese investors.

Harmon said, “We think Chinese investment should pick back up in the first quarter of 2018. Additionally, South Korea, Japan, Norway, Saudi Arabia and Canada make for plenty of competition for domestic investors in 2018.”


Source: commercial

The Amazon Effect: Warehouses Become Prime Target for CMBS

In regions across the country, the rise of e-commerce is bringing industrial warehouses to burgeoning prominence in commercial mortgage-backed securities transactions, according to a report from Morningstar Credit Ratings. The report, prepared by analyst Jennifer Jones, notes that in the first half of 2017, logistics and distribution facilities outperformed all other major real estate categories in supply, demand, occupancy and rent growth.

Amazon in particular has grown in importance as a backer of securitized commercial mortgages. As the company continues its nationwide search for a second headquarters, investment banks have wrapped loans tied to seven of the company’s warehouses, totaling nearly $2.1 billion, into outstanding transactions—a development that Morningstar views favorably, given Amazon’s balance-sheet strength.

“With warehouse space, one of the big differences [from office buildings] is that you’ll just have only one or two tenants,” said Edward Dittmer, a senior vice president at Morningstar. “We look through the credit at the underlying tenant. If you’ve got a 10-year lease, the cash flow is going to come from the tenant, [affecting how] the credit is going to perform over time.”

Amazon remains secretive about its logistics network. Publicly, it has stated only that it maintains more than 70 sorting and distribution centers in the U.S., but Morningstar estimates the current number at more than twice that sum. In September, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the company would open its first New York-area fulfillment center, on Staten Island, in 2018.

Despite Amazon’s opacity, however, Morningstar has found compelling evidence for its strength as a tenant.

At one Amazon warehouse that the agency examined, in Charlton, Tenn., employment has grown by 300 percent over the last six years, rising to 1,200 today from 300 in 2011. Other sites, like a fulfillment center in Chattanooga, Tenn., have taken advantage of artificial intelligence to increase productivity: algorithms provide that facility’s 3,000 workers with precise directions for how to navigate the 1-million-square-foot storage building in order to use their time most efficiently.

The internet commerce giant has made a strong push into artificial intelligence in recent years, most notably with its 2012 purchase of robotics firm Kiva Systems for $775 million. Tens of thousands of Kiva robots now ply Amazon’s warehouse floors, according to Business Insider. The robots can traverse the shelves at five miles per hour, hauling 700 pounds of goods at a time.

More broadly, though, the Morningstar analysts said that Amazon’s most transformative effect on CMBS has come from its nationwide push for two-day delivery through its Amazon Prime service, which they said has fundamentally altered the way that warehouses are used.

“Traditional retailers had a network of stores, with a more rigid view of how goods should be distributed,” Dittmer said. “Because of the growth of Amazon and two-day shipping, I think there has to be a more robust logistics network behind that.”

As online retail sales grew 15 percent year-over-year as of early 2017, reaching more than 10 percent of the total in all sectors excluding autos and gasoline, Jones said she is bullish on the permanence of the sector’s import.

“I think that there’s more to come,” Jones said. “It’s a very strong sector. And we’re continuing to watch it evolve.”

A representative for Amazon declined to comment.


Source: commercial

Vornado Talks Up Moynihan Train Hall for Amazon HQ2

Vornado Realty Trust’s redevelopment of the James A. Farley Post Office Building into the new Moynihan Train Hall is “front and center” in New York City’s bid to house Amazon’s new HQ2 headquarters, Vornado said on its third-quarter earnings call today.

Vornado, which is redeveloping the former post office building with partners Related Companies and Skanska, cited the project’s 730,000 square feet of office space and 120,000 square feet of retail offerings as key facets of its pitch to host Amazon—which has sent municipalities across the country into a sweepstakes to host the Seattle-based e-commerce giant’s second headquarters complex.

Steven Roth, Vornado’s chairman and chief executive officer, said the company was “pleased” to see Manhattan’s West Side included in the New York City Economic Development Corporation’s proposal to Amazon as one of four city neighborhoods that could accommodate HQ2 (the other three being Lower Manhattan, Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City), with the city touting the area’s robust transit offerings and ample office space in the Hudson Yards, Penn Plaza and Midtown West areas.

Roth noted that Moynihan Train Hall would be able to meet Amazon’s “near-term needs” for roughly 500,000 square feet of office space—though whether it would be able to provide that space by next year, as indicated by Amazon, is uncertain given the Moynihan project’s 2020 targeted completion date. (Amazon will eventually require up to 8 million square feet of office space for HQ2.)

But Roth and other Vornado executives noted that the project’s large, 250,000-square-foot office floor plates would be “extraordinarily attractive” to a company used to the sprawling, campus-like headquarters occupied by many major West Coast-based tech conglomerates.

They noted how Vornado’s senior management team visited Silicon Valley this past summer “to understand the nature of what these campuses are”—citing Facebook’s Frank Gehry-designed, roughly 10-acre headquarters as a “one-story building [with a] 450,000-square-foot footprint,” as well as the 820,000-square-foot floor plates at Apple’s headquarters. Both facilities also feature sizable outdoor, park-like amenities.

Moynihan Train Hall, they said on the call, is “truly unique” in its “ability to deliver a horizontal campus in New York, with great roof deck space in the heart of the city with views all around.”

But Roth added that regardless of “whether New York wins the HQ2 race or not, Amazon will have a long-term significant presence” in the West Side “for years to come,” with the company having committed to large blocks of space at Vornado’s 7 West 34th Street as well as Brookfield Property Partners’ Manhattan West development.

On a broader scale, Vornado reported a bullish outlook for its core New York City office and retail assets. It cited more than 450,000 square feet of office leases across 33 separate transactions signed at “record-breaking” average starting rents of $83 per square foot, as well as 97 percent occupancy across its city office portfolio.

Roth described demand for New York City office space as “robust” and coming from a diverse cross-section of industries. David Greenbaum, the real estate investment trust’s New York division president, noted that office-using employment in the city remains strong and will be able to “absorb the new supply coming online in the next five years,” with the financial services sector having “finally reached its pre-financial crisis level” of employment in the third quarter.

Greenbaum said Vornado has a “negligible amount” of office lease expirations planned over the remainder of the year, with the REIT’s 1 Penn Plaza comprising “over a third of our lease expirations over the next two years.” The company is currently “finalizing our plans” for an ambitious repositioning of the office tower, which Greenbaum said is expected to commence next summer.

Roth also discussed 666 Fifth Avenue in Midtown, which Vornado co-owns with Kushner Companies and which has drawn much attention this year due to the property’s uncertain financial future (as well as its ties to former Kushner Companies head and now-Trump administration senior adviser Jared Kushner).

The building, while located on a “very attractive piece of real estate,” is “over-leveraged,” Roth said, acknowledging rumors “about tearing the building down and doing all manner of fairly grand development schemes.” But he labeled such ambitious plans as likely “not feasible,” adding that the property will probably remain in its current state as an office building via capital improvement plans that he described as “a work in process.”

Vornado also leased around 38,000 square feet of retail space across its Manhattan portfolio in the third quarter, with the most notable deal being Sephora’s 16,000-square-foot relocation to 1535 Broadway in Times Square. Greenbaum said the company is also in talks “for another flagship lease, with a major national retailer, for the remaining 12,000 square feet” of retail space at the property’s base.

“Our upper Fifth Avenue and Times Square [retail] assets are buttoned up for term with great credit tenants,” Roth said, noting that the company has only one lease expiry in its Manhattan high street retail portfolio coming in the next five years—fashion retailer Massimo Dutti’s location at 689 Fifth Avenue, which is due to expire in 2019 “at below market rent.”

Vornado has also identified roughly $1 billion in assets that it plans to sell in the coming years, excluding residential condominium sales at its 220 Central Park South tower in Midtown, Roth said.

The 75-year-old Roth also acknowledged that he had heart bypass surgery in August—a procedure that raised questions about the publicly traded company’s future leadership and succession plan.

But the Vornado head attempted to dispel concerns about his health and the company’s leadership, saying that he is “now better than new, and back to work.”


Source: commercial

Battle Heats Up Between Resi Building Access Tech Platforms [Updated]

A sprint between two tech companies to provide keyless access to apartment residents is quickly gaining pace.

Starting today, tenants at a batch of city apartment buildings are able to use Latch, a networked keyless-entry system, to receive deliveries when no one is home to open the door, Commercial Observer can first report.

Meanwhile, GateGuard, a competing platform that replaces a traditional intercom with a camera and facial-recognition software, emphasizes its knack for helping landlords kick out subletters. The company will announce tomorrow that it is giving away 2,000 camera-equipped intercoms, its founder, Ari Teman, told CO.

The emerging competition between the two firms frames divergent views of security and city life. Latch promotes accessibility and welcoming guests and service workers, whereas GateGuard is focused on helping enforce landlords’ rules and keeping undesirables out.

Since 2014, Latch has raised more than $26 million in private funding, including from major residential landlords LeFrak and Rudin Management, according to a Latch spokeswoman. Executives from Tishman Speyer have also pitched in capital, a source said.

One of the largest to adopt its technology is The Grand at Sky View Parc at 40-22 College Point Boulevard in Flushing, a Queens complex of three high-rise towers with more than 250 units.

Installation began early last year at buildings around the city, with residents at 150 buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx able to use their smartphones to give approved guests the ability to unlock lobby doors with a passcode. But starting today, Latch is allowing Jet.com and Walmart distribution networks delivery access without tenants’ lifting a finger.

That development is thanks to a new partnership between Latch and FedEx, which delivers packages on behalf of the two retailers. (Latch representatives declined to confirm the collaboration, but sources close to the deal identified the partner as FedEx.) Delivery drivers will receive access codes as part of their daily itinerary, allowing them to drop packages indoors instead of leaving a missed delivery notice. And tenants can allow access to workers of all stripes by sending them a text-message code.

Latch consoles also contain a camera, so that tenants and building managers can view recorded images of building entrants, although a live video stream from the camera is not available, according to Latch.

But Teman said the video feature raises questions about the role of big property managers as investors in Latch (think Big Brother).

gateguard Battle Heats Up Between Resi Building Access Tech Platforms [Updated]
A rendering of a GateGuard interface. Photo: Ari Teman

“Do [landlords] really want to take a lock from another real estate company?” Teman asked. Landlords “don’t want Silicon Valley looking [through a camera] at their property.”

Simple in-unit intercoms and lock-relay buzzers have been a staple of apartment life for decades. Jerry Seinfeld’s frequent use of one such device to let his friends Elaine and George into this Upper West Side apartment building on Seinfeld made the buzzer something of a New York icon. More obscurely, functioning intercoms are mandated by Chapter 42 of New York City building code, as a matter of public safety. But Latch and GateGuard consoles represent a clear step forward from the 1990s.

Latch’s devices are sleek, black and about the size of an eyeglasses case. Installed in an adjacent wall outside the lobby door—like a traditional intercom—the console can be connected to a building’s wireless network, allowing managers and residents more flexibility in controlling access to the building. Residents can, for example, grant a permanent unlocking code to nannies or housekeepers, or begrudging, temporary access to mothers-in-law.

GateGuard, which Teman introduced last year, has a boxy, sturdy-looking design. Its capabilities parallel Latch’s video record of all building entrants. But rather than helping delivery workers, that product’s Web page accentuates tenants’ ability to keep out illegal subletters and other unwelcome people.

The GateGuard interface is currently available from the company’s website for $240, and the firm charges $24 per month thereafter to monitor the video footage it receives.

Teman said that he is the sole investor in GateGuard, which he funded with proceeds from his previous security ventures. He said that the company is running on its own revenue, but declined to give the address of a building where GateGuard has been installed.

GateGuard also functions as a traditional intercom. Latch does not provide a hard-wired in-unit device, which appears to mean that it cannot yet legally replace an intercom.

For now, though, Latch, is focused on easing the convenience of deliveries.

“Drivers are super excited about this,” said Luke Schoenfedler, Latch’s founder and CEO. “They’re asking, ‘can you tell other buildings to install this?’ The drivers have wanted this everywhere.”

To mark the occasion of the FedEx partnership, Ryan Agran, Latch’s director of operations, demonstrated the system this morning at 85 South Street, an eight-story, 21-unit building just across from the South Street Seaport. As Agran approached the door and pressed a button on his smartphone’s touchscreen, the hitherto snoozing Latch unit came to life, blinking a soft white light. (The console communicates with nearby devices using Bluetooth.) In short order, the door’s electrical lock clicked free.

Next, it was time for a card trick. Like many office-building turnstiles and suite entrances, Latch doors can also be unlocked—using radio-frequency identification, or RFID—with an unpowered tag that fits snugly in a wallet or on a keychain. Agran’s unit—white, and about the size of a credit card—successfully opened the lobby door when he held it within a few inches of the wall-mounted console.

%name Battle Heats Up Between Resi Building Access Tech Platforms [Updated]
A Latch keyless-entry console. Image: Latch

But all this was old hat compared with the main event. With a briney East River wind howling like the ghosts of the Fulton Fish Market, Agran demonstrated how he could grant an apparently trustworthy Commercial Observer a lobby reprieve. Simulating an approved apartment guest trying to get in while the resident was out, this reporter gave his mobile number to Agran, who with a prompt bit of smartphone-poking sent a text message with an access code.

The console presented serenely glowing digits arranged like a clock face around its circular touchscreen. Suppressing the urge to try some sort of landlord’s incantation, we keyed in our assigned seven digits, and were inside moments later.

Michael Mintz, the CEO of MD Squared Property, a residential landlord with buildings throughout New York City, told CO that he sees value in both products. Even before Latch’s new delivery partnership, its devices had won a warm reception among his tenants.

“We’ve installed Latch in nine or 10 buildings, and our residents are loving it,” Mintz said. “The sharing of access is huge. If someone has a housekeeper, they can give time-restricted access codes.”

The tool fills a niche at smaller buildings in particular, Mintz said, where a small tally of apartments or downmarket rents might render full-time staff exorbitant.

“Especially in smaller buildings, most of them are non-doormen,” Mintz explained. “Those buildings have such trouble getting deliveries properly. Because this system shares access, they’re able to get in when they’re there and it makes it so much simpler.”

Each door unit costs about $400, according to the company’s website. Buildings must pay an additional fee, which varies based on building size, for software to operate the system.

“We want this to be so convenient that the technology pays for itself,” Schoenfelder said.

But Mintz has also expressed admiration for GateGuard’s product, and said that he plans to install it as well.

“We are also going to be installing GateGuard in some of our buildings as they have amazing technology and offer a very sophisticated intercom system that is a major amenity for our residents,” he said. “We have been working with Ari Teman…and have had a great experience with his products.”

Latch and GateGuard are not alone in bringing cloud computing to the front door. Next week, Amazon will begin offering a device it calls Amazon Key, which will allow Amazon deliverers to drop packages inside consumers’ homes. (Unlike Latch, Amazon’s version cannot yet be used to grant access to the front doors of apartment buildings, a Latch spokeswoman said.)

An Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment.

New Yorkers are perhaps inured to ubiquitous surveillance, but cameras at every doorstep would seem to represent a new level of snooping. Still, Mintz said his tenants were comfortably on board.

“Not a single person has complained about” privacy issues, Mintz said. “So far, none of our residents has been concerned.”

But as the power to open doors migrates from a small metal key to ethereal computer code, one thing seems clear: more city dwellers will soon have to think harder about whom to trust with access to their buildings.

Update: This story has been edited to include more information about GateGuard’s business and pricing, and to include Michael Mintz’s statements about that company.


Source: commercial

Delivering Amazon: This Is What’s Right and Wrong With the City’s Pitches for HQ2

Earlier this week, The Associated Press reported that Amazon received 238 proposals from cities and regions that want to house its second North American headquarters.

Indeed, Amazon has a lot to offer: a promised 50,000 jobs and $5 billion to spend. Everyone—including Gotham—wants in on the action.

In its attempt to lure Jeff Bezos to our city, New York hasn’t shown this much leg since The Deuce era.

More than 70 elected officials—from Public Advocate Letitia James, to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito—signed a statement touting New York City’s accessibility to both Boston and Washington, D.C.; its commitment to sustainability; Citi Bike and the largest subway system in the world (wisely, nobody mentioned MTA’s “summer of hell”) and “affordability”—as in, the fact that the administration has promised 200,000 affordable housing units over the next 10 years. (Friendly advice: The word “affordability” isn’t something that really works to New York’s advantage in real estate matters. But too late now.)

“Companies don’t just come to New York,” Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote in his seduction letter. “They become part of New York.”

In its official presentation, the New York City Economic Development Corporation proposed four different neighborhoods that could conceivably do the job: Lower Manhattan, the Far West Side, Long Island City and Downtown Brooklyn.

And while everybody weighs in (Moody’s pegged New York’s chance of landing Amazon as sixth in the country—after Austin, Texas; Atlanta; Philadelphia; Rochester, N.Y.; and Pittsburg—as per a New York Times story), it’s worth considering the four areas up for consideration, what they all have to offer and what the NYCEDC probably won’t mention.—Max Gross

Lower Manhattan

Over the 16 years since the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks, Lower Manhattan has been transformed from a financial district to a commercial and residential hub.

It is this very evolution—plus its transportation network—that makes the neighborhood ideal for Amazon’s second headquarters in North America, Lower Manhattan boosters say.

Amazon wants 500,000 square feet of office space in 2018 with another 7.5 million square feet over time. And Lower Manhattan has the potential for over 8.5 million square feet of space, according to the city’s recent proposal to Amazon.

Granted, Downtown Manhattan would not be the cheapest option nationwide. But, “cost of space should be least of their concerns,” Marty Burger, the chief executive officer of Silverstein Properties, said in a survey for Commercial Observer’s upcoming Owners Magazine. (The landlord owns the majority of the World Trade Center buildings.)

“Most important is access to new talent,” he continued. “You want a place that has A) the best transportation, B) a great pool of people to draw from. When we look at the lower tip of Manhattan, it has the best access to all this talent—Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Jersey City, even Long Island. There are 10 million people to draw that talent from.”

Lower Manhattan has a high concentration of mass transit with 13 subway lines and the PATH train, and those transit hubs have been upgraded with abundant retail and dining options as well as climate-controlled concourses, said John Wheeler, a managing director who runs JLL’s Lower Manhattan office.

Downtown Manhattan boasts access to the waterfront, more than 83 acres of open space and enticing dining options, from food halls like Hudson Eats in Brookfield Place to restaurants helmed by star chefs, like Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa and Danny Meyer, to fast-casual chains like Chop’t Creative Salad Company and Dig Inn.

Burger has already figured out how to make it work for what’s being called Amazon HQ2.

“We could put together a campus for them,” Burger said. “They could take the top of 3 World Trade Center. We could work with Durst [Organization] to get them the top of 1 World Trade Center. We have a potential to build 2 World Trade Center and 5 World Trade Center. We could put together 7 million square feet.”

But there are also other options for Amazon.

Wheeler noted that, while the World Trade Center would be “part of the solution,” other candidates include Brookfield Place, 28 Liberty Street and Guardian Life Insurance Company of America’s headquarters building at 7 Hanover Square.
Lauren Elkies Schram

Long Island City

Long Island City’s relatively recent transformation from an industrial outpost to Queens waterfront hotspot has been mostly fueled by residential development, with more than 14,000 new units built since 2006 and another 19,000-plus in the pipeline, according to data from the Long Island City Partnership.

As far as commercial development is concerned, however, the neighborhood by most accounts has some way to go. Most of Long Island City’s new office stock has come in the form of repositioning existing warehouse buildings into loft-like spaces mostly of a scale smaller than what Amazon would demand.

But the city is floating LIC as a legitimate option for Amazon, citing the neighborhood’s “creative” appeal as “home to over 150 restaurants, bars and cafés” and more than 40 “arts and cultural institutions” including galleries, museums and theaters, according to the NYCEDC’s proposal.

While the proposal cites “over 13 million square feet of first-class real estate” available in the neighborhood, how much of that qualifies as office space that would suit Amazon’s needs is murkier. Per the LIC Partnership, the area has roughly 7.5 million square feet of existing, nonretail commercial space—which would already fall short of the 8 million that Amazon will eventually require—and another 4.5 million square feet on the way by 2020.

But projects like The Jacx—Tishman Speyer’s two-towered development that promises to bring 1.2 million square feet of Class A office and retail space to Jackson Avenue—hope to further enhance the neighborhood’s office chops. And perhaps the biggest advantage LIC has is its relative affordability compared to the other areas under consideration with the city citing “price points that compare favorably with commercial centers across the five boroughs.”

For developers like TF Cornerstone, which was an early believer in Long Island City and has helped facilitate its transformation via multiple large-scale residential projects, Amazon’s arrival would be a massive boon to the neighborhood’s economy—one that would fuel demand for the thousands of new residential units due to come online, attract needed retail to the area and heighten its profile as an office destination. In turn, LIC’s relatively central location within the five boroughs and robust public transit offerings would give Amazon what it needs for a viable HQ2.

“The north Long Island City waterfront offers the best location for a large user like Amazon,” Jake Elghanayan, a senior vice president at TF Cornerstone, told Commercial Observer in a forthcoming interview for Commercial Observer’s Owners Magazine. Elghanayan cited the neighborhood’s large “contiguous development area” and robust public transit offerings, as well as its proximity to the new Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island.—Rey Mashayekhi

West Side of Manhattan

Those associated with the Hudson Yards megaproject like to say that “a new city” is being built on Manhattan’s Far West Side, and it’s hard to argue with the assessment. With tens of millions of square feet of new commercial space due to come online in the area over the coming years, Hudson Yards would most likely serve as the centerpiece of the city’s effort to get Amazon to commit HQ2 to Manhattan’s West Side.

Besides the sprawling 28-acre development being undertaken by Related Companies and Oxford Properties, there is also Brookfield Property Partners’ Manhattan West project nearby, where Amazon already has a sizable footprint. Last month, the tech giant committed to taking 360,000 square feet of office space at 5 Manhattan West, where it will house 2,000 employees and serve as the primary location for Amazon’s advertising division. (CO first reported that Amazon was in talks for the space in April.)

The city’s proposal for HQ2 also cites the nearby Penn Plaza district, where Vornado Realty Trust—the largest commercial landlord in the area surrounding Penn Station—has in recent years talked up a large-scale repositioning of its assets in a bid to capitalize on the West Side’s newfound appeal as an office destination.

In total, the city says the West Side offers Amazon more than 26 million feet of available office space to build its campus—more than triple the 8 million Amazon will need long term—as well as ample transit options for the company’s sizable workforce: 15 subway lines, plus access to the PATH, the Long Island Rail Road, the Metro-North Railroad and Amtrak, not to mention the Port Authority Bus Terminal and the Hudson River ferry service.

But the West Side could prove cost prohibitive; it is the most expensive of the four New York City submarkets being floated as options for Amazon. With the cost of living and doing business in New York already the biggest drawback in the city’s bid for HQ2, the likes of Related and Brookfield may have to look elsewhere to fill up all that office space.

Such cost concerns aren’t discouraging neighborhood stakeholders, however. “Manhattan’s always been expensive, but it gives you other things,” said Robert Benfatto, the president of the Hudson Yards/Hell’s Kitchen Alliance Business Improvement District. “It has its upsides and downsides, but it tends to be attractive to businesses.”—R.M.

Downtown Brooklyn

Out of the four neighborhoods New York City proposed for Amazon’s second headquarters, the “Brooklyn Tech Triangle” of Dumbo, Downtown Brooklyn and the Navy Yard might hold the most promise. Although the area doesn’t have much office space right now, several large projects are either under construction or in the pipeline. At the Navy Yard, Rudin Management and Boston Properties’ Dock 72 will bring 675,000 square feet of offices—anchored with a 222,000-square-foot WeWork—to a former dry dock on the East River.

Besides Dock 72, landlord Brooklyn Navy Yard Economic Development Corporation is leasing up a newly renovated 1-million-square-foot industrial and office building called Building 77, and there’s available space at Steiner Studios, the film and television production complex on the eastern edge of the yard. The closest subway stations are about a mile away in Dumbo (certainly its biggest drawback), but the yard has begun running shuttle buses that take commuters into Dumbo and Downtown Brooklyn for easy transit access. It’s also about to open a new ferry stop next to Dock 72.

TerraCRG Founder Ofer Cohen dispelled concerns about the Navy Yard’s lack of transit, pointing out that it hasn’t prevented hip companies from setting up shop there. New Lab, an innovative science and tech coworking space, recently opened in Building 128. And Building 77 hosts tenants like startup incubator 1776, a commissary kitchen for small food manufacturers called Tiny Drumsticks and fashion company Lafayette 148. He noted that Dock 72 would probably be the only project large enough to accommodate Amazon’s requirement of 500,000 square feet of office space in 2019.

“Downtown Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Tech Triangle are poised for significant growth,” said Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Regina Myer. “There’s a huge demand for Class A space in Downtown Brooklyn. We have 1,400 innovative companies in the broader tech triangle. And we have an amazing pipeline of new talent for companies relocating to the tech triangle because we have 10 different colleges.”

Myer pointed to several sites in Downtown Brooklyn that could host Amazon. Rabsky Group could build an office building as large as 770,000 square feet on its vacant parcel at 625 Fulton Street, and RedSky Capital could develop a huge commercial and residential project on its assemblage bounded by Dekalb Avenue, Flatbush Avenue and Fulton Street. And Tishman Speyer is developing the Wheeler, a 10-story office building, on top of the Art Deco Macy’s department store at 422 Fulton Street.

CPEX Real Estate’s Timothy King, the brokerage’s managing partner, pointed out that Amazon would have convenient access to plenty of retail and amenities in Downtown Brooklyn, including hospitals, hotels, shopping, restaurants and bars. And when you consider Atlantic Terminal, the broader tech triangle offers 13 subway lines. “Short of going out in the desert somewhere and building some kind of utopian village,” he said, “I’d be hard pressed to find some place better for Amazon than beautiful Downtown Brooklyn.”—Rebecca Baird-Remba


Source: commercial

New York City Submits Bid for Amazon’s Second Headquarters

New York City lit up the Empire State Building and 1 World Trade Center “Amazon Orange” last night in an effort to attract the e-retailing giant. At the same time, it submitted a formal bid for Amazon’s second, $5 billion headquarters, according to a press release from the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

The proposal names four neighborhoods as potential destinations for the Seattle-based tech company: Midtown West, Long Island City, Lower Manhattan and the “Brooklyn Tech Triangle,” which includes Dumbo, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Downtown Brooklyn.

After Amazon announced its search for a city to accommodate a new headquarters last month, New York launched its own mini-competition. Officials received 27 proposals. Borough Presidents Eric Adams and Ruben Diaz threw their respective hats for the Bronx and Brooklyn into the ring, and groups of developers and neighborhood organizations banded together for bids as well.

But only those four neighborhoods met the company’s requirements, which included a need for 500,000 square feet of commercial space by 2019 and up to 8 million square feet of commercial space beginning in 2027. The area would also have to accommodate up to 50,000 Amazon workers and offer mass transit options and easy access to highways and airports.

The city plans to offer Amazon the same subsidies and tax breaks that it would give any other corporation, according to The New York Times. The state is also assembling an incentive package, but it wouldn’t tell the paper exactly what it planned to include. Aetna, for example, scored $9.6 million in city tax benefits and $24 million in state tax credits for its planned 145,000-square-foot headquarters at 61 Ninth Avenue in Chelsea. The state is also submitting four bids for different regions of New York: Buffalo and Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, and the downstate area of Long Island, New York City and Westchester County.

“The brightest minds and innovators want to live in New York,” the mayor wrote in a letter addressed to Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos. “The people who live and come here experience a quality of life unlike anywhere else, from our incomparable public spaces and cultural institutions to our dynamic neighborhoods. This is the safest big city in America, an open city that welcomes people from every corner of the country and the globe.”

EDC’s pitch also highlights Amazon’s current footprint in New York City, which has grown rapidly over the past six months. The e-commerce behemoth recently inked deals for 360,000 square feet of office space at 5 Manhattan West, an 850,000-square-foot distribution center on Staten Island and a bookstore and offices spanning 470,000 square feet at 7 West 34th Street.


Source: commercial