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CO’s ‘Women in Construction & Design’ Event Celebrates Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Some of the most accomplished women working in the fields of construction, architecture and development gathered at Commercial Observer’s “Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Leading Women in Construction & Design” event on Tuesday, where the conversation revolved around both the challenges facing, and the opportunities available to, women in a traditionally male-dominated field.

The morning was anchored by CO’s presentation of its 2017 Women in Construction Awards to six individuals who have made a mark upon their respective industries over the course of their careers.

The “Barrier-Breaker Award,” honoring women who have set a precedent in their fields, were presented to Aine Brazil, vice chairman at engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti; Jan Hilgeman, vice president of construction at Hines; and Carol Patterson, a senior partner at law firm Zetlin & De Chiara.

The “Woman on the Rise Award,” celebrating some of the most promising individuals working in the industry today, were given to Pascale Sablan, a senior associate at S9 Architecture, and Margaret Wrzos, an assistant project manager at AECOM Tishman.

And the “Innovative Designer/Engineer Award” was presented to Marianne Kwok, a senior designer at Kohn Pedersen Fox.

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Keynote speaker Linda Chiarelli at CO’s “Women in Construction & Design” event. Photo: Aaron Adler

But the day also featured three broad-ranging panel discussions and a keynote address from Linda Chiarelli, vice president for capital projects and facilities at New York University. Chiarelli, who served as deputy director of construction for Forest City Ratner Companies before joining NYU, noted that women make up only 9 percent of the construction industry’s workforce—with many of those jobs in administrative and non-construction-related roles.

But she also cited progress from the days when job interviewers would ask “if I planned to have kids,” and urged attendees to be aware of the city’s new law prohibiting employers from inquiring about job applicants’ previous salaries—a regulation designed to lessen the pay gap faced by women and people of color. “You should all be aware [of the law],” Chiarelli said.

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(From left) Karla Pascarella, Marissa Kelly, Stacey Dackson, Megumi Brod, Maey Khaled and Anita Woolley at CO’s “Women in Construction & Design” event. Photo: Aaron Adler

She was followed by the morning’s first panel, “Challenges and Opportunities for Women—Fostering a Culture of Diversity from the Field to the Boardroom.” Anita Woolley, first vice president of strategy and communications for AECOM’s construction services group, noted the benefits of “having people of different backgrounds” on staff, citing studies indicating that “diverse teams are more successful.”

Maey Khaled, director of technical services at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, recalled engineering courses where she’d frequently “be the only woman in the class” and stressed the need to foster industry participation from women at an earlier age group. Stacey Dackson, a project manager at Structure Tone, echoed that sentiment and the need to educate young women about the career opportunities available in the construction industry, citing the field’s “tremendous economic viability.”

Marissa Kelly, a project executive at Cauldwell Wingate Company, said that there is still the flawed perception that “women are too emotional to be in leadership positions” at a corporate level—a notion that “holds women back” in the industry, she said—while Megumi Brod, senior vice president and Northeast regional development officer for Rockefeller Group, urged attendees to both “be a mentor” to other women in their fields and also “make a mentor” who can help guide them through their career paths.

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(From left) Melissa Grzymala, Helena Durst and Jane Smith at CO’s “Women in Construction & Design” event. Photo: Aaron Adler

The second panel of the day, “Women Leaders in Construction & Design—How They Paved the Way,” included the likes of Kimberly Steimle Vaughan, chief marketing officer and chief people officer at construction firm Suffolk, who cited her company’s efforts to “create a culture of inclusion” and “infuse people in the organization from different backgrounds.” Vaughan said that while roughly a third of the firm’s workforce is comprised of women, she had been to job sites where there were more women at work than men, and that diversity had become a key tenant of Suffolk’s corporate philosophy.

Melissa Grzymala, an executive project manager at Faithful+Gould, recalled a high school guidance counselor’s incredulity at her career goal of becoming an engineer, while Elisabeth Malsch, a principal at Thornton Tomasetti, noted the importance of hiring women given how they occupy a roughly equal share of the graduating classes at most higher education institutions. “If you’re not hiring women, you’re not hiring the top of the class,” Malsch said.

Jane Smith, a partner at architecture and interior design firm Spacesmith, said that “obviously things have changed [in the industry]” since she first started, and urged the conversation away from the obstacles facing women. “The women in this room shouldn’t need to worry about whether they’re women or men,” Smith said. “Let’s talk about how we can succeed.”

Helena Durst, a principal at the Durst Organization, agreed with Smith’s argument, noting that the principles being discussed on the panel “are not male or female values; they’re hirable values…. We shouldn’t be talking about maternity or paternity leave; we should be talking about child care.”

But Durst also acknowledged that her own company “has a lot to learn” and is “far from perfect” as far as gender equity in the workforce, adding that the effort to improve “starts with awareness” and “talking about biases,” as well as “looking at policies that are [both] written and unwritten.”

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(From left) Susan Radin, Jan Hilgeman and Jennifer Bernell at CO’s “Women in Construction & Design” event. Photo: Aaron Adler

The morning’s third and final panel, “Creating the Next Generation of Women in Construction & Design,” featured Gilbane Building Company’s Brennan Gilbane Koch noting how the four previous generations of Gilbanes who led the family-led construction firm were almost entirely men—a state of affairs that has changed, given her current role as Gilbane’s business development manager. Anne Fletcher, a principal at architecture giant HOK, said that when she started in the industry she found herself not only doing “everything my male colleagues did,” but also “arrang[ing] shipping” and “answer[ing] the phone because I had the best phone voice.”

While Fletcher was recently named the new managing principal of HOK’s Los Angeles office, she also noted that she’s one of only six women on HOK’s 34-member board of directors—indicating the progress that remains to be seen in the industry.

Jennifer Bernell, executive vice president of development for Kushner Companies, discussed the challenges of balancing her role at Kushner with her responsibilities as the mother of four young boys—adding that she has been “fortunate” to have the support of her company, as far as maintaining a flexible schedule allowing her to meet the demands of being both an executive and a parent.

Susan Radin, a senior project manager at Turner Construction Company, cited progress as far as work-life balance expectations that are no longer exclusively faced by women—noting that in previous years, she “never heard from male colleagues that they had to [leave work early to] take care of their kids.”

Hines’ Hilgeman, who in addition to receiving the “Barrier-Breaker Award” also spoke on the panel, added that in her own career, she has stories about workplace harassment “not unlike what’s [been] in the news today.”

“We all have those stories, and we’re going to have them no matter what industry we’re in,” she said. “I think it’s a much broader, underlying cultural issue.”


Source: commercial

Owners Magazine 2017: Interviews with NYC’s Top Landlords

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At the risk of stating the forehead-slapping obvious, it’s been a strange 12 months.

There’s been a mixture of good and bad real estate news that can paint a picture of continued stability or darkening clouds on the horizon, depending on your point of view.

By October, the vacancy rate in all three major Manhattan markets for office space appeared to be falling, per Cushman & Wakefield data. Hundreds of thousands of square feet have been leased by Spotify, GroupM, Amazon and others. All of that is inarguably good news.

However, a year ago, few people knew that we were sitting on a retail powder keg ready to blow and take some of the biggest names in the industry with it, like Toys “R” Us, Aerosoles, Payless, Radio Shack…you get the idea. This is inarguably bad.

This is one of the reasons why it’s important to have a magazine like this one.

Yes, the data, the deals and the numbers are critical to understanding the state of real estate. But it’s also important to get a sense of what the key players are thinking right now. That’s why we asked 36 of the biggest names in the business what their vision of the market looks like.

We’ve supplemented these questionnaires with our own reported features.

Last year, New York was considered immune to the vicissitudes of the world economy because we were always a safe, stable place to park cash. That looked like less of a sure bet when China announced new outbound investment rules. Lauren Elkies Schram examines the topic in her story in this issue.

Some in the real estate community long hoped for a challenge to Mayor Bill de Blasio in this year’s mayoral election and put substantial money behind Paul Massey (one of their own) to take the reins of City Hall before that fizzled out. At the risk of propagating a Dewey-Truman blooper (we ship this magazine before Election Day), Aaron Short reported what developers are expecting and hoping for in de Blasio’s second term.

While many developers have spent the last few years touting the Far West Side of Manhattan, there is actually quite a bit of activity on the East River, something that Rey Mashayekhi examines in depth.

Finally, Liam La Guerre looked at something that’s always been written off as anathema to real estate developers: technology. It turns out, the shrewd owners are not only interested in tech, but they’re also developing their own. — Max Gross 


Source: commercial

Why More Real Estate Companies Are Getting Into the Tech Game

Over the weekend of Oct. 13 through Oct. 15, the Real Estate Board of New York hosted its inaugural hackathon, which brought teams from 40 different organizations together to compete for who could develop the best app to address real estate problems.

Prescriptive Data, a one-year-old software company, came away with two wins at the event’s sustainable maintenance and operations, and location intelligence categories.

It should be noted Prescriptive Data had a serious leg up. It was spun off from a division of institutional landlord and developer Rudin Management Company to sell its software Nantum, which gathers building data, such as occupancy, electricity usage and other factors, to help maintain optimal indoor temperatures and efficient energy use.

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A screen shot of the Nantum platform. Photo: Prescriptive Data

This is one of the open secrets of real estate and tech: Despite all the hand-wringing about how real estate is populated by dinosaurs who only understand brick and mortar, there are plenty of landlords worried about just how far behind the industry is and have been actively trying to fix the problem. Landlords are investing venture capital directly into new companies, creating venture capital arms or funding venture capital firms that invest in real estate tech, and making their own in-house technology.

The initial version of Nantum, Prescriptive Data’s first product, was created in 2013, and Rudin tested it with its buildings. 

“We wanted to improve our business, and once we developed Nantum and we saw how powerful the system was in our properties, we thought, ‘Wait a minute, we may be onto something here,’ ” Michael Rudin, a vice president at the company, told Commercial Observer.

Rudin started Prescriptive Data last summer and began selling Nantum on the market to landlords. At that time, it was using the product in 17 Rudin buildings encompassing 10 million square feet, according to a release. The company now has more than 12 million square feet of properties on its platform, according to a spokeswoman. (Rudin declined to say if Prescriptive Data was profitable yet.)

And through Rudin Ventures, Rudin has invested in a series of technology companies, including Hightower (since merged with VTS) in 2015, Radiator Labs in 2016, Honest Buildings and Latch in 2016 and Enertiv in 2017.  

But Rudin is hardly the only real estate company to invest in related technology; Blackstone, which has its own tech division with Blackstone Innovations, has invested capital in various startups, including property management platform VTS in January 2015 with $3.3 million.

Today, Blackstone executives, along with Rudin, Equity Office and other large real estate players that use VTS’ technology, make up the company’s customer advisory board. They meet as a group once a quarter to talk about things they like about the product and ways to improve it—on a voluntary basis.   

“They are seeing the value that they are getting for the product, and if they can get a stake in it, it is a pretty great thing for them,” VTS co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Nick Romito said. “It’s better to be in the car than watch the car pass you.”

Brookfield Property Partners, Rudin and Milstein family’s Circle Ventures have invested in Honest Buildings, a project management platform that helps ensure developments are completed on time and on budget. And mall operator Simon Property Group, via Simon Ventures, has invested in Appear Here, a marketplace for short-term retail space (with terms from one day to as long as three years).

Appear Here recently raised funding from Fifth Wall, a venture capital firm that supports emerging real estate-related technology companies. Fifth Wall injected the undisclosed amount into the company to support its expansion in the United States, according to a release on the partnership. This is significant because Fifth Wall has investments from major real estate landlords such as Equity Residential, Hines, Macerich and real estate investment trust Prologis, and Appear Here needs landlords for its model to work.

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Appear Here’s software. Photo: Appear Here

“At our end, we are really trying to disrupt an old industry,” said Elizabeth Layne, Appear Here’s chief marketing officer and U.S. general manager. “But in order for that to be successful, we need landlords to put their space online. We need them to use our dashboard. And that’s a big change for an industry that is just used to using brokers and talking to a person instead of using the internet.”

Fifth Wall, meanwhile, has raised $232.3 million to date and has already invested in many successful tech companies that are seeking to enhance real estate-related services, including OpenDoor, which lets people instantly buy and sell homes, and States Title, which is seeking to revamp the title and underwriting process. Fifth Wall’s success via those startups has raised eyebrows among real estate executives looking to make their foray into the world of tech.

“We launched a corporate venture group in March 2016. The idea started when our CEO had conversations with Fifth Wall,” said Will O’Donell, a managing director at Prologis, during the inaugural MIPIM ProTech event in Times Square on Oct. 11. “The reality of why we started it is everyone at the company has a day job…but if you actually create a group that is 100 percent accountable for identifying where disruptive trends are occurring—where technology is coming out—and forcing the company to deal with it, it’s a very creative and helpful friction.”

The MIPIM event brought out more than 800 professionals—most of whom were new startup founders and marketers—but there was a sizable group of real estate executives from institutional developers and landlords, including Blackstone, AvalonBay, Vornado Realty Trust, Silverstein Properties, Equity Office and Japan’s Mitsui Fudosan. Ric Clark, a senior managing partner and chairman of Brookfield Property Partners, and Owen Thomas, the CEO of Boston Properties, were panelists at one of the forums.

The showing revealed just how hungry landlords are for tech. Many used the time to network with young entrepreneurs and discuss new technologies.

“We ran a very large [request for proposals] back in the spring looking for a technology vendor that we could essentially partner with to handle everything from lease management, lease pipeline, tenant tracking all the way through to the asset management and the accounting,” said Jonathan Pearce, a senior vice president at Ivanhoé Cambridge, during the panel discussion. “And we had very smart people around the table, and believe it or not, there isn’t just one solution that does all of that.”

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A panel at the MIPIM ProTech event about new ventures by real estate companies, which was moderated by VTS co-Founder Brandon Weber. Photo: Reed Midem

When the moderator Ryan Simonetti, a co-founder of online meeting-space provider Convene, suggested a company at the event might have a product that Ivanhoé was looking for, Pearce replied, “I’d love to talk to them.”

“What is happening is as companies have been successful in developing technology, large real estate companies are embracing them, and they see an ability to prosper both on the innovation side and the management side,” said Robert Courteau, CEO of Altus Group, an advisory services and software provider for real estate companies. “By investing in these [startups], it has immediate benefits on their own companies and perhaps make some money in the market. They are being opportunistic.”

Landlords are also ramping up the use of tech in their properties. Cove Property Group and partner Bentall Kennedy are wrapping up construction at 101 Greenwich Street, where they have partnered with Convene.

Convene, which Brookfield has invested in numerous times, will debut a mobile app for 101 Greenwich that will allow employee access through security turnstiles. The app will also allow tenants to give mobile building access to visitors, book Convene conference rooms and order the delivery of food to their space from Convene’s kitchen. In addition to this, Cove is adding facial recognition technology to the building to be used by employees to access their place of employment.

“We look for technology to increase the tenant experience in the building and things that are going to make us run the building more efficiently,” said Amit Patel, the chief operating officer of Cove. “If you are rushing into the building into the morning and you have something to do like a meeting, you want to be able to get into the building as quickly as possible. And it will alleviate pressure off the security staff.”

Last year, developer Savanna employed Cortex Index, which provides building engineers with an app that helps them operate complex HVAC systems more efficiently, at 110 William Street. This helped the developer reduce annual operating costs by $250,000, according to a Savanna release. Now the developer is looking for further tech opportunities.

“As we have done with Cortex and other technology platforms, we will continue to selectively implement technologies that fit within our portfolio and also help drive operational efficiencies and savings, ultimately creating value for our investors,” Nicholas Bienstock, a co-founder and co-managing partner of Savanna, said in a statement to CO. “I think we are now starting to see technologies that generate real payback on the initial investment required to implement them, in addition to providing certain operational efficiencies or data analytics.”

And then there’s the startup Outernets, which transforms vacant storefronts (or any window, for that matter) into interactive digital displays or advertisements. Omer Golan, who co-founded the company two years ago with his wife Tal, said that they have secured a few major landlord investors who are “very much involved,” but he would not reveal the names.

United American Land is working with Outernets, as is office-space provider and soon-to-be landlord WeWork (once considered a startup itself) at its headquarters in Chelsea. The company installs a special material on the glass and a projector system inside that creates the graphics onto the window. Outernets shares the ad revenue with landlords. And the technology also has sensors that pick up demographic data about the people passing by, which they also share with landlords.

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Outernets’ technology on a window at Dylan’s Candy Bar in Union Square. Photo: Kaitlyn Flannagan

These technologies are just the beginning as landlords increasingly see their value, Courteau said.

“You’ll see more capital going into [startups] as larger asset owners invest in technologies,” Courteau said. “There is still a lot more capital coming in.”

The next generation of real estate players may be a hybrid of landlord-tech developers.

Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation began offering courses in real estate technology in June, called Hacking for Real Estate 1 and 2, to teach the next generation of developers about the importance of property technology applications.

There students learn how to use a variety of real estate applications and how to think critically about incorporating technology in their projects. The one-year master of science degree in real estate will be useful as technology begins to play a much bigger role in development, according to Patrice Derrington, the director of the program.

“We are teaching our students how to be digitally literate,” Derrington said. “That means capable of all apps, understanding the place for applications, being critical in terms of the usage of applications and having a more incisive look at daily real estate activities and considering potential digital solutions. They even do a little bit of coding to know just what it is like.”

To date, real estate companies have been targeting real estate-related ventures, hardly straying from things that would support their core business. But then there is amazing story of SilverTech Ventures, which works in collaboration with Silverstein Properties (as it was in part founded by Silverstein President Tal Kerret). SilverTech Ventures has been investing in both real estate and non-real estate startups for more than two years.

Kerret and other founders meet with about around 50 to 60 companies each month and choose one startup in which to invest every two months. To date, they have invested in 17 startups, including mobile wallet Cinch, identity protection startup Semperis and property management service Rentigo. Kerret said before the selection they like to spend a few months getting to know the executives.

“The graph is always up and the revenue will always come in the future,” Kerret said. “From the hundreds and hundreds of companies that we have seen it’s always [the same]. It’s like going on a date before you begin seeing someone.”

But for Kerret, investing in young companies provides them with something other than just the next business opportunity or way to enhance their own portfolios.

“I want to have fun with what I do in life, and I want to be around people I enjoy,” Kerret said. “I spend a lot of time with the CEOs, and I would rather spend time with people that I can have more fun with.”


Source: commercial

Squarespace Grows to 143,000 SF at 225 Varick Street

Hosting platform and website builder Squarespace has leased two more floors at 225 Varick Street in Hudson Square.

Squarespace inked a 12-year deal for 49,700 square feet on the fifth and sixth floors of the building, where it already leased 93,000 square feet on the 10th through 12th floors in 2014. Asking rent on the new lease was in the high $70s per square foot, according to The Real Deal, which was the first to write about the transaction.

The tech firm is expected to move into its new space in April 2018, according to CoStar Group.

Shake Shack also signed on for 27,000 square feet of office and retail space in the property between Clarkson and West Houston Streets last month. The upscale burger spot will open a flagship restaurant in the ground-floor retail space and a test kitchen on the lower level in mid-2018. It will also move its offices, which are currently located in Union Square, into part of the third floor in the spring of 2018.

Rocco Laginestra and Paul Myers of CBRE represented Squarespace in the deal, and CBRE’s Howard Fiddle, Paul Amrich and Neil King represented landlords Trinity Real Estate, Norges Bank Real Estate Management and Hines. A spokeswoman for CBRE declined to comment.


Source: commercial

Hines Refinances Houston Office With $163M From Goldman Sachs: Sources

Hines and partner Prime Asset Management refinanced their Houston building once called the Calpine Center with $163 million from Goldman Sachs, sources with knowledge of the deal told Commercial Observer.

The 696,000-square-foot Class A office building, located at 717 Texas Avenue, was the first building in Houston to receive the LEED Platinum environmental certification.

JLL represented the borrower in the deal, according to one source, though which brokers worked on the deal was not immediately clear. A JLL representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Goldman did not engage brokers in the deal, one source said.

Once named for anchor tenant the Calpine Corporation, a Fortune 500 commodities company, the building also hosts white shoe law firm Jones Day.

Calpine originally signed on for 250,000 square feet of space in the tower, plus naming rights, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle. In 2005, after their presence in the building was decreased when Calpine sold off a major portion of its business, the offices were re-named 717 Texas Avenue, the report said.

Designed by architect HOK, in what is sometimes described as a “postmodern” style, the 33-story tower was completed in 2003.

Hines declined to comment on the refinancing. A representative for Goldman Sachs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Source: commercial

Why Major Landlords Still Believe in Midtown

While the rise of shiny towers of the World Trade Center and Hudson Yards have turned a lot of heads, some of the top developers and real estate professionals who attended Commercial Observer’s “Midtown Means Business” panel yesterday are warning not to count the older Midtown out.

The event was at RXR Realty’s redesigned 75 Rockefeller Plaza, where industry experts said Midtown’s older stock of buildings needs to be modernized to compete with the towers in the rising other submarkets, but the demand for space is definitely there.

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Bruce Mosler, Jonathan Mechanic and Andrew Mathias. Photo: Jared Siskin/PMC

“Landlords who invest in this way will be winners in terms of the choices that tenants make,” said Cushman & Wakefield Chairman of Global Brokerage Bruce Mosler, a member of the first panel “Marketing Midtown Real Estate for Today’s Modern Tenant.” “Tenants are looking for a number of things, but mostly what are drawing tenants are column-free, efficient floors, great location and access.”

The first panel also included SL Green Realty Corp. President Andrew Mathias, UBS Managing Director Terry Goulard, RXR Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Scott Rechler and Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson Real Estate Department Chairman Jonathan Mechanic, who moderated the panel (and plugged his own firm so many times Rechler described him as “shameless.”)

To illustrate Mosler’s point, Goulard explained that in 2010 UBS started to look at options as its 900,000-square-foot anchor lease at 1285 Avenue of the Americas between West 51st and West 52nd Streets, a building which RXR acquired with David Werner in 2016, was up for renewal.

“At the time [Rechler] stepped into the picture and sat down with us and said ‘Terry what do I need to do to keep you in the building,’ ” Goulard said. “We had a very open and honest dialogue. I came up with two pages of things that I needed to stay.”

Rechler said that Midtown will continue to be relevant if older buildings are redeveloped because of its centralized location and the iconic addresses that have an “irreplaceable” New York feeling, which younger workforces crave.

“[Millennials] appreciate authenticity and character,” Rechler said. “One of the things about buildings like [75 Rockefeller] or the Helmsley Building is that you can’t replace it. You can’t replace the authenticity or the character of New York that comes with that. That is a very unique factor.”

RXR completed the $150 million renovation of 75 Rockefeller in February, and signed a 185,343-square-foot lease with Bank of America and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management to anchor the office portion of the building. The landlord then signed a 40,000-square-foot lease with American Girl to anchor the retail part.

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The crowd at the event included brokers and developers from a wide variety of firms. Photo: Jared Siskin/PMC

Few of the panelists could better discuss how new construction will fit into the Midtown constellation than Mathias, whose company is designing One Vanderbilt, a 1.7-million-square-foot, 1,400-foot tall office building that is under construction across from Grand Central Terminal. And to a certain extent, SL Green will have the market of new Midtown buildings to itself, at least until some definitive answer is offered on the city’s proposed Midtown East rezoning.

“There is definitely a shortage of shovel-ready projects in Midtown,” Mathias said. “How many projects you’ll actually see get started right away under that rezoning it’s hard to see, because Midtown is thriving right now and generally buildings are [fully leased].”

In the second panel, “Keeping Midtown Competitive: Renovations, Infrastructure Upgrades & Tenant Amenities,” Fisher Brothers Partner Winston Fisher made the point that in order for Midtown to compete, it needs to do more than just focus on upgrading building.

“Midtown needs to reinvent itself with new restaurants, programming and bringing art into the streetscape,” he said. “There are a whole series of things that could make Midtown more dynamic. Why is the center of Park Avenue a bunch of crappy plantings? At this point you’d think you could do something better with it.”

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David Falk. Photo: Jared Siskin/PMC

Sitting with Fisher were Newmark Grubb Knight Frank New York Tri-State Region President David Falk, Take-Two Interactive Software Senior Director of Facilities Management Larry Charlip, Hines Senior Managing Director of New York Tommy Craig, Rockefeller Group Co-President and CEO Daniel Rashin and Zetlin & DeChiara Founder Michael Zetlin, who moderated the group.

The panelists agreed that transportation is the main reason why Midtown still thrives. However, Falk said that to increase its competitiveness the buildings there need better “first impressions.”

“You just can’t be good, you have to be great,” Falk said. “I think [owners of] Midtown buildings just need to try harder to say ‘what can we do better?’ ”

That’s why Rashin said Rockefeller Group revamped its 1221 Avenue of the Americas between West 48th  and West 49th Streets when Société Générale and McGraw Hill moved out recently.

“We had a building that had some very, very tired aspects to it,” Rashin said. “The experience of walking into a 1221 lobby was dreary [and] it was dark. We changed

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Dan Rashin. Photo: Jared Siskin/PMC

the lobby up, brightened it up, took non-structural columns out. It’s a change you experience when you walk in.”

In the case of the tenants themselves, Take-Two Interactive Software, which took a 61,383-square-foot lease at 1133 Avenue of the Americas last year, said that the key to its decision to relocate from Noho to Midtown (which was not necessarily the first choice of a tech company) was the centrality, large floor plates and nearness to Bryant Park

Charlip said that normal concessions like free rent are important but also, “Can my employees bring bikes into the building? Can my employees bring pets into the building?”

“One question I was asked over and over again when we announced to our employees that we are moving to Midtown was ‘Do we have to change the way we dress for work,’ ” Charlip said to audience laughter. (He was wearing a suit without a tie.) “Honestly, I never go to work dressed like this. I wear jeans and sneakers everyday—so I’m dressed up today. And if I go to the office, people are going to ask me if I had a job interview.”


Source: commercial