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REBNY to Extend Reach With Global PropTech Contest

The Real Estate Board of New York is planning a property technology contest open to global innovators, marking the first worldwide initiative by the 122-year-old organization, Commercial Observer has learned.

It will be the organization’s second real estate technology contest, following its “hackathon” event last year (which ended with the winners competing in a “gauntlet challenge” last month).

REBNY’s PropTech Challenge will offer a payout of $200,000 (from REBNY members and sponsors), split between 24 contestants who rank in the top three within eight categories.

“We are going to really break down geographical boundaries and hopefully get some good solutions to problems in real estate,” Sandy Jacolow, the chief information officer of Silverstein Properties and a member of REBNY’s tech committee, told CO during the Marché International des Professionnels d’Immobilier (MIPIM) conference in Cannes, France last week. “I think what we are all realizing right now is there are so many challenges and problems that we have that technology can solve and focusing on these hackathons and these proptech challenges seem to be a way to develop some really creative solutions.”

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A scene from REBNY’s hackathon last year. Photo: REBNY

The PropTech Challenge came out of the growth of the property technology sector, evidenced by REBNY’s tech committee membership. Upon launching in March 2017, the REBNY tech committee had 14 people from 12 companies and one meeting each quarter. Today, there are 102 people from 47 companies and there are nine subcommittees, which meet several times a month collectively.

“We’ve locked down New York City real estate for over a century, now reflecting our members’ interest in real estate [technology] around the world, we too are expanding,” said Ryan Baxter, a vice president at REBNY.

The upcoming contest follows REBNY’s previous New York City-focused proptech competition. The October 13-15, 2017 hackathon competition saw 150 participants compete in six categories. And the winners from the hackathon competed in the gauntlet challenge.

In the PropTech Challenge, there will be two separate series of four categories. The first will encompass the themes of blockchain, operations and maintenance, brokerage and AEC (architect, engineering and construction) and development. And the second will be comprised of the internet of things (IoT), machine learning technology (artificial intelligence), social media, and geospatial and location technology.

Starting April 1, individuals or companies can enter the contest with a PowerPoint presentation and a video showing their technology. Three finalists will be selected from each of the four categories from the first series for a “demo day” live presentation of their technologies, which will be held in June. And then three finalists from each of the four groups in the second series will be selected for the second demo day in October.

Judges at the demo days will select the first, second and third of each of the four categories with the first-place contestants taking home $15,000, and second and third places will receive $7,500 and $2,500, respectively.

REBNY plans to fly participants into New York City for the presentations if they aren’t based in New York City. The exact location is yet to be determined.

Source: commercial

George Washington Immigration Group Debuts Loan Platform for EB-5 Debt [Updated]

George Washington Immigration Group has secured the capital to provide $1.25 billion in first-lien construction loans and bridge loans to developers seeking EB-5 financing, Commercial Observer can exclusively report.

The firm declined to specify the source behind the commitment, citing a confidential arrangement.

“We will now be able to provide approved projects with … bridge capital while they seek financing under the EB-5 program,” said Evan Stoopler, a George Washington managing director.

The EB-5 program, administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, offers visas for foreigners who make investments in American enterprises. To qualify, foreign entrepreneurs must invest at least $1 million (or $500,000, if the investment is in a rural area) in projects that stand to create full-time jobs for 10 or more workers.

The arrangements have increasingly appealed to U.S. real estate developers looking for financing of late. Rates tend to be more attractive than those offered by domestic lenders, and foreigners seeking EB-5 visas are often less intent on seeking an equity reward for investment. But it has often difficult to line up foreign investors with shovel-ready projects in time.

That’s where the George Washington company’s bridge loans will come in, said one of the group’s managing partners, Steve Anapoell. His firm plans to use the $1.25 billion pool as interim financing for developers while longer-term EB-5 partners can be matched.

“I am constantly called to ask if I have money to provide as bridge,” Anapoell said. “Developers are hungry for this. [They ask me] ‘can you give bridge? Do you know anyone who can give us bridge?’ They need certainty in the capital stack.”

When George Washington’s short-term financings expire, the company hopes to stand ready to roll those bridge loans over into debt funded by EB-5 applicants. But borrowers will not be bound to refinance through George Washington, Anapoell said.

The company’s members have structured over $2 billion in EB-5 financings, including for Related CompaniesHudson Yards development, for Silverstein Properties30 Park Place, and for Extell Development and Lightstone Group.

Update: This story has been edited to include that the financing will be available for construction loans and bridge loans.

Source: commercial

Morton Williams Plans Supermarket at One West End Avenue

Morton Williams is opening another store on the Upper West Side.

The 63-year-old grocery chain has leased 29,400 square feet on the ground floor and lower level of One West End Avenue, the first building in the five-tower Riverside Center development, The New York Post reported. Asking rent in the 25-year deal was $85 per square foot.

The store, set to open in 2018, will offer patio seating for shoppers, kosher merchandise and plenty of grab-and-go options, according to the Post.

The grocer will anchor a 43-story, 365-unit highrise between West 59th and West 60th Streets designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli. Thanks to the 421a tax exemption program, the project has 249 residential condominiums and 116 affordable rentals, with the rental and condo portions served by separate entrances. Available condo units in the building are priced from $1.5 million for a one-bedroom to $21 million for a four-bedroom, five-bath penthouse, according to StreetEasy.

Lee & Associates’ Brad Schwarz represented Morton Williams in the transaction, and Gary Alterman, Richard Gelber and Scott Zinovoy of RKF handled the deal on behalf of the landlords, Elad Group and Silverstein Properties.

“I think it would be a great amenity to the neighborhood, which I think is underserved for a high-level product like Morton Williams,” Schwarz told Commercial Observer. “I live in the area, and it’s a rapidly evolving area. With an additional 5,000 residential units coming online, I think this will be coming at the right time.”

Schwarz added that over the past year he’s worked on deals to bring Landmark Theatres and Greek restaurant Ousia to Durst Organization’s Via 57 West, which is two blocks from One West End. And across the street at 21 West End Avenue, he helped sign a recently-opened Soul Cycle.


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

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

Macmillan Publishers Closes Deal for 261,000 SF at 120 Broadway


Source: commercial

Spotify Expands by 100K SF at 4 WTC, Bringing Tower to Full Occupancy


Source: commercial

Downtown Office Asking Rents Reach All-Time High: CBRE


Source: commercial

Robin Fisher Has a Multimillion-Dollar Dream of What to Do With Raw, Unused Space


Source: commercial

Reinsurance Firm Grows NYC Presence With 19K-SF Lease at 437 Madison Avenue

Reinsurer Munich American Reassurance Company is expanding its New York office footprint after agreeing to take 18,650 square feet of space at the William Kaufman Organization’s 437 Madison Avenue in Midtown.

Munich American, a subsidiary of German reinsurance giant Munich Re Group, signed a 10-year deal for the entire 26th floor of the 40-story, 850,000-square-foot property between East 49th and East 50th Streets, William Kaufman said in a press release Tuesday announcing the transaction.

Asking rent in the Munich American deal was $90 per square foot, sources said, with asking rents at 437 Madison Avenue ranging from $80 to $110 per square foot, according to William Kaufman. The New York Post first reported the news of the transaction.

The reinsurance company plans to use the new space to accommodate its “rapidly expanding” financial reinsurance and integrated analytics teams, as well as grow its actuarial capabilities by “tapping into the strong actuarial talent pool that exists in the New York insurance and reinsurance market,” Mike DeKoning, the president and chief executive officer of Munich American, said in a statement.

Munich American presently occupies 24,625 square feet comprising the entire 15th floor at Silverstein Properties1177 Avenue of the Americas, according to CoStar Group data. It will retain that office and plans to assume the space at 437 Madison Avenue by the fourth quarter of this year.

Nick Zarnin and Craig L. Lemle of Savills Studley represented Munich American in the deal, while Michael Lenchner of Sage Realty Corporation—William Kaufman’s leasing and management division—and a JLL team of Frank Doyle, David Kleiner, Cynthia Wasserberger, Hayley Shoener and Harlan Webster represented the landlord.

Zarnin confirmed the transaction to Commercial Observer, noting that Munich American was drawn to the property’s location “within proximity of their current employees” at 1177 Avenue of the Americas.

He also said the reinsurance company has “a strong bit of flexibility” as far as options to expand its space in the future if needed, and added that William Kaufman was “willing to build out the space for the client” while covering the entire cost of doing so.

“We’re giving them a [floor] plan, and they’re going to build the space to our plan using their building-standard finishes,” Zarnin said.

William Kaufman also announced two separate, smaller transactions for office space at 437 Madison Avenue: a seven-year deal with alternative investment firm Eos Management for 9,576 square feet on a portion of the 14th floor; and a 7,458-square-foot expansion by law firm Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads, which now has 35,755 square feet at the property comprising the entire 23rd and 24th floors.

Eos Management, which plans to move from its current offices at 320 Park Avenue in the third quarter, was represented by Lindsay Ornstein and Lauren Davidson of Transwestern. Montgomery McCracken—which inked its initial 28,297-square-foot direct lease at the building in December—had no broker on its deal.

Sage Realty’s Lenchner attributed William Kaufman’s recent success in leasing up 437 Madison Avenue to a recently completed, $60 million capital improvement program at the 50-year-old office tower. The building now has a redesigned lobby and arcade area, renovated elevators, upgraded building systems and a new “sky lounge” on the 15th floor featuring outdoor conference rooms.

“These new leasing transactions further demonstrate the ongoing resurgence of the Grand Central office district, the quality of our building and our convenient and desirable location,” Lenchner said in a statement.

Earlier this year, William Kaufman signed investment firm Lighthouse Investment Partners to a 17,750-square-foot lease for the entire 21st floor at the building, as CO first reported. The landlord also signed another financial services tenant, Prelude Capital, to a 19,524-square-foot renewal and expansion for portions of the 33rd and 34th floors late last year.

Other tenants at 437 Madison Avenue include Omnicom Group, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and Medallion Financial Corp.


Source: commercial