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Category ArchiveVornado Realty Trust

Law Firm Bryan Cave Renews Its 100K SF in Midtown West for 15 Years

Bryan Cave is staying put in its 100,000 square feet on the 34th through 37th floors at 1290 Avenue of the Americas between West 51st and West 52nd Streets.

A company spokeswoman told Commercial Observer, “We have been very happy with our prime New York City location and look forward to continuing to welcome our clients from New York City and around the world who visit our offices.” The law firm has been in the space since 1989. The renewal commences in 2019.

According to Crain’s New York Business, which first reported on the news, rents for the firm’s space were in the high $80s per square foot. The deal is for 15 years, the Bryan Cave spokeswoman told CO. The law firm “will be undertaking a complete renovation of our space,” she said, noting it will become a “beautiful new work environment.”

Other tenants in Vornado Realty Trust‘s 41-story, 2.1-million-square-foot building office tower include investment management firm Neuberger Berman, with its global headquartersCushman & Wakefield, which last month expanded its offices to more than 200,000 square feet, and Morgan Stanley.

Glen Weiss and Edward Riguardi of Vornado represented the landlord in-house. Lewis Miller’s team at CBRE represented Bryan Cave, the law firm’s spokeswoman said. A spokesman for Vornado declined to comment and a spokeswoman for CBRE didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.


Source: commercial

Siemens Moving NYC Offices to Vornado’s 1 Penn Plaza

German manufacturing giant Siemens is reportedly moving its New York City offices to Vornado Realty Trust’s 1 Penn Plaza.

The company has agreed to take 35,000 square feet on the 11th floor of the 57-story, 2.7-million-square-foot office tower, which occupies the block bound by West 33rd and West 34th Streets and Seventh and Eighth Avenues, Crain’s New York Business reported Tuesday.

The deal includes an option for Siemens to take the entire, roughly 60,000-square-foot floor should it require additional space, according to Crain’s, with the German conglomerate reportedly paying rents in the high $60s per square foot. Siemens plans to begin occupying its new space by this July; the company’s current New York City corporate office is located at Mitsui Fudosan America’s 527 Madison Avenue in Midtown, according to its website.

Peter Van Duyne of Cushman & Wakefield represented the tenant in the transaction, while Vornado was represented in-house by Josh Glick and Jared Silverman. Representatives for C&W and Vornado did not immediately provide comment.

Siemens will occupy space left vacant by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, according to Crain’s, with the federal agency having relocated its offices to 1 World Trade Center in the Financial District.

The massive 1 Penn Plaza is the centerpiece of Vornado’s sizable portfolio of commercial real estate assets in the area surrounding Pennsylvania Station, which include 2 Penn Plaza, 11 Penn Plaza, 330 West 34th Street and 7 West 34th Street. And alongside partners Related Companies and Skanska, the real estate investment trust is undertaking the sprawling redevelopment of the James A. Farley Post Office Building into the new Moynihan Train Hall, which will include 730,000 square feet of office space and 120,000 square feet of retail.

Other tenants at 1 Penn Plaza include Cisco Systems, GTT Communications, TradingScreen and Fuse Media.


Source: commercial

Levi’s Zips Up New Times Square Space

Levi’s is moving its Times Square store a block and a half north up Broadway, according to an investor presentation from Vornado Realty Trust.

The denim company will occupy 17,250 square feet on the lower level and ground floor of the Vornado’s Marriott Marquis at 1535 Broadway, between West 45th and West 46th Streets, according to information from CoStar Group. The store is expected to open at the end of 2018, The New York Post reported. The length of the lease and asking rent weren’t disclosed.

Levi’s currently occupies 600 square feet on the first floor of the Paramount Building at 1501 Broadway, between West 43rd and West 44th Streets, according CoStar.

Laura Pomerantz of Cushman & Wakefield repped Levi’s in the transaction, and a spokesman for the brokerage didn’t return a request for comment. A Vornado spokesman declined to say who was involved in the lease, but the in-house leasing team for the building consists of Edward Hogan, Jason Morrison and Michael Worthman.

Laline and T-Mobile already occupy retail space in the building and Sephora has also leased space there.


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

Why Columbia Property Trust’s Nelson Mills Is Bullish on Midtown South

Nelson Mills, the president and chief executive officer of the Atlanta-based publicly traded real estate investment trust Columbia Property Trust, has the excitement of a first-timer when he talks about New York.

“Every day we are discovering something new about the city,” the Southern-born Mills gushed to Commercial Observer from his offices on the fourth floor at 315 Park Avenue South, a property Columbia owns between East 23rd and East 24th Streets. “I had another [discovery] last night. I walked past Teddy Roosevelt’s birthplace [at 28 East 20th Street]. That’s New York. Every corner that you turn, there is some interesting bit of history or culture. It is just a fascinating place.”

Mills, 57, and his wife Judy moved to a rental near East 26th Street and Madison Avenue in April from Atlanta, not just for the nightlife but to be closer to his company’s new main market. On New Year’s Day 2015, Columbia had just one property in the city, and today more than one-third of its 19-building portfolio is here.

That’s because under Mills’ leadership Columbia has unloaded 58 properties valued at $3.6 billion since 2012 and shrank its holdings to just seven markets from 32, while it spent $2.8 billion acquiring 10 buildings in its now core markets: San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Its portfolio spans about 9 million square feet across the country. Columbia’s biggest market is now Manhattan, where the company owns seven properties spanning 2.6 million square feet (one of them is still under contract). Five of the seven assets are within walking distance from his apartment. (The company doesn’t have any properties in the outer boroughs.)

Why such a focus on Midtown South? Columbia is simply following demand.

“We think much of the demand in the last few years, and we think in the near future, is going to be driven largely by the [technology, advertising, media and information] sector,” Mills said. “And this has been, we think, the most successful market in attracting those type of tenants. It’s evidenced in the occupancy, the rate and so forth.”

Among recent acquisitions since dumping non-core properties is the purchase of 245-249 West 17th Street and 218 West 18th Street for $514 million from New York REIT in October. Twitter is the major tenant at the 281,294-square-foot West 17th Street building, while Red Bull is the anchor tenant at the 165,670-square-foot West 18th Street property.

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114 Fifth Avenue. Photo: CoStar Group

And in July, Columbia entered into a joint venture with Allianz Real Estate to acquire and manage office buildings in gateway markets in the country. The companies each contributed properties to the joint venture. Allianz took a 45 percent interest in two of Columbia’s buildings in California, while Columbia gained 49.5 percent in the 352,000-square-foot 114 Fifth Avenue between West 16th and West 17th Streets (in Midtown South). L&L Holding Company has a 1 percent equity stake and handles leasing and managing for the Manhattan property.

Last month, the JV purchased a 581,000-square-foot office property in Washington, D.C., for $421 million.

“We at Allianz and Columbia share a similar strategy—acquire core assets in prime locations within 24/7 global cities and own them over the long-term,” Gary Phillips, the managing director and head of acquisitions for Allianz, said in a statement to CO. “Strategic alignment between joint venture partners is paramount to our long-term success so aligning shoulder to shoulder with operating partners that have a shared vision makes a lot of sense for us.”

The 19-story building recently went through a $45 million renovation and features large floor plates. Allianz actually outbid Columbia for the property when it acquired a majority stake in the building in 2015 for $209 million, according to property records. “[We] got outbid by Allianz, but we liked the property,” Mills said.

The resolve to not give up on a property—even when getting outbid—reveals something about Mills.

“[Mills] is a strategic thinker, is very well-respected by his peers and colleagues, and he understands the spirit of partnership,” Phillips said. “I have enjoyed working with Nelson personally and hope to continue to develop what I believe will be a prosperous and active relationship for many years to come.”

Columbia’s foray into Midtown South began with 315 Park Avenue South. The company bought the building on Jan. 7, 2015, for $353.9 million with the knowledge that roughly 80 percent of the building was going to be vacant as tenants’ leases expired over the following two to three years. The largest tenant, Credit Suisse, which left in April 2017, had already announced it was departing for 11 Madison Avenue.

In the real estate world, this is called opportunity. The plan was simple: As the tenants leave, upgrade the building and refill it with higher rents, aiming again for TAMI tenants.

They spent approximately $10 million to renovate the 331,000-square-foot building, which included a new lobby and entrance on East 24th Street as well as a facade restoration and upgraded elevator cabs. The renovations are expected to be completed in two months.

Columbia hired L&L as the manager and leasing agent for the building, as Midtown South is L&L’s pedigree. The 20-story building is fully leased or under contract but for the 14th through 16th floors.

London-based investment management firm Winton Capital Management took the top two floors, amassing 34,844 square feet last year. Also in 2016, high-end fitness concept Equinox took 44,458 square feet on the entire second and third floors as well as part of the fourth floor. And media company BDG Media, the parent of Bustle, Elite Daily and Romper, signed a 34,100-square-foot deal last year and has since expanded to 51,150 square feet.

“At the time when we bought it, we knew that 80 percent of the floors would be rolling,” Mills said. “We are right on pace with our expectations when we bought the property. And we are exceeding our rent levels by a bit.”

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315 Park Avenue South. Photo: Alan Schindler

When it underwrote the property, Columbia executives figured they’d be able to get rents in the $80s per square foot, but in fact they have signed tenants in the $90s per square foot, according to Mills. (The asking rent in the Winton Capital deal was $105 per square foot, as CO previously reported.)

“He came into the position when his firm owned a bunch of real estate in places that are not your top 10 markets,” said L&L President and Chief Investment Officer Robert Lapidus. “And he said he wanted to transform the portfolio. He executed his strategy [as] he told his board he would do. When you say something is one thing and when you actually do it, your credibility goes up.”

Mills, who has three adult children (ages 32, 29 and 28), has been married to his college sweetheart for 33 years. He was born on a farm outside of Memphis to parents who were teachers. He graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1983 with a degree in accounting and then went to work for KPMG in Nashville, focusing on tax advisory services for the real estate industry.

After a dozen years there, he became a partner in the firm’s Atlanta office. He remained there for another three years before moving to Lendlease to be the chief financial officer. From 2005 to 2009, he became the president and chief operating officer for Williams Realty Advisors, the manager and adviser of real estate investment funds.

Mills joined Columbia’s board in 2007 but was not appointed the president of the company until 2010. The company at the time was part of Wells Real Estate Investment Trust, a real estate investment trust whose shares were not traded publicly. It had roughly 130,000 investors. The company owned a diverse portfolio of more than 80 properties around the country, which for the most part were single-tenant commercial assets with high-capitalization rates. This strategy helped the company have stable and high yields for its investors. But to grow, they needed to go public. So in 2012 it split from Wells and officially listed in 2013, and Mills became the CEO.

“We decided [in order] to take it public to attract a broader range of investors, including institutional investors, we needed to reposition the portfolio—fewer markets, better long-term markets, more growth opportunities and build teams in those markets to be able to compete in those markets,” Mills said. “Diversification does mitigate risk to a point, but you don’t need 32 markets.”

Since the selloff, Columbia has just two properties remaining in its headquartered city of Atlanta. The properties each have single-tenant users, with short terms remaining on their leases. Mills said Columbia executives will look to renew the leases before selling the properties. But “there are no immediate plans to sell them.”

And while Columbia has plans to exit the Atlanta market, Mills stopped short of saying that it would relocate the company’s headquarters to New York City. With only 12 of the company’s 98 employees in New York City, it would put a lot of workers out of a job in the Peach State.

“We have a terrific corporate team based in Atlanta,” Mills said. “Many of them have been with the company from the beginning. Atlanta is a great place to live for this team.”

The strategy shift came with many challenges, such as competing with more established office REITs—like Boston Properties, SL Green Realty Corp., Empire State Realty Trust and Vornado Realty Trust—and standing out.

In the third quarter of 2017, Columbia’s net income soared to $101.5 million from $36.9 million during the same three-month period last year with the increase coming from the sale of real estate. But at the same time, the company’s revenue was roughly $60.4 million, a significant drop from $111.3 million in the same period last year. (Again, Mills said, because they’ve sold off so many properties.)

Mills promised that the rents will return once Columbia leases up new properties in its portfolio and free rent periods end. Experts are praising his moves.

Following the recent third quarter earnings results, analysts from JMP Securities and Evercore Group both expect Columbia’s shares to “outperform” the market, citing its transformed portfolio, which will produce earnings growth, and the leasing up of its new properties. Columbia’s current portfolio is 95 percent leased with average terms of seven-and-a-half years remaining.

And his board is buying it if his income is any indication. Including salary, stock, benefits and nonequity plans, Nelson’s compensation has risen from $3 million in 2014 to $3.7 million in 2015 and $4.4 million in 2016, according to the most recent filings.

“We are understand that we are in a very competitive field,” Mills said. “We have chosen some of the most competitive [markets]. We are going head to head with well-established companies with great reputations, but I think we are delivering on it.”

Under Mills, Columbia has had a simple plan with acquiring new properties and leasing them to multiple tenants. A case and point is with the old New York Times building at 229 West 43rd Street. The company bought the upper portion of the building, a 12-story office condo in July 2015 for $516 million. (Kushner Companies owns the four retail floors.)

Yahoo (now part of Oath) is the anchor tenant at the property with 193,000 square feet, and in April 2017, Snapchat parent Snap Inc. signed 26,000 square feet to expand its headquarters to 121,000 square feet at the tower.

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149 Madison Avenue. Photo: CoStar Group

Sometimes, though, Columbia’s old strategy of a single-tenant occupant has become the best option. The company’s first property in the city was the 25-story building at 222 East 41st Street, at which it acquired the ground lease for nearly $320 million in 2007. The building was leased almost entirely to law firm Jones Day. (Columbia had an office for itself on the 24th story.)

Jones Day signed a lease in Brookfield Place to relocate from Midtown in 2013 before the lease expired earlier this year, so Columbia had a four-year window to lease new tenants to the entire 390,000-square-foot building. It was set to do so with multiple tenants, but then NYU Langone Health approached the landlord for the entire building. It helped fill a giant gap, and NYU Langone’s lease will keep it there for 31 years, ensuring that Columbia continues to generate revenue from the building for decades to come.

“[Columbia] understood our needs and priorities and worked with us to achieve a long lease that gave us the control and flexibility we needed for the future,” Vicki Match Suna, a senior vice president and the vice dean for real estate development and facilities at NYU Langone, said in a prepared statement to CO. “They timely completed their demolition work and turned over the site for our tenant work on schedule.”

Up next is closing the Midtown South deal. Soon the company will own the 127,000-square-foot property at 149 Madison Avenue between East 31st and East 32nd Streets. It’s another Midtown South-style building with 14-foot ceiling heights and large windows.

This deal has required creativity; Columbia is actually in contract to buy the land under the building for $88 million (the lease for the building expires in January). The company expects the deal to close in mere weeks, after which it plans to revamp the entire building with new windows, elevators, lobby, facade restoration and building systems upgrades. And Columbia has assembled a team of architects and project managers for the work. Following the renovation the team plans to lease up the property at higher rents.

The current tenants “are welcome to stay if they can meet the rents, but it is likely that we will be looking at new tenants, probably multitenants,” Mills said, before adding, “I mean there’s always a chance that a single tenant emerges.”


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

Cloud Networking Services Provider GTT Grows to 19,500 in 1 Penn Plaza

GTT Communications has signed a deal to expand its footprint at Vornado Realty Trust‘s 1 Penn Plaza to 19,500 square feet just a few months after the publicly traded company moved into the building, Commercial Observer has learned.  

The Virginia-based firm, which provides cloud networking services to companies around the world, currently occupies 11,400-square-foot offices on part of the 10th floor of the 2.7-million-square-foot tower on West 34th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.

GTT will add 8,100 square feet on the same floor in early 2018, according to information provided by the tenant’s broker, Savills Studley.

A spokeswoman for the brokerage declined to disclose the terms of the deal, however, a variety of tenants have signed leases in the building at rates in the upper $60s per square foot and the low- to mid-$70s per square foot, according to CoStar Group.

“GTT’s recent acquisitions added significant headcount to their New York office, and expanding into additional, contiguous space was the best solution for the growing company to maintain and enhance their collaborative culture,” Savills Studley’s Christopher Foerch, who handled the deal for GTT alongside colleagues Jeffrey Peck and Daniel Horowitz, said in a prepared statement.

GTT moved from a 5,000-square-foot office at 1270 Broadway between West 32nd and West 33rd Streets to 1 Penn Plaza in July.  

Since its move, GTT has acquired a variety of companies, including network services provider Global Capacity for about $160 million ($100 million in cash and nearly 1.9 million shares of stock) in September, the company announced at the time. Global Capacity has offices in Massachusetts, Illinois, Colorado, California and the U.K.

And GTT acquired Midtown South-based data management provider Transbeam for $28 million on Oct. 3. Transbeam currently has offices at 8 West 38th Street between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas.

It wasn’t clear if Global Capacity and Transbeam would be moving. A spokeswoman for the company did not immediately return a request seeking information, and Savills Studley’s spokeswoman declined to disclose that information.

Jared Silverman and Josh Glick, who represented Vornado in-house, did not return a request for comment via a Vornado spokesman.

GTT has 18 offices around North America, and additional outposts in Asia, Europe and South America, according to its website.


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

Manhattan Office Leasing Activity Held Strong in Q3: CBRE

The Manhattan office leasing market continues to show signs of strength via positive net absorption figures and double-digit percent increases over last year, according to CBRE’s latest Manhattan office market report released today.

Total leasing activity of 7.4 million square feet in the third quarter outperformed the five-year quarterly average by 12 percent, and took total Manhattan office leasing activity for the first nine months of 2017 to 21.1 million square feet—a 24 percent increase, year-to-date, on 2016.

But perhaps the strongest indicator of the market’s strength so far this year was the 1.45 million square feet of positive net absorption registered last quarter. The Midtown market, in particular, posted more than 1 million square feet of positive absorption for the first time since the second quarter of 2015.

At a media briefing discussing the figures, Nicole LaRusso, CBRE’s director of research and analytics for the tri-state region, cited strong employment growth figures in New York City that she said “has really been fueling a lot of this [leasing] activity” in the Manhattan office market.

LaRusso was joined by CBRE Vice Chair Paul Amrich and Executive Vice President Neil King at the briefing, held at Rockpoint Group and Highgate Holdings’ office development at 412 West 15th Street in the Meatpacking District.

The property, which is still under construction as workers continue to build out the interiors, served as an ideal setting for a discussion on the state of the Meatpacking District and Hudson Square office market. According to the brokers, the area has changed “drastically” as larger, more mature companies view it as an increasingly viable office destination.

King said that the West Side neighborhood’s culinary and cultural amenities are among the reasons “why people want to be here”—citing Shake Shack’s recent 27,000-square-foot deal for its new headquarters and flagship restaurant at 225 Varick Street in Hudson Square, as well as institutions like the Whitney Museum of American Art, which moved to the Meatpacking District in 2015.

Amrich noted that more than ever, companies are using their real estate as a tool to recruit new, young talent—a trend that has extended from tech, media and creative firms into the realm of financial services and insurance companies. He cited insurer Argo Group, which inked a 48,000-square-foot lease at Rockpoint and Highgate’s Meatpacking project earlier this year, as well as Aetna’s recent agreement for 150,000 square feet at nearby 61 Ninth Avenue, developed by Vornado Realty Trust.

As far as Manhattan leasing activity on a submarket-by-submarket basis, CBRE said the Midtown market saw 4.84 million square feet of leasing activity in the third quarter, which constituted a 19 percent increase on the five-year average. Asking rents in Midtown stood at $80.54 per square foot, flat from the previous quarter but down 1 percent from the same period last year.

Midtown South registered 1.14 million square feet of activity—down 8.8 percent below the five-year average for the supply-constrained market and fueled mostly by small deals below 25,000 square feet, which constituted 59 percent of all transactions in the submarket last quarter. Midtown South asking rents of $71.90 per square foot—which LaRusso noted have run up dramatically over the past decade from their range in the low $40s per square foot in 2009—are flat from the previous quarter but up 4 percent year-over-year.

In the Downtown market, 1.43 million square feet of leasing activity in the third quarter was 9 percent over the five-year average, with government tenants—such as the city agencies that have flocked to the Verizon Building at 375 Pearl Street—accounting for 30 percent of all activity in the quarter. The submarket continues to see tenant migration trends work in its favor, with 1.5 million square feet of space in the year-to-date period comprising tenants who have moved Downtown from elsewhere in the city. Downtown asking rents were up 1 percent from the previous quarter, to $61.95 per square foot.


Source: commercial

Data Provider Inks 14K-SF Deal to Relocate HQ Within Midtown

Data and trading technology provider Thesys Technologies has signed a 13,787-square-foot lease at Equity Office’s 1740 Broadway for its headquarters, the landlord announced today.

The financial technology company will occupy a portion of the 14th floor of the 26-story building between West 55th and West 56th Streets in Midtown. The asking rent in the seven-year lease was in the high $70s per square foot, according to a source with knowledge of the deal.

“The cutting-edge, stylish design of our prebuilt spaces at 1740 Broadway proved to be the perfect fit for an innovative fintech company and industry leader like Thesys Technologies,” Zachary Freeman of Equity Office, which is a subsidiary of Blackstone Group, said in a prepared statement.

Thesys expects to move in November from its current address nearby at The Moinian Group’s 3 Columbus Circle, a full-block building that runs on Eighth Avenue and Broadway between West 57th and West 58th Streets.

Thesys, founded in 2009 in New York City, also has offices in South Carolina. Its new pre-built digs at 1740 Broadway will feature concrete floors, exposed ceilings, high-end finishes and an open pantry, the landlord said in a press release.

“These are exciting and dynamic times for our organization,” Mike Beller, the chief executive officer of Thesys Technologies, said in a prepared remarks. “The move to a new corporate headquarters reflects the hard work and commitment of our employees, who have all contributed to our rapid growth.”

Brad Gerla and Brad Auerbach of CBRE handled the deal for Thesys Technologies. Freeman and Scott Silverstein of Equity Office represented the landlord in-house alongside a CBRE team of Howard Fiddle, Zak Snider, Arkady Smolyansky, Alexander Golod and Ben Joseph.

“After a thorough analysis of our client’s technical requirements, their projected growth and employee and client commuting patterns, we felt that the space at 1740 Broadway was a perfect fit,” Gerla said via a spokesman.

The building at 1740 Broadway was erected in 1950, and Equity Office purchased it in 2014 for approximately $600 million from Vornado Realty Trust. Existing tenants at the 620,000-square-foot building include fashion retailer L Brands and law firm Davis & Gilbert.

The Real Deal was first to report the news about Thesys’ new digs.


Source: commercial