Remapping Silicon Alley

Real estate trends among Manhattan's technology firms


Midtown Manhattan’s 1385 Broadway used to be known as the Bridal Building, but thanks to a $55 million makeover and creative collaboration between the owners and leasing agents, it is becoming home to an increasing number of technology and media companies.

The most recent addition to the 23-story building between 37th and 38th streets is Diligent Board Member Services Inc., a leading provider of Web-based portals for board-of-director communications. Australia-based Diligent is taking 22,000 square feet—the entire 19th floor—to serve as its U.S. headquarters in a 10-year, 10-month lease.

Cushman & Wakefield Inc., the exclusive leasing agent for the building since late 2008, has now leased up 450,000 square feet of the building owned by B. Bros. Broadway Realty L.L.C., an affiliate of Bloomingdale Properties Inc. Only one floor remains available, according to Jonathan Serko, vice chairman, and Diana Gaines, senior director, who led the leasing team along with Gary Greenspan, vice chairman. Gaines told Commercial Property Executive they have been going “floor by floor, demolishing, to literally start over and have a brand-new building.”

Activity 1385 Broadway is just part of the interest Manhattan’s Silicon Alley has been attracting recently. The Midtown South neighborhood, in fact, is so tight and rents are getting so high that companies are looking at neighboring submarkets, such as the former Garment District—which Gaines likes to call “Chelsea North” and is also known as “Times Square South.”

Other recent moves in recent months include SL Green Realty Corp.’s signing of personalized Internet music provider Pandora Media Inc. to a 10-year lease for 52,450 square feet at 125 Park Ave. in July. And during the second quarter, Yahoo! Inc. took steps to merge its New York offices into one location at the old New York Times Building at 229 W. 43rd St. Yahoo! took 176,201 square feet at the 18-story building in the fifth-largest leasing transaction in Midtown Manhattan for the second quarter of 2013, according to CBRE Group Inc. The Blackstone Group, which bought the top 12 floors of the building from Africa Israel USA in 2011, has been repositioning it with an eye toward attracting technology and new media companies.

Another big second-quarter signing occurred in April, when software solutions provider SAP America agreed to lease 115,000 square feet in the South Tower of the massive Hudson Yards project. SAP will get the top four floors of the 47-story office building being developed by Related Cos. and Oxford Properties Group on Midtown’s Far West Side.
The Cushman & Wakefield team assumed the task of leasing 1385 Broadway soon after the financial markets collapsed in the fall of 2008. Gaines and Serko said the team encouraged the owners to reposition the building to attract technology and media companies. “Our team recognized certain industries that were growing,” Gaines told CPE. “What used to be the financial services world is now the tech industry. It’s a progression.”

Improvements since 2009 include a new lobby and entrance, along with new windows, elevators, HVAC systems and wiring, and upgrades to all common areas and restrooms.

Gaines and Serko said technology and media companies like the building’s floor plates, which are larger than those at most Midtown South properties. The building is also within walking distance of Penn Station, Grand Central Terminal, the Port Authority Bus Terminal and the subway lines. Furthermore, asking rents are in the low $50s, a significant reduction to other parts of Midtown, which run in the low $70s. In the second quarter, average asking rents in Midtown South were $63.44 per square foot, up $3.34 from the first quarter, according to CBRE.
But not all prospective tenants were interested in the location, Serko admitted. “We were pioneering in that area,” he said. “It wasn’t a given that the tenants we were targeting would go there.”

Other technology tenants include ShoreTel, which provides unified business communication solutions and has located its cloud division on the seventh floor, and Ideeli, an online retailer specializing in fashion, beauty and home décor limited-time sales, which took the 23,500-square-foot third floor for its photography studios and back-office functions. It is also home to Bloomsbury, the publisher of the Harry Potter book series.

While the Cushman & Wakefield team took a chance on a new area, such moves are becoming more amenable to technology tenants in Manhattan. According to a Studley report, more technology tenants are moving from Midtown South to neighboring submarkets that even include Downtown Manhattan, where large Class A properties have lost some financial services tenants and have been repositioning to attract a more technology-oriented and creative crowd.

“As Midtown South fills up, the Midtown and Downtown submarkets may become more of a value proposition, as well,” said Studley chief economist Heidi Learner. “Many tenants who have either leased or subleased space in Midtown South over the last several years will be surprised to see how much rents have jumped when it comes time to renew.”

Still another trend among technology firms is to sublease space, she and research manager Chris Volney further noted in the report, titled “Subleases Popular Amid NYC Tech Boom.” They found that 33.3 percent of all deals for what they called “tech/creative” tenants from January to April were subleases, more than double the 15.4 percent among “traditional” tenants. That interest has been beneficial to large corporate tenants that are striving to offload a portion of their unused space. For instance, BuzzFeed sublet 57,691 square feet from Tiffany & Co. at 200 Fifth Ave. in the heart of Midtown.

Read this article in its original format in the October 2013 issue of CPE.