David Winoker on the Garment Center: ‘The World Has Changed, and It’s Been Changing for Years’
Tom Acitelli July 12, 2011, 10:54 a.m.
As the president of Winoker Realty, David Winoker has greatly expanded the firm from its relatively modest roots. Although the firm’s tenant rep, management and ownership can be seen across the city, its presence is most conspicuous in the garment center, where a majority of the company’s 32 properties stand. Mr. Winoker, 48, talks about that neighborhood’s present and what he has in mind for the firm’s future.
The Commercial Observer: Winoker has a large portfolio of assets in the garment center. Where is the neighborhood heading and where is it now, tenant-wise?
Mr. Winoker: It’s changed over the years and you have more office tenants continually signing leases in this neighborhood. It still has excellent transportation and subway access, and a lot of the buildings have undergone major renovations and redevelopment.
So it’s not purely garment anymore. Clearly, we still have buildings that will house showrooms and dress companies. They’re here and they’ll be here for a long time.
But the world has changed, and it’s been changing for years.
What is the tenant makeup that you see now?
It’s general office tenants. It could be accountants, engineers, architects, technology firms. You’re near Penn Station and the Port Authority, so it’s mixed.
Is there any kind of tenant these buildings are particularly suited for considering that, with so much showroom space, most of the properties have high ceilings?
I wouldn’t say there’s any one particular tenant. I’ve seen a range of tenants coming into this area.
Is this something that Winoker is embracing, or are there enough garment tenants to maintain the status quo in the neighborhood?
It’s building by building and block by block—meaning that there are certain buildings that are already established showroom buildings that will remain, and there are other buildings that have transformed into office-type properties.
We are embracing it because you have to adapt to the market, and you can’t sit around saying, “No, we’re only going to rent to one type of tenant.” You have to adjust.
Considering those adjustments, how do you feel about the neighborhood holding on to the “garment center” moniker? I know brokers who’d love to see a name change.
They’ve changed it into, I heard, fashion district, and then it became Times Square South. A lot of different names have been used to describe this neighborhood.
Besides the garment center, Winoker has footprints in the Flatiron district and Union Square, among other Manhattan neighborhoods. But is there any area the firm would like to expand to in the near future?
No, we haven’t targeted per location. I think it’s per owner and per client and per asset. I think it’s always going to be about what we can add value to, or where we can apply our skills, or where owners can benefit from our experienced knowledge.
With the economic climate thawing slightly, what kind of activity has Winoker been involved with over the past six months—inside and outside of the garment center?
We’re growing. We just picked up a big assignment at 1450 Broadway, which is the managing and leasing of the 400,000-square-foot building on the corner of 41st Street and Broadway. It’s a great addition to our portfolio.
Also, we continue to pick up other agencies, and we’re increasing our tenant rep business. So we’re in a growth mode.
Landlord representation has always been a big part of our business and will continue to be.
And we’re very optimistic about the market in general.
How would you characterize transaction volume this year versus, say, two years ago?
You can’t compare it—it’s way better. The leasing market has significantly increased. I’m seeing rent increases. We’re seeing demand for space. Velocity has increased.
So it’s a whole different world right now. It’s really changed tremendously. It’s always over time. It wasn’t just one day that it all changed—there’s always little bumps within a market cycle, but it’s been going on for I would say the past nine months.
If I understand correctly, Winoker Realty is working on developing a so-called social network that would connect the real estate industry. What’s that all about?
We’re in the preliminary stages. We’re working on some social media networking, whether it’s Twitter or Facebook or another network. … We’re looking at different ways to promote, develop and use those search engines as marketing tools.
But, again, it’s preliminary right now so I don’t want to really comment any further.
Winoker is a second-generation business, with your father running it before you. The firm was founded in the garment center, but you’ve expanded it significantly.
New people, new brokers and new buildings. What separates us is, really, our responsiveness and our attention to detail. We’re very, very hands on. We can provide due diligence services and excellent property management.
But I really believe that at the end of the day the business is really about people, and there’s no substitute for visiting a tenant, going to the building, and seeing the things first hand. There’s only so much you can do by just dealing with a Blackberry and a computer.