Year in Real Estate

The deals, personalities and shake-ups that rocked New York City in 2013.

Year in Real Estate

Triple-Digit Boom: The Details Behind 2013’s Most Expensive Leases


In the exclusive confines of the Plaza district, a handful of elite financial services firms spent 2013 inking triple-digit leases—those deals carrying rents in excess of $100 per square foot. Once rare, these deals have skyrocketed in those few buildings boasting the unique infrastructure requirements for the world’s top money managers.

From Aby Rosen’s landmark Seagram Building to Sheldon Solow’s 9 West 57th Street, the triple-digit fraternity is an exclusive club for both landlord and tenant. Approximately 60 leases fell into the triple-digit category in 2013, the bulk of them signed during the second quarter, according to data from CompStak.

Below, The Commercial Observer breaks down the key figures and shines some light on the most expensive deals of 2013.

Read More

Year in Real Estate

The 10 Biggest Leases of 2013


For two years in row, 1 World Trade Center scored among the city’s largest transaction, starting with 2011’s Condé Nast showstopper and following with last year’s 270,000-square-foot UGS deal. But in 2013, the buzz moved uptown when another marquee deal, L’Oreal’s 400,000-square-foot commitment to the Related Companies, stole the headlines at the new Hudson Yards development.

Last year was a relatively modest one compared to 2011 when it came to office leasing, but 2013 saw a significant rebound—the top 10 deals totaled more than 2.7 million square feet, a 50 percent increase year over year. Like 2012, a variety of sectors made the list, from financial services to law firms to the media and publishing industries.

Below are the top 10 leases of 2013 by square footage, courtesy of Cushman & Wakefield.

Read More

Year in Real Estate

How 1 World Trade Center Officially Became the Tallest Building in the U.S.


When construction workers hoisted the final crown atop 1 World Trade Center back in May, it reached its symbolic 1,776 feet. Flags
waved, onlookers cheered, and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey proclaimed it the “tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.”

But great controversy regarding whether the tower would in fact dethrone Chicago’s Willis Tower ensued. The looming question: antennae or spire? The latter would solidify the accolade the Port Authority already touted, but the former would not. Last month, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat official ruled that a spire—not an antennae—sits atop the 104-story tower.

After the jump, a step-by-step guide to measuring a tall building and some key factors that played into the ruling at 1 WTC, as told to The Commercial Observer’s Al Barbarino by officials with the Council on Tall Buildings.

Read More

Year in Real Estate

In Memoriam

New York real estate is some of the most desirable and expensive in the world, but the ever-fluctuating price of a square foot is unquestionably dwarfed by the value of human life. This year, the real estate industry lost two figures whose talents transcended leasing and sales

Read More

Year in Real Estate

The Biggest Brooklyn Leases

A rendering of the Empire Stores project. 
Photo: Studio V

West Elm’s 150,000-square-foot lease at 55 Water Street in Dumbo was the crowning Brooklyn deal of a year when the big-boy developers seemed to (belatedly) pounce on Kings County all at once.

News of the deal in early September followed an announcement that Midtown Equities, in partnership with Rockwood Capital and HK Organization, had clinched the sought-after project of converting the 327,000-square-foot Empire Stores site on Water Street—once a coffee and dry goods warehouse—into a gilded office and retail complex. West Elm’s lease was the biggest in Brooklyn this year, and at an address whose reported penthouse office space asking rent, $90 per square foot, set a borough record.  Read More

Year in Real Estate

The Year in Commercial Real Estate


An astounding 54.3 million tourists are expected to have visited New York City by the end of this year, many of them for the first time. And while, of course, for many of these visitors, a runway at LaGuardia or the back of a cab driver’s head will be their first impressions of the city, the more memorable vision will be the one that has been enchanting tourists ever since 1870, when construction workers topped out the 130-foot tall Equitable Life Assurance Building, long considered the Big Apple’s first skyscraper. Read More

Year in Real Estate

The House That L’Oreal Built


Back in 2011, Coach agreed to pay a reported $750 million for its 740,000-square-foot global corporate headquarters in Related’s South Tower at Hudson Yards. 

That deal may have been the official stamp of approval for the massive project rising on the city’s west side, but the announcements in April that SAP America, Inc. and L’Oréal Read More

Year in Real Estate

Initially Yours: the Fight to Make ‘ESRT’ A Reality

Empire State Building

Lawsuits, investor squabbles and multiple bids to purchase the Empire State Building didn’t stop Peter and Tony Malkin and the Empire State Realty Trust from going public with the “ESRT” real estate investment trust.  

Back in March, The Commercial Observer reported that the IPO was expected to succeed, but it wasn’t until Oct. 2 that the initial public offering—71,500,000 Read More

Year in Real Estate

Spec No More: 51 Astor Lands First Tenant


Edward Minskoff was unfazed in April when he rather pointedly blamed the media for allegations that his “spec” office tower gamble at 51 Astor Place had backfired.

“These are words that are coming from media types that don’t understand our business, so they make assumptions—and by definition an assumption is not a statement of fact,” Read More

Year in Real Estate

Hold the MSG: World’s Most Famous Arena Gets 10 Years to Find New Home

Madison Square Garden Renewed

There had been rumblings for years.

Ever since the original Penn Station was demolished to make way for Madison Square Garden in the 1960s, commuters and architecture critics alike bemoaned the cramped subterranean train hub and the unsightly arena perched above it.

Then, like a spark, Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times architecture critic, brought the debate to the fore with a column in February urging the City Council to deny Madison Square Garden’s request to renew its permit to operate in perpetuity. With a request set to begin the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, it couldn’t have come at a more pivotal moment.

Read More

Year in Real Estate

Passing the Torch: Real Estate Execs Sign Off in 2013

Mort Zuckerman

From Silverstein Properties and Boston Properties on down to Forest City Ratner Companies, age played a decisive role in succession planning across some of the country’s largest real estate companies this year.

Larry Silverstein, Mort Zuckerman and Bruce Ratner all handed the reins to younger real estate executives during a year of leadership changes that rippled across the industry. Vornado Realty Trust and Cushman & Wakefield also experienced top-level shake-ups. 

Read More

Year in Real Estate

The Mayoral Equation

Bill de Blasio (Photo: AP)

William Bratton’s selection as police commissioner under Bill de Blasio will stand as perhaps the mayor-elect’s most prominent appointment. But as the clock ticks on Michael Bloomberg’s administration, two questions remain unanswered: Which projects begun under Mayor Bloomberg will unfold as planned? And who will shepherd Mr. de Blasio’s development goals?

In its final weeks in power, the Bloomberg administration is rushing to consolidate the mayor’s imposing real estate legacy. A New York Times article on Monday reported that $12 billion worth of projects were being pushed through for approval in the mayor’s twilight hours. They include grand projects like a massive Ferris wheel and outlet mall on Staten Island, America’s largest indoor ice rink in the Bronx and the Domino sugar factory redevelopment on the Brooklyn waterfront.  Read More

Year in Real Estate

Fast & Furious: The minute-by-minute, behind-the-scenes negotiations that led to this year’s F.E.M.A transaction

New York And New Jersey Continue To Deal With Aftermath Of Hurricane Sandy

The whirlwind negotiations between the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Muss Development to create an impromptu relief outpost in Queens in the days following Hurricane Sandy’s descent on New York would not have happened had it not been for one of the real estate industry’s leading dynasties.

In a deal that would later come to symbolize the overall dedication of the city’s real estate titans, government officials and executives banged out terms for 200,000 square feet of temporary space at the Forest Hills Tower in a mere five days, a minor miracle in the world of office leasing. Read More