Paul Amrich, the Wonky Optimist
Jotham Sederstrom Feb. 8, 2011, 8:06 a.m.
Within minutes of sitting down in the sparsely decorated conference room of a Madison Avenue office building last week, Paul Amrich unleashed a whirlwind of real estate indicators, each more promising for leasing brokers than the last.
Average asking rents slowly escalated toward the end of 2010 as some owners began to scale back the most generous of the landlord concessions that seemed to typify 2008 and 2009. Mostly, however, leases are getting inked at an admirable clip, said the affable CB Richard Ellis agency broker.
“Two thousand and ten was a good year for me personally,” said Mr. Amrich, adding, “I looked at it as a good year, and a great springboard for ’11. And I think 2011 is going to be even better.”
Mr. Amrich should know. A real estate whiz who joined Cushman & Wakefield at 23 before leaving the company for CB Richard Ellis 10 years later, the 38-year-old executive vice president has burst ferociously into 2011. His enviable leasing activity as well as signs of what he described as improved conditions in the real estate market are evident at 230 Park Avenue, a Class A Monday Properties-owned building in which he executed a flurry of leases over the past six months.
The first, inked in August for the law firm Desmarais LLP, which specializes in technology-driven disputes, saw a taking rent that Mr. Amrich described as common for third-quarter prices. It was upon signing two subsequent leases in late October and January, however, that a much rosier picture began to emerge.
While the deal for Desmarais was for 22,408 square feet on the building’s 26th floor, the lease in January for the pharmaceutical company Novartis Finance Corp. represented slightly less office space and fell on a lower floor. Despite those differences, however, Mr. Amrich said the financial packages for both companies were nearly equal.
Another 11,652-square-foot deal in October on a portion of the 22nd floor for the Simon Property Group also highlighted the signs of improvement in New York City’s real estate market, he said.
“I can say that the deal we signed with Novartis, versus the two prior deals we signed in the past six months, is a little bit better–or equal to–the deal that was a bit higher in the building,” said Mr. Amrich, who before taking over as leasing agent at 230 Park two years ago cut his teeth on the property as a Cushman & Wakefield broker a decade earlier. “That’s a great leasing trend to be seeing right now.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Amrich also recently signed on to handle another boutique trophy building over at 660 Madison Avenue, in which renovations have already begun. Once installation of new windows, elevators, entrances and lobby are completed this summer, the building’s new owner, Joseph Safra Real Estate, hopes to rebound from the asset’s 45 percent vacancy rate, which is far above city averages.
“The building for the last two years was owned by an owner who couldn’t continue to fund the building, build out space and do the things needed to be done for it to be successful,” said Mr. Amrich, who also leases trophy office space at 510 Madison Avenue, a building recently written up in The New York Times for achieving rents northward of $100 a square foot, a rarity in a depressed market. “And, luckily, now we have a new owner in place that’s well-heeled and excited about doing all of this renovation work.”
MR. AMRICH WAS Southern-born in Mobile, Ala., but moved with his family to New Jersey as a teenager.
It was while living in Wayne that the young golf enthusiast began working summers at his father’s construction company. Burdened by what he first believed to be grueling work, Mr. Amrich’s day-to-day labor at his father’s sites made a strong impression on the young man.
“I was born and raised in a family where principles were important, as well as honesty and integrity and hard work and commitment,” said Mr. Amrich, who lives with his wife, also originally from Mobile, in Westport, Conn. “And it pays off. You might not get there as fast, but when you do, the times are good. People will appreciate you for all those fundamentals.”
Coupled with a summer internship at Gibraltar Enterprises, where he did some of his first brokerage work, the Campbell University graduate quickly discovered his preferred career path.
From there, Mr. Amrich accepted an associate position at Cushman & Wakefield, where, near the end of his tenure at the firm, he did agency work for the Macklowe family, among other New York City owners.
While it wasn’t integral to his success, the avid golfer, who once dreamed of becoming a professional, later played alongside Harry Macklowe in a two-day tournament in 2006 that not only culminated with a strong showing, but also led to a chat that ended with an agreement to work together on plans for what would later become 510 Madison Avenue.
“That evening, over several cocktails and dinner, he asked my opinion on a floor plan that he wrote on the back of a napkin,” said Mr. Amrich, who also shares a strong relationship with Mr. Macklowe’s son, Billy. “That floor plan is now 510 Madison Avenue.”
But for an optimist who, with four other CBRE colleagues, represents 10.5 million square feet of office space at 15 properties across New York City, the best, he believes, is still yet to come–sooner rather than later, he said last week.
“I can’t tell you that we’re going through the roof tomorrow,” Mr. Amrich said. “But I think we can sit here a year from today and say that the stats were up from where they are right now.”