The “Big 21” Mega-Monoliths of Manhattan

Doesn’t that sound like a fantastic title for a sci-fi/action movie? In reality, though, it has to do with the largest office buildings in Manhattan—in this case, those 2 million square feet and up (for the purpose of this column, we’ll stick with rentable building area, which in some cases could include retail space).

You may be surprised to find out that among the 1,224 Manhattan office buildings tracked by Newmark Grubb Knight Frank (no less than 441.5 million square feet of inventory), there are only 21 (what I’ve termed the Big 21) that contain at least 2 million square feet (for a total of 51.6 million square feet). That, my friends, is just 1.7 percent of the building stock but 11.7 percent of the inventory.

Notable statistics for the Big 21 include the following:

  • The largest office building in Manhattan is 55 Water Street, “weighing in” at 3.6 million square feet.
  • The average age of the Big 21 is 48 years; the oldest buildings date from the early 1930s (a total of five), while the newest date from 2009 (two).
  • All of these buildings are Class A except for one (and mum’s the word on that. O.K., if you email me, I’ll tell you).
  • The total availability rate for the Big 21 is 14.4 percent, a tad higher than the current total Manhattan figure of 12.7 percent.
  • On the flip side, the average asking rent for the Big 21 is $61.48 per square foot, somewhat higher than the overall figure for Manhattan of $53.57 per square foot (or $58.74 per square foot for Class A Manhattan).
  • Of the Big 21, nine are in Midtown, seven are in Downtown, and five are in Midtown South.

So other than preparing you for a game of real estate “Trivial Pursuit,” what’s the point of all of these figures? Well, it’s the fact that in New York City, as in a few other global capitals such as Dubai and Shanghai, we can still build ’em big (though we’ve definitely lagged a bit).

You see, the Big 21 will become the Big 23 by early 2014 with the completion of 1 World Trade Center and 4 World Trade Center. That will put Downtown in a tie with Midtown for the most mega-monoliths. And there is the distinct possibility that Downtown could surpass Midtown if 3 World Trade Center comes on-line as expected. Midtown South, however, won’t be completely left out of the race. Though the first Hudson Yards tower will be under 2 million square feet, the next three to go up should top the figure.

And while bigger isn’t always better, it definitely is impressive!

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