The East Side Gets No Respect
Robert Sammons Feb. 19, 2014, 6 a.m.
Manhattan’s west side is continually enveloped by buzz, hype and anticipation these days. Whether it’s Columbus Circle, Hudson Yards or the World Trade Center, the west side of the island seems to be where all the excitement is. The east side, on the other hand, is like the late, great Rodney Dangerfield: It gets no respect.
It hasn’t really helped that the rezoning plan for a wide swath of the east side was nixed (at least temporarily) last year; meanwhile, yet another delay has slowed the Long Island Railroad East Side Access project at Grand Central. But even if it’s not making headlines at the moment, the Newmark Grubb Knight Frank east side district is still managing to hold its own. The area is home to an eclectic mix of properties—with trophy towers along and above East 57th Street, institutional buildings on Third Avenue and diplomatic offices near the United Nations. In other words, it offers alternatives for almost every kind of tenant.
The current overall availability rate of 9.2 percent (among the district’s 52 buildings) is the lowest of the five Midtown districts. Furthermore, it has improved from a 10 percent availability rate a year ago and a 17.6 percent rate as recently as October 2009, just after the official end of the Great Recession. As with most other areas of Midtown, sublease availability has shrunken considerably; it has been reduced to a minimal 276,000 square feet today, compared to 1.3 million square feet in April 2009. The average asking rent for all classes of space is $58.65, and it has remained essentially flat over the past year, making it the least expensive of the Midtown districts, not to mention more affordable than numerous parts of Midtown South.
While it may not be quite as trendy as some districts to its south (is that a bad thing?), the east side district has experienced significant activity since the downturn. Indeed, it may just be time to cast a glance in the direction of where the sun rises, as opposed to where it sets, and give the east side some respect.