The Big Manhattan Leases of the COVID-19 Era

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The last six months have been the hardest on the Manhattan leasing market in a very long time, but what are the leases that have actually been signed?

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Think tech, think financial companies, think renewals.

The biggest and most reported lease in the New York market since the COVID-19 pandemic hit was Facebook. 

Facebook will take over the entire office portion of the redeveloped Farley Post Office, signing with Vornado Realty Trust for 730,000 square feet in early August.

The Facebook deal took months to cross the finish line, and, in May, many insiders thought it was a dead duck when Mark Zuckerberg said that he would shift as many as half the company’s 45,000 employees to work-from-home status, as the Wall Street Journal first reported.

But Facebook had been accumulating space in New York City for years, with more than 2 million square feet in leases signed, and it was not giving up on the city. Plus, it had the means to sign a lease now and wait out the economic and public health headwinds. 

The other tech lease that turned heads was app sensation TikTok, which signed a 10-year lease for 232,000 square feet over seven floors at the Durst Organization’s 48-story One Five One in May. This was the first 100,000-square-foot-plus lease since the market froze in February.

TikTok took five floors that law firm Skadden Arps vacated, and another two floors that publisher Conde Nast had occupied. The terms were not available when Commercial Observer first broke the news, but asking rents for the Skadden floors ranged from $105 to $135 per square foot.

Some of the traditional Fortune 500 companies also made moves. Insurance and finance company AIG made two big ones in July. It leased 220,000 square feet in the 2.2 million-square-foot office and retail tower at 28 Liberty Street in July. (Asking rents in the long-term deal were around $75 a square foot.) And AIG also nabbed 325,000 square feet at 1271 Avenue of the Americas, where it’s taking eight floors for its  headquarters. Finally, AIG also took 230,000 square feet at 30 Hudson in Jersey City.

In July, as well, French financial giant BNP Paribas signed a 20-year deal for 323,000 square feet at 787 Seventh Avenue (BNP also renewed 150,000 square feet at Newport Tower in Jersey City). The 787 Seventh lease is undoubtedly massive, but it needs to be taken with some context: The finance company had previously had 454,000 square feet at the 1.7 million-square-foot Midtown tower, also known as Axa Equitable Center.

Then there were fresh deals that were more modest in scope.

RAL Companies just signed a 10-year, full-floor lease for the 10,986-square-foot 25th floor of 55 Broadway, and will relocate there from its current 434 Broadway offices in October. The asking rent for the deal was $64 a square foot. MiddleGround Capital also signed a 10-year lease for new New York offices, this for 8,425 square feet for the entire fourth floor of 10 Crosby Street at an asking rent of $82 per square foot. MiddleGround will move from its current 200 Varick Street location in November. And Helmsley Spear and its affiliated construction company, Falcon Pacific Construction, signed a four-year, 15,775-square-foot sublease for most of the third floor at 444 Madison Avenue.

At the same time as these fresh deals, renewals peppered the market: iHeartRadio/Katz Media Group renewed its 259,468 square feet at 125 West 55th Street, and Goodwin Procter LLP signed an extension and expansion for 216,419 square feet at 620 Eighth Avenue with the landlord, the New York Times Company (Lewis Miller of CBRE was the tenant rep).

Finally, July saw Comcast sign a one-year extension for NBC Universal for 339,833 square feet of office space at 1221 Avenue of the Americas. (CBRE represented NBCU, and Cushman & Wakefield was the leasing agent for the landlord, the Rockefeller Group.) This was the largest leasing deal in Manhattan for the month of July.

And one stalwart that can be counted on for leasing is a government agency: In April, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission signed on for 241,339 square feet at 100 Pearl Street, where it will relocate from its offices at 200 Vesey Street.