It has been a long time since New York felt as ill at ease as it does now. From its retail, to its office supply, to its multifamily stock, it feels like everything we once knew has been thrown into doubt.
Can retail survive, when sitting down for a meal at a restaurant is an act that entails, at least, some level of permanent risk to one’s health? Many real estate owners took a great deal of comfort in the fact that New York was an island with a limited amount of buildable space. But what if nobody wants to use offices any more?
Housing used to be the safest of bets given Gotham’s miniscule vacancy rates. Until the same logic that suddenly made offices iffy cast a new light on housing. (Why live in Manhattan when all of the city’s various delights are closed and you don’t need to actually go into work anyway?)
The last time it felt like this was after 9/11. Back then, many prophesized that Downtown was finished, and that nobody would want to go back into a tall building again. (The prophecy turned out to be very off.) But, as horrific as 9/11 was, there was a spirit of camaraderie in the air; we all felt proud to be New Yorkers. The times are much more despairing now. Every day, a bad number comes back of Americans infected with COVID-19, and an equally dispiriting death count. Every day, we read more stories of racial tumult, police misconduct and civil unrest. Every day, we are at each other’s throats.
These questions are on the minds of commercial real estate owners as much as any Americans. And so, we fashioned this year’s Owners Magazine to speak to an America that is very different than it was a year ago.
In addition to finding out what the landlords binged on Netflix, who put on the “COVID 15” (i.e. 15 pounds) and whether they delved into the abyss of sourdough starters, we wanted a sober, serious take on what’s happening now in real estate and how the industry is coping with this painful moment in our history.
We supplemented this with our own stories, such as Nick Rizzi’s look at another perilous moment in New York’s history, the 1970s, when real estate stepped up to help the city. Chava Gourarie looked at the one real estate occupier that won’t be suffering any time soon, Amazon. Tom Acitelli thought about what office changes will be permanent, thanks to COVID-19. And Chris Cameron examined what the effects of coronavirus would be on outfitting buidlings that were already prepping for some of the most ambitious carbon reduction requirements ever.