Even in Manhattan, a building can go stale.
In Midtown South, for example, a commercial property can amass a litany of blue-chip legal practices and financial services firms in one decade, and then, 10 years later, watch as its tenant portfolio withers in prestige.
Take 2 Park Avenue. The building once served as the base of operations for Newsday and Times Mirror Inc. back in the 1980s and 1990s and more recently for The Hartford, the Connecticut-based insurance company.
But newspapers and insurance companies are far from lustrous in a real estate market that has seen an influx of younger and savvier tech companies infiltrate an area like Midtown South, which boasted the lowest vacancy rate in the country in the third quarter of 2011, according to a Cushman & Wakefield report released in October.
“Like anything else in life, things go stale, and you need a fresh face,” said David E. Green, 47, an executive director at Cushman & Wakefield who has also worked for Sutton & Edwards, Harry Macklowe and others through his 25-year career in the business.
Mr. Green and a Cushman & Wakefield team became the exclusive leasing agents for 2 Park Avenue in 2010. This was Mr. Green’s second time working with the vibrantly designed, landmarked, Art Deco building, the first coming during his time at Vornado Realty Trust, which owned the building then (Morgan Stanley Prime Property Fund now owns 2 Park Avenue).
When the Hartford agreed to take 90,000 square feet at 277 Park Avenue, moving its Manhattan headquarters uptown, it left three floors of vacant space on the hands of Mr. Green and the Cushman & Wakefield team.
Luckily for them, online retailer the Gilt Groupe, which offers its members discounts on top designer apparel and other deals, was a subtenant in 2 Park Avenue. The company had subleased 50,000 square feet from Yahoo, and with Gilt’s growing profile, was looking to take on even more space.
“They felt that in the last few years the building had started to redevelop, the area had become more cool, more hip, they felt that they were part of that,” he said.
“Staying there was the right thing to do—staying and expanding,” he added.
And expand they did. The company eventually agreed to take 98,000 square feet and two additional floors. In Mr. Green’s mind, having Gilt Groupe expanding in 2 Park Avenue was just as invaluable as a multimillion dollar capital improvement plan. The building officials had already renovated its lobby prior to Cushman & Wakefield’s arrival, he said.
“The physical changes had already been done, but we had reinforced in the marketplace that 2 Park was a cool place to be and come to, which is why it resulted in the kind of the tenants that we got,” added Mr. Green.
Securing Gilt was enough to lure designer Kate Spade away from her old headquarters at 48 West 25th Street and relocate to 86,000 square feet of space at 2 Park Avenue.
“After nearly two years of hunting for the perfect home, we believe we have found it at 2 Park Avenue,” said Craig Leavitt, CEO of Kate Spade, in an interview with The Real Estate Weekly.
Also this year, Mr. Green worked—alongside team members Tara Stacom and Cynthia Foster, who also work at 2 Park Avenue—with boutique investment bank Lazard Frères to remain in 370,000 square feet of real estate—with desirable views of Central Park and Midtown—at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The lease renewal for 21 years, signed in March of this year, also gave Lazard 60,000 square feet of additional workspace.
The firm had been looking at new offices elsewhere—and had they done so, it would have been a huge undertaking of relocating over five full floors of operations and executive staffs.
“We’re were very much out in the market,” said Mr. Green. “The deal was a huge undertaking because it was our job to have them out in the market.”
Eventually, the deal was closed and Lazard now has 21 years to remain neighbors with NBC and Rockefeller Plaza.
When tasked with repositioning the 350,000 square foot office building on 114 West 41st Street, Mr. Green said the massive renovations to the building’s lobby helped keep two major tenants in the building.
“It is one of the nicest side-lobbies you will ever see,” he said.
Two tenants seemed to agree. Tzell Travel renewed its lease and took on additional space—for a total of 65,000 square feet—at the building, which in 2009 was facing imminent foreclosure. Guess Jeans also renewed in the building for 10 years and 16,000 square feet.
If those deals weren’t enough to make Mr. Green’s year, in November he was named the 2011 Young Real Estate Man of the Year by the Young Men’s/Women’s Real Estate Association, where he had been a member since 1995.
“I guess what’s nice about it is that I was selected and recognized by my colleagues and peers for my personal and professional contributions to the organization,” he said. “That’s what makes it really feel good.”
The tennis-loving Mr. Green, who played in high school and taught the sport at Camp Greylock in Massachusetts, co-chaired the YM/WREA’s tennis outings between 2006 through 2010, and coordinated the association’s annual “Feed-the-Less-Fortunate” campaign, which fed over 400 needy people at Rufus King Park in Jamaica, Queens, last year. With a daughter heading to college and more repositions on the horizon in 2012, Mr. Green believes the next year will be a solid one for him and his firm.More repositions in 2012 means more results to a building’s bottom line, he said.
“You’ll see shorter lease-up time and higher rents, that’s what every owner wants to see,” he said.