Cubicle-Busting: The Workplace Reinvented

SwaayDecember 12, 2016

It was upon pouring myself my second coffee of the day in our spacious 13th floor WeWork space that it dawned on me; I work somewhere cooler than most, and it’s not even that cool.


There’s two businessman across the long counter top from me in deep conversation over greasy burritos. I can hear snippets of their conversation, and if I was nosier I could hear it all. Not being the slightest bit interested in anything other than what’s going into their mouths however, I neglect the idioms of their speech for an overall grasp of the situation – that nobody expects me to be of corporate espionage, or mischief. Everybody works seamlessly here, in harmony almost, not bothered by the whir of other business going on around them in a constant rhythm of phone calls, heavy-heeled steps and buzzers. The day is fluid and so are the movements in and out of the glass enclosures. WeWork is not a fixed abode – it’s a new-age office, reflective of a workspace revolution, one that is undoubtedly affecting employee culture and productivity.


Our neighbors here at in this communal office are an amalgamation of industries: fashion, finance, tech and every other clique imaginable. We tussle with each other in the lounge room, share beers on a Friday and mindlessly admire each other’s office spaces and attire before questioning the optics or functionality of their business and wondering if everyone will survive the next decade in the business world. Who are we? It doesn’t really matter, we’re not competitors, we’re just sharing this inclusive and modern space one sip of hot coffee at a time.


It was perhaps Google who lead the way, ushering out the cubicled dark ages and ushering in a new era of fun working environments, artfully-designed open spaces and a litany of cost-free perks like nap rooms, workout classes and catered lunches –  but it quickly caught on. Gone are the days of traditional and tightly packed cubicle-planned office floors. Gone are the days when office functionality spanned 9-5 in a hot, penned-in space. Modern corporations are now creating spaces people want to work at rather than where they have to work – where you’ll be happy to stay longer, lousy with the beauty and relaxed nature of your surroundings. This win-win situation makes us wonder, are these beautiful new-age spaces helping employers in the long-run? Are they actually causing employees to stay longer and work harder?


With so much confetti around a work room, one has to wonder if a professional level of working focus is being compromised. Are people getting more done – or are these upgraded aesthetics a way to make people give more to their business lives? We’ve asked Alex Cohen -Lead, Commercial Specialist for brokerage CORE, to comment on the changes occurring in workspace lay-out and how this is affecting the average workers’ psyche. Cohen, who has years of concentrated analysis and research at his back, does believe that open office spaces are the way forward, and barring any serious complications, will be the eventual model for most offices of the future.


“They create campuses with amenities that are all designed to motivate their people to stay as long as possible in the workplace.”

– Alex Cohen


Technology companies have paved the way for this office model, lead by giants like Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Airbnb. Workers have responded particularly well to the change – receptive to the ease with which ideas can be shared across a room, conundrums cracked over a large table and naps taken in designated ‘quiet’ areas. These billion dollar companies are thriving and attracting the world’s brightest minds not least for the status, but for the amenities that come part and parcel with working in these environments. The office formula is no longer desk + computer + chair = ready. Instead it is gym, restaurant, iPad lab, nap room, bean bag area x open spaces = internet. The mobilization of devices means nobody needs a fixed abode anymore – you can work from anywhere – including the treadmill.


“Some people work very productively in an open environment where the stimulation of people and ideas energizes them to be creative and effective,” says Cohen. “For companies in technology in particular, like Facebook or Google, the constant interaction that a very open work space allows appears to foster team work and in essence forces people to share ideas and challenges.


For individuals with ADD, learning or working in a very open environment hurts their productivity – this has been proven in research – as the distractions that an open space create stifle their attention span and focus.”


It’s those companies and industries that have been around since the dark ages — before the internet — that have put up the most resistance to the new office models, with law firms vehement about rejecting the change, barring a few in London, and banks, slow to embrace hashing out fledgling finance ideas over long tables with people you barely know. At its base, this model focuses on an interaction and inclusion with your team the likes of which old-school bankers and lawyers holed up in corner offices have never seen before – the adjustment is strange and almost alien – but it’s coming. Being a team is non-negotiable these days, in these offices.


To up the ante at her business, Virginia girl-boss Sarah Everhart, has revolutionized her office by introducing collaborative boxing and dancing workouts into the work week to adrenalize her colleagues into action. Sarah’s attitude behind the shift has invigorated her staff whilst encouraging them into a fitter working week. The exercise involved releases endorphins (making everyone happier), but also boosts team morale and cultivates a sense of company spirit.


“We are pushing ourselves to be the best version of ourselves that we can be, and I believe that has translated naturally into the work environment.”

– Sarah Everhart


Everhart’s firm has reaped the rewards of team training, as have the likes of Google, Facebook and their techie comrades, who spend millions each year on team outings and sessions – keeping them at the top of those ‘Best places to work’ lists churned out yearly.


Social psychologists, big corporations and activity leaders have clashed heads and produced a new working system that is pushing the envelope for open and inclusive office spaces, and I can’t imagine it’s going to stop. Watch this space as the cubicle continues to disappear and inclusion becomes the new norm.

NYC's Priciest Sales This Week

The Real DealDecember 12, 2016

87 Leonard Street, MAISB


7,414 ft2 | 2 Bedrooms | 2 Bathrooms


#9 Recorded Sale


Closing Price: $7,893,438 | Approx.: $1,065 / ft2


Closing Date: Nov 30, 2016


Open House Agenda

DNA infoDecember 09, 2016

230 E. 79th St., #10F, Upper East Side


1 bedroom, 1 bath


Approximately 800 square feet






Maintenance: $2,020/month


Nearest transit: 6 train at Lexington Avenue/77th Street; 4/5/6 at Lexington Avenue/86th Street; Q train at Second Avenue/72nd and 86th street stations (coming soon)


Open house: Sunday, Dec. 11 from noon to 1:30 p.m.


This one-bedroom apartment in Belmont 79, which has dropped in price by $24,000, has a bedroom with parquet flooring, a separate dining area and kitchen, and a “generously” sized living room with tons of closets. Tenants have access to a central laundry room.

Fireplaces for a Festive Holiday

Brick UndergroundDecember 09, 2016

A working fireplace is a covetable amenity no matter the season, but it’s particularly desirable around the holidays when a crackling fire adds an extra degree of warmth and spirit to any get-together. Following is a roundup of some current standouts—ideal for lighting, gathering round and from which to hang stockings (or place the menorah) from now through New Year’s.


For a little retro flair, nothing beats this suspended wood-burning fireplace—one of two such hanging hearths within a three-bedroom, three-bath penthouse co-op at 53 Crosby Street (listed at $6.895 million) in SoHo.

Dreamy Chelsea Loft

6sqftDecember 07, 2016

This Chelsea-meets-Meatpacking studio at 221 West 14th Street checks the boxes for charm, neighborhood amenities and convenience, and it possesses that elusive bonus item: an attractive outdoor space with at least enough room for a rosé al fresco. For $845,000 it’s not exactly a steal, though if neighborhood comps are a factor—which of course they are—then it becomes one. The second-floor townhouse condominium’s layout works, allowing the space to be a small studio, yet solving the problem of having your bed next to the fridge.


Taking more inventory, there are 13.5-foot ceilings, exposed brick, a fireplace, a sleeping loft, an updated kitchen and bath and a walk-in closet. The listing calls this adorable aerie a “dramatic bohemian duplex,” and while dramatic and bohemian we can agree with, duplex is a bit of a stretch.


The sleeping loft efficiently hoists your bed up and out of the way and measures 10-feet-by-10-feet.


The kitchen is indeed updated, and it’s modern, tidy and looks well-appointed with a dishwasher and a built-in cooktop and range. We love that little “extra” spice/oven mitt/flatware drawer.


Focusing for a minute on that lovely private terrace: Big double glass doors with a transom open onto it, and it in turn overlooks the neighborhood’s envy-inspiring townhouses and carriage houses.


Though the apartment is conveniently located in the middle of pretty much everything awesome with subways galore, it’s also on 14th Street. And no matter how much times have changed, at this particular point in time, 14th Street is still 14th Street, a scruffy jumble of storefronts and pizza joints with a wall of cabs and buses rushing by, all seemingly held together by scaffolding. But the apartment appears to be set in the back, so peace and quiet is still very possible.

The Perfect Holiday Kitchen

New York SpacesDecember 07, 2016

38 Prince Street


38 Prince Street, NYC. The house has three sunny exposures with oversized windows complementing the views of both the cloistered Cathedral and your own private garden. The design is both gracious and practical with well-proportioned layouts, seven bedrooms, seven full and three half baths and three working fireplaces. The grand parlor floor with its formal living and dining rooms boasts a stunning curved staircase, high ceilings and a wet bar. The expansive open kitchen with its extensive marble countertops, Smallbone cabinetry and La Cornue range will be a joy to cook in and leads through a casual dining room to a large south-facing, bi-level garden with an outdoor kitchen.


Sprawling Uptown Condo

Brick UndergroundDecember 06, 2016

Because Morningside Heights is rather small, we don't often come across tons of listings in the cute uptown neighborhood near Columbia University. In fact, this three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath condo, listed by CORE for $2.7 million, is the only one of its kind on the market right now. Spanning 1,829 square feet and boasting high ceilings and double exposures, it feels light, airy, and spacious. Plus, the property offers a number of amenities, as well as super easy access to the 1 train at 110th Street—the station is right downstairs.


The open living room (see the main image) looks flooded with light due to its double exposures and oversize windows, and large enough for hosting gatherings. The adjacent kitchen is open enough to chat with guests while you cook, and is brightened by its own window. Plus, it looks fresh and new, with upscale, stainless steel appliances, handsome wood cabinetry, and an eye-catching tile backsplash.


The master bedroom doesn't look like it comes with tons of extras, but the listing notes that it includes a walk-in closet. Its en-suite bath looks bright and spacious, with double sinks and marble countertops, a walk-in shower, and a separate tub.


Of the additional two bedrooms, one looks like it's currently configured as a den; the floorplan indicates that both come with ample closet space. In addition to an in-unit washer and dryer, you'll enjoy other conveniences, including full-time doorman service, as well as a concierge and live-in super; there's also access to a deck, terrace, gym, and children's playroom.


Jackson Heights Steal

CurbedDecember 02, 2016

Located within a landmarked building in Jackson Heights, this rather spacious two-bedroom, one-bathroom unit is quite the steal for $670,000. It might not have some of the fancy, new-fangled finishes of apartments in other parts of the city, but this co-op still has plenty of charm what with its high ceilings, oak floors with mahogany and maple inlay, and granite countertops and stainless steel appliances in the kitchen.


The layout of the unit is created in such a way that it allows for a formal dining room, and a living room, the latter of which comes with a wood-burning fireplace. Apart from the two-bedrooms there’s also a little area past the dining room that can work as a study.


The apartment boasts plenty of light, five closets, and overlooks the landscaped garden this co-op complex, Laburnum Court, comes with. The red brick building this unit is in also comes with a laundry facility and bike storage, though when it comes to pets, they only accept cats, not dogs. With its community within a community feel, it doesn’t seem all that bad being a little bit of a distance away from the heart of the city.

What Makes a Great City

Architectural RecordDecember 01, 2016

For urbanists, planners, and architects who appreciate well-designed public spaces, Alexander Garvin’s latest publication delivers a carefully constructed tour of cities that accomplish this goal. He shows how they successfully created or enhanced parks, plazas, and squares or established a broader array of civic improvements to attract investment and enhance quality of life.


While surveying North American and European cities to which he has traveled, and including lavish photographs, Garvin delivers broad principles about how governments, businesses, and private citizens work over time to improve urban environments. Nearly all of the case studies explored are largely strategies to subjugate, or at least segregate, cars and traffic from places to play, work, or spend as these cities plan their post­industrial futures.


The author of three editions of The American City: What Works, What Doesn’t, a textbook-like primer of major urban planning strategies and concepts, Garvin, who teaches urban planning at Yale and was a longtime New York City planning official, now has his own firm, AGA Public Realm Strategists. And he is the creator of the BeltLine plan to connect Atlanta’s disparate neighborhoods via an urban green­way. In the tradition of social scientist William H. Whyte, who studied the behavior of users of public places, What Makes a Great City reflects the author’s keen observations of why people  gravitate to inviting parks and pedestrianized shopping districts.


It fittingly provides the history of how these environments evolved and who planned them.


For those who believe Bilbao’s resurgence was principally due to the reception of Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum, Garvin thoughtfully illustrates in this new book how the municipality’s relocation of the region’s declining manufacturing base away from the formerly contaminated Nervion river, and extensive investment in new public transportation systems, stemmed the city’s depopulation and did as much as Gehry’s successful intervention to spur economic development.


Perhaps most intriguing of these case studies is Garvin’s depiction of the ongoing transformation of Houston’s Post Oak neighborhood—including the introduction of public transit and pedestrian amenities—in a city long known for unzoned, car-dependent suburban growth.


Surprisingly, the book omits discussion of New York’s High Line, given its impact as an immensely popular park, driver of development, and clear precedent for the Atlanta BeltLine, which here gets its due. In contrast to European and Canadian cities, the transformation of American urban spaces analyzed by Garvin has generally depended on the imposition of extra-municipal special assessment or taxation districts (BIDS and TIFS), as traditional government financing of public improvements has waned. Some commentary on this difference would have enhanced an otherwise impressive look at successful Western public planning.

Luxury-Condo Market Rebounds Downtown

The Wall Street JournalNovember 30, 2016

On the upper floors of a cast limestone tower known as 30 Park Place, in the heart of downtown, signs point to a resurgence in Manhattan’s sluggish luxury-condominium market.


During November, Silverstein Properties Inc., the developer of the tower near City Hall, signed contracts for five new condos costing between about $20 million and $26 million. Sales for the month totaled $110 million.


In all of 2016, only 11 other condos closed for more than $20 million below 34th Street in Manhattan, according to city deed filings. Other downtown developers are also reporting a rebound in sales and showings.


This surge reflects the growing popularity of downtown as a place to live, brokers say, as new celebrity-chef restaurants opened, and the construction fencing came down around much of the World Trade Center site. The opening this year of the Oculus transportation center and its associated shopping hub have given the neighborhood a touch of panache.


But brokers say the shift could prefigure a broader uptick in the Manhattan luxury market, as the economy strengthens and foreign buyers look to New York for an investment haven in a world beset by uncertainty, despite the strong dollar.


Luxury sales had slowed beginning in the second half of 2015, as a wave of expensive condominiums came on the market. This spring, activity had so slowed down in a sliver of Midtown sometimes called Billionaire’s Row that the developers of one tower, at 111 West 57th St., decided to delay a sales campaign for up to a year.


But downtown, there are green shoots. In late October, one of the last remaining units at the 60-story condo at 56 Leonard St. in Tribeca went into contract. It was listed for $34.5 million.


At the Greenwich Lane, a condominium on the site of the former St. Vincent’s Hospital, a buyer signed contracts in early November for two condo units that will be combined, at a list price of $33.9 million. A few weeks later, a deal on a 7,051-square-foot apartment there listed at $25.25 million was signed.


Some of the rebound in sales is being attributed to new deals signed in condo projects that have finally opened their doors.


“We have a building where a year ago it was just a rendering with some broker giving you a pitch,” said Ben Shaoul, president of Magnum Real Estate Group, who along with CIM Group has developed One Hundred Barclay, a condo created in upper stories of an art deco building in 1927 for the New York Telephone Co.


At 30 Park Place, more formally known as 30 Park Place Four Seasons Private Residences New York Downtown, sales activity picked up after the Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown opened this fall, along with a street-level restaurant, CUT by Wolfgang Puck.


Work on the tower was begun before the financial collapse in 2008, only to resume in 2013. During that period, the area near City Hall underwent a transformation as office and loft buildings were converted to residences.


“It is a downtown a lot of us didn’t expect in 2007,” said Melissa Ziweslin, a managing director at Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group, who is overseeing sales at 30 Park Place. “Our timing seems to be right on.”


The apartment is listed at $32.5 million. While enormously expensive, it is priced below the high-floor penthouses on and around Billionaire’s Row, giving downtown an advantage as offering a more affordable superluxury.


A model duplex on the 78th and 79th floors of 30 Park Place rivals some of the grand apartments on Fifth Avenue facing Central Park, with five bedrooms, six bathrooms, a reception room, a dining room, and a 49-foot-wide terrace.


Brokers say that one factor might be a newfound willingness of some developers to cut deals. At 87 Leonard Street, a condo conversion in a landmark cast-iron building, an apartment that had been listed for $8.75 million went into contract in November soon after the asking price was trimmed by $1 million.


Shaun Osher, the founder of brokerage CORE, which had the listing, said the project showed downtown had changed and “become one market all the way from 34th Street to the tip of Manhattan.”


As to the price cut, he said: “The moral there is you can overprice product in any market.”

$25M Church-To-Condo Conversion

CurbedNovember 28, 2016

The condo conversion of St. Patrick's Old Cathedral School in Nolita has been making significant progress this past year, and now developers are offering us the first look inside the project’s über-swanky $25 million townhouse.


The Residences at Prince, as the development is known, comprises of just seven condos and two townhouses. And as you might expect with a high profile project in this neighborhood, the prices are exorbitant with condos starting from $7.74 million for a three-bedroom, three-bathroom unit. Sales launched in April this past year, but according to StreetEasy, a buyer has yet to scoop up any of these pricey homes.


The $25 million townhouse is the first completed residence at the development, which has been designed by Marvel Architects. The massive house spans just over 8,000 square feet and comes with seven bedrooms and 7.5 bathrooms. The townhouse was previously the west wing of the school and convent, and has now been fitted with modern additions like a wet bar, a spa-like bathroom, and marble countertops in the kitchen.


Other standout features here include a bi-level garden with an outdoor kitchen, a stunning curved staircase that leads up from the parlor floor, high ceilings, a large dressing room, and a cellar space that offers an additional 1,614-square-feet of space. The renderings for this townhouse were first unveiled in November 2015, and while the final product may be different from what we saw then, it is still pretty grandiose.


The conversion was first announced back in 2013, when the church decided to sell the landmarked building on Prince Street between Mulberry and Mott Streets to Hamlin Ventures and Time Equities Inc. Plans called for demolishing an attached building, and adding a new structure. The second of the two townhouses planned at the development will be the new structure to go up at the site.

NYC Dining Rooms Tailor-Made for Holiday Entertaining

Brick UndergroundNovember 21, 2016

Let’s talk turkey. And trimmings. And where you’re going to seat all the mishpocheh who are about to descend on you this holiday season. This being New York City, two things are certain: There will be visitors—and there will be a lack of space. But fret not! A successful Thanksgiving does not depend on the size of your dining room (or even kitchen). That said, if you should find yourself in the market for a larger space, here are a few places with dining rooms big enough to accommodate all your nearest and dearest.


Welcoming All Holiday Guests

GothamNovember 21, 2016

Hosting a holiday party in your New York City home comes with one daunting challenge: enough rooms and bathrooms for all your guests to feel comfortable. These residences currently on the market don’t cut corners when it comes to square footage and prove that not all Manhattan apartments are the size of a California walk-in closet. You’ll be able to let your out-of-town family sleep in their own rooms, and friends won’t have to line up to use a bathroom in these stunning NYC abodes:

58 Reade St., PH5

This commodious Tribeca loft is tailor-made for entertaining guests during the holidays. The four-bedroom penthouse features common spaces that flow naturally but still maintain privacy for your guests’ rooms. A dramatic staircase connects the second and third floors with a terrace that’s also great for impressing everyone who steps foot into your home.


Small Retailers Face Threats

Epoch TimesNovember 18, 2016

Alex Cohen, CORE's Lead Commercial Specialist was featured in the Epoch Times this week discussing New York City's high rent prices and the effect e-commerce has on commercial real estate.

Co-owner of The Strand sells townhouse for $7.35 million

Real Estate WeeklyNovember 18, 2016

The co-owner of beloved bookstore The Strand has sold her Gramercy Park townhouse for $7.35 million, after listing the home earlier this year for $7.5 million, according to city records. Nancy Bass and her father, Fred Bass, co-own The Strand Bookstore near Union Square, which her grandfather founded in 1927.


The 5,300 s/f townhome at 236 E. 19th Street was first purchased by Bass in 2011 for $4.7 million. Emily Beare and David Beare of CORE had the listing for the 19th-century home, which had only two previous owners in its 168-year-old history. The purchaser was listed as an LLC.


The five-story home has five bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms, as well multiple fireplaces and several outdoor spaces. Bass is married to Oregon senator Ron Wyden, and the couple split their time between their homes in Portland, Washington D.C., and New York.

Open House Agenda

DNA InfoNovember 18, 2016

200 Riverside Blvd., 9D, Upper West Side


3 bedrooms/3 baths

Approximately 1,723 square feet


Common charges: $1,820/month

Taxes: $1,875/month

Nearest transit: 1/2/3 at 72nd Street

Open house: Sunday, Nov. 20, from 1 to 2:30 p.m.


Large picture windows make this a light-filled apartment that looks out on the city. And the condo building itself is its own mini city, with everything from a dry cleaner to bike rooms to a health club with a pool on site. The apartment has top-of-the-line appliances and finishes; a herringbone floor, the custom wood kitchen cabinets and a marble bathroom offer a classic feel. There’s also a 24-hour garage with direct building access.

Bookstore Co-owner Sells

CurbedNovember 18, 2016

Nancy Bass, the co-owner of one of NYC’s most cherished establishments, the Strand Bookstore, has sold her Gramercy townhouse for $7.35 million, Real Estate Weekly has learned. It’s not what you might imagine an independent bookstore owner lives in, but it certainly exudes the warmth of the store near Union Square. Founded by Bass’s grandfather, Benjamin Bass in 1927, the bookstore is currently co-owned by Nancy and her father Fred Bass.


Nancy Bass purchased the sprawling Gramercy townhouse for $4.7 million in 2011, and at the time of the purchase she became only the second person to own this townhouse, which was built in 1848. It had been owned and maintained by the same family for over 150 years prior to Bass’s purchase.


Located close to the Augustus St. Gaudens Playground, the house stands three-stories tall and comes with five bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms spread out over 5,300 square-feet. A garden in the front leads you to a flight of stairs that can used to access the parlor floor where you’ll find the living room which comes with two decorative marble fireplaces. The dining room is separated from this area by stained glass french doors, and just beyond the dining area is a balcony that overlooks the private backyard.


The master bedroom is located on the floor above that and comes with a decorative black marble fireplace, a library that can be converted into an additional bedroom, and four mirrored closets.

Inside Look: What's Under $1M in NYC

MetroNovember 18, 2016

Previously, we showed you five apartments for $500,000 or less. This week, here are five more homes that are nearly twice the price. But at closer to $1 million, they are still not a lot in the competitive New York City real estate market.

57 Thompson St., 3A



This Soho one-bedroom offers pre-war details such as large arched windows. There are also two closets, including a walk-in.


125 North 10th St, SGARDENF



This Williamsburg garden apartment has a private 275-square-foot terrace, along with 795 square feet of interior space. Top finishes include Brazilian walnut hardwood floors throughout, stainless steel Bosch appliances in the kitchen, and Italian porcelain tiles in the bathroom. Full-height sliding glass doors lead to the terrace, while the large master bedroom has two double-wide closets.


Small Retailers Face Threats at Every Turn

Epoch TimesNovember 15, 2016

NEW YORK—Small retail stores across the country are facing unprecedented pressures that go beyond the normal ebb and flow.


High rents have finally cracked a crop of retailers that had adapted and weathered the intrusion of the internet and chain stores thus far—think shoe stores, fabric stores, electronics stores.


“Most of them made many adjustments and continued to thrive in their neighborhood,” said Ruth Messinger, former New York City council member and small business advocate.


“Then they got hit by a rent increase that they just couldn’t afford.”

The impact is not only devastating to the character of communities, but it weakens the economic fabric and guts the middle class, experts say.


The losses are being felt in cities nationally and globally.


“In cities as diverse as Oakland and Nashville, Milwaukee and Portland, Maine, retail rents have shot up by double-digit percentages over the last year alone,” according to an April report by the nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR).


And if those pressures weren’t enough, consider the behemoth that is taking a bite from every pie—Amazon.


“Amazon is also different in that throughout human history, commerce has been connected to place. Business activity and trade have always been near where people live,” said Stacy Mitchell, co-director of ILSR. “Amazon represents a disconnection of commerce from place that’s unlike anything that’s come before.”


While consumers might be hailing Amazon as a super-convenient retail option, the online giant is the number one concern for 70 percent of independent retail business owners, according to a national survey conducted by the ILSR earlier this year. Amazon’s net sales revenue grew from $8.49 billion in 2005 to $107 billion in 2015.


Why Losing Independent Retailers Matters


Mitchell said the nation has lost more than 100,000 independent retailers in the last 15 years, and the trend is concerning.


“Independent retailers contribute much more to the health of our local economy and communities than chain stores or Amazon do,” she said. “Studies have shown that for every dollar that you spend in a locally owned business, that dollar creates two to three times as much economic impact than if you spend it at a national chain.”


The hollowing out of the middle class in America can be partially attributed to the decline in small businesses.


“Places with a lot of local businesses have a big, robust middle class, they have more opportunities for people to move into the middle class, so you don’t see quite as much of that growing inequality,” Mitchell said.


In a 2015 study, “Wage Inequality and Firm Growth,” researchers crunched data from 1981 to 2010 on wages and the size of firms in 15 countries. The authors found a strong relationship between growth in the average firm size and rising levels of income inequality, particularly in the United States and the U.K.


Jeremiah Moss, who writes the blog Vanishing New York under that pseudonym, is part of a grassroots group called #SaveNYC. The group’s website and Facebook page bring attention to the plight of mom-and-pop businesses, and encourage state and city governments to protect small businesses and cultural institutions.


“When we lose small businesses, we lose the local character of our neighborhoods and New York becomes a generic city,” Moss said in an email. “We lose the social connections that small business people provide. And we lose money. Chain stores take money out of the neighborhood, funneling it back to the corporate headquarters in Texas or Florida or Wisconsin or wherever. None of this is good for the city.”


High Rents in New York City


Alex Cohen, a broker with commercial real estate firm Core, said the 2008 economic downturn had a dramatic impact on retail, but that was cyclical. Because of a drop off in consumer demand, many retailers had to slash their prices and many went out of business. Now, it is different.


“This is a new phenomena,” Cohen said. “We’re not in a down part of the cycle right now, the economy is very strong. New York continues to be a strong tourism market.”


Cohen said the vacancy rate in SoHo has gone from 10 to 20 percent over the last 18 months. “That is driven by the strength of e-commerce, the preferences of people to purchase online … and the challenges that retailers have faced maintaining profitable stores with very high rents.”


Cohen said he is starting to work with more retail brands that want to lease space short-term for a pop-up store, to test the market before being locked in geographically and timewise.


Moss is calling the death of the city’s small businesses a “mass extinction event” and holds chain stores responsible.


“The city has never in its history been decimated by national chain stores,” he said. “We see the same global corporate-tourist monoculture destroying regional character in London, Paris, Venice. We see it in San Francisco, Seattle, Boston.”


And the displacement of local businesses isn’t confined to trendy or affluent neighborhoods, the April ILSR report found.


In New York City, the Bronx has seen the biggest jump in court-ordered evictions of small businesses, and over the last year it also experienced the largest percentage increase (3.3 percent) in the number of chains, the report stated.


A Boston Market is replacing local business Zaro’s Bakery, which was given just a few weeks’ notice that its lease would not be renewed, ILSR said.


In Washington Heights, several long-standing businesses have been evicted or handed hefty rent increases. The Dominican grocery store Liberato Foods reportedly faced a tripling of its rent, according to a February Village Voice article.


Several factors are to blame for the rent increases, said ILSR, including soaring commercial real estate prices; the increasing popularity of cities; the growth-imperative of national chains; a limited and declining supply of small spaces; and a preference for national companies over independent businesses in commercial real estate financing.


Not a Level Playing Field


Small business advocates are fighting an uphill battle against the powerful real estate industry and local politicians, who are reluctant to introduce anything with teeth.


One bill designed to help small businesses with lease renewal, the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA), was introduced to the New York City Council by Messinger in 1983. It has been re-introduced continuously since, in slightly varied iterations, but has never made it as far as a hearing or vote. The bill would give store owners the right to renew their lease, the right to negotiate fair lease renewal terms, and the right to legal protections against unfair renewal terms.


It currently has 27 sponsors—a majority—with some notable exceptions. Robert Cornegy , chair of the city council small business committee, has not sponsored the SBJSA and says red tape is the real issue for small retailers. As a council member, Melissa Mark-Viverito endorsed the 2008 version of the bill, but as speaker she has blocked it from a hearing and vote. And John Banks, head of the Real Estate Board of New York, called the SBJSA unconstitutional, according to a Village Voice report in February.


There are many ways in which government policy tilts the playing field against small retailers, said Mitchell.


Amazon, for example, opened three data centers in Ohio last month, which created 125 jobs. The project received state incentives to the tune of an estimated $81 million over 15 years, including $77 million for the sales-tax exemption and $4 million for payroll tax credits—which works out to $648,000 per job—according to a 2015 Bloomberg report.


“Independent retailers never get anything like that. They go to city hall and say, ‘I want to open a second location, will you give me a big tax break?’ and they’ll be laughed out the door and told, ‘This is a free market, you’ve got to learn to compete,'” Mitchell said.


The current lease negotiation process allows landlords free rein to set the price, terms, and time frame of a lease. Some store owners have even been given until the end of the month to vacate the space they’re leasing. Increasingly, shop owners operate under leases that run for five years or less, down from a once-standard 10 years, leaving them vulnerable to rent hikes and eviction, according to a 2009 report by the Pratt Center, a nonprofit focused on equitable neighborhoods in New York.


Landlords sometimes keep storefronts empty in hopes of landing a higher-paying tenant such as a chain store, which are often considered more creditworthy. And for landlords with multiple properties, an empty store may be helpful for accounting purposes, by allowing them to write off losses.


“When a building-owner wanted to land a rich tenant like a bank, they would warehouse their smaller ground floor commercial units until they could make a huge combined space for one large tenant,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said at a city council hearing on small businesses, on Sept. 30.


“Big banks and drug stores were pushing to establish themselves in my district to the detriment of the mom-and-pop stores. The bank didn’t need the space to do business; they wanted the commercial frontage for advertising,” Brewer said.-: CLEANED :-


Zoning Changes, Commercial Tax


In her role as city council member on the Upper West Side, Brewer helped create a special zoning district that restricted the amount of frontage a bank could have on the street to 25 feet. Along parts of Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, any building with 50 feet of frontage or more needs to have at least two commercial units within that frontage (supermarkets are exempt). 


“This is the closest the city has come to enshrining the classic New York commercial street environment into zoning text,” Brewer said.


Brewer is now pushing to introduce a penalty for landlords who hold their storefronts vacant, as well as a registry of vacant storefronts similar to other cities. A 2014 proposal in Berkeley, California, looks to charge landlords $180 to register a vacant storefront and $300 for every six months it remains vacant. The District of Columbia implemented a similar fee in 2011.


Brewer, along with council member Corey Johnson, is also drafting a bill that would exempt small owner-operator street-level businesses and supermarkets from Manhattan’s commercial rent tax. The rent tax is a city charge of 3.9 percent of annual gross revenue applied to businesses below 96th Street with annualized rents above $250,000.


Formula Retail


San Francisco introduced a formula retail (chain store) strategy to some areas in 2005 to help retain unique community character—and the policy is being watched closely by other cities.


The strategy limits formula retail stores with multiple locations and a recognizable “look” or appearance—such as restaurants and chain stores—in certain areas.


The policy has significantly limited the entry of chain stores into the controlled areas. In a 2013 study, the San Francisco Planning Department found that formula retail businesses occupied 24 percent of the commercial space in controlled areas, while uncontrolled areas had 53 percent occupancy—almost double.


The number of formula retail establishments within control zones is 10 percent, whereas it’s 25 percent without the zoning.


As of 2009, there were 15 cities nationwide that had formula retail restrictions in place.


New Development Requirements


Many cities can require new mixed-use developments to include affordable housing—but policies that require developers or landlords to provide space at below-market prices obviously impact the overall financials of the development.


To offset the cost of including affordable housing, developers sometimes rely on the revenues from ground-floor retail spaces, which means they generally favor larger spaces and chain stores.


But now, cities might also require developers to set aside smaller retail spaces in new developments.




Public education is an important aspect for small-business advocates—consumers can effect change with their wallets.


“We’ve certainly seen positive impacts from the buy local movement,” Mitchell said.


Small Business Saturday, the day after Black Friday, was launched in 2010 to encourage support for small, local businesses—and an estimated $14.3 billion was spent on that day in 2014. Cyber Monday sales paled in comparison at $3.07 billion in 2015, according to data by Adobe Digital Index.


A good sign for small retailers, but it’s not enough, Mitchell said.


“The challenge right now is for independent businesses and for community advocates to gently remind people that that choice has huge implications for the place they live in.”




Retail Lease Hikes Around the Country*


(*percent change from 2015 to 2016)


Small retailers are facing higher rents across the country. For comparison, over the last year, median per capita income rose 1 percent and retail sales grew just 1 percent, while inflation was 0 percent.


Upper West Side, New York


$390 per square foot

Up 37 percent


Portland, Maine


$18 per square foot

Up 22 percent


Oakland, California


$27 per square foot

Up 16 percent


Cleveland, Ohio


$14 per square foot

Up 12 percent


Austin, Texas


$20 per square foot

Up 10 percent


Charming Chelsea Co-op

CurbedNovember 14, 2016

Welcome back to The Six Digit Club, in which we take a look at a newish-to-market listing priced under $1 million, because nice things sometimes come in small packages. Send nominations to the tipline.


We’ll address the cons of this cozy little Chelsea co-op first: It’s a rather narrow apartment, with a bedroom that measures just under eight feet at its widest point. That’s not awesome. The kitchen’s a bit loud (what’s with all the red cabinetry?), and it’s asking $700,000, which is quite a bit for a small-ish one-bedroom.


Now, with that out of the way, here are the pros: It’s located on a rather perfect block (21st Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues), in one of those lovely, old Chelsea townhouses. The kitchen has new appliances, and there’s plenty of storage space. It has charming features like exposed brick and a fireplace (decorative, but still). And there’s access to a little roof deck, which will be pretty nice in about five or six months.

Montrose Morris-Designed Buidling Asks $6.25 Million

BrownstonerNovember 14, 2016

Here’s an opportunity to own a circa 1890 building designed by Montrose Morris, the lauded architect whose Queen Anne and Romanesque Revival buildings are among the jewels of brownstone Brooklyn. This one’s located at 109 South 9th Street and is a Queen Anne, freestanding, 24-foot-wide four-story brick building with 8,300 square feet of space.


Suzanne Spellen wrote it up as a building of the day a couple years ago, noting that the structure features “many of the stylistic elements that define [Morris’] early work.” These include the building’s use of brick over a stone base, its use of large windows highlighted by trim, its mix of rectangular and arched windows, its use of colonnettes and decorative terra cotta, and its oversized, bracketed cornice.


There’s a floor plan, showing eight units within, with two on most floors, and one in the rear of the windowed basement. The whole place needs to be gutted, though, according to the listing, so we’re looking at a blank slate, pretty much.

The building may have originally consisted of four floor-through apartments. Presumably it will be delivered empty, although the listing doesn’t specify.


The one unit pictured in the photos — the topmost — is quite fetching, with its high ceilings, wide-plank floors, exposed brick and wood accents. Elsewhere “many original details remain,” according to the listing, from Core broker Patrick Lilly.


The property is zoned for both residential and commercial uses, so there are a range of possibilities here.


The building’s asking $6.25 million, appreciably more than the $15,000 cost estimated in February 1887, when the building was in the planning stages. What would you do with the place?

"Great Rooms" To Gather

Brick UndergroundNovember 11, 2016

Once upon a time, we prepared meals in the kitchen, served them in the dining room, and then retired to the living room for some after-dinner socializing. These days, all of those activities tend to take place in one single central location, which is why homes with, over-sized, centralized, multi-use spaces are so desirable.


132 West 22nd Street, 8FL and 132 Perry Street, 8FL are featured for having beautiful, large living spaces. 


Penthouse with Turkish Marble

ObserverNovember 10, 2016

“Everything is perfect,” CORE broker Cartwright Lee declared, opening the door to an apartment on the 32nd floor of 20 Pine.


His words exaggerated just a smidge, but the impeccable white-and-beige, marble-bedecked interiors are quite striking, and even the placement of a black cat perched upon a white sofa looks intentional.


The sellers moved in to the 1,832-square-foot condo (one of two on the floor) in 2013, after completing a two-year gut renovation that included moving the kitchen and tearing out the ceilings to add to their nearly 10-foot height.


“He [the seller] went to Turkey to pick out the marble himself,” said Lee, who shares the $4.2 million listing with Heather McDonough and Henry Hershkowitz, as he gestured to the material underfoot. Apparently, the seller was so taken with Metamar, the quarry in southern Turkey, that he used its marble throughout the home, including around the gas fireplace in the great room.


With the exception of stainless steel Miele appliances, the open kitchen is, of course, all white, from the Corian countertops to the matte lacquer cabinetry. (Never fear, though: More marble can be found throughout a full bath.)


A pocket door opens to the master suite, where a walk-in closet’s full-length mirror has “two settings—you can do either daytime light or nighttime light,” Lee told us. There are five additional closets in the master—custom built for the likes of suitcases and shoes.


The pièce de résistance, however, is within the master bathroom. “Wait till you see the tub,” Lee said, and indeed, as nice as the custom mirrored vanity, marble trough sink and rain shower are, the bathtub, “built from a single piece of marble, from the same quarry,” does stand out. “I think it’s one of the best bathtubs in the city,” he added.


“The design is so special,” Lee opined, walking over to the spotless couch to pet the still perfectly positioned cat—it shrank away. Apparently, like other components of the apartment, the feline prefers not to be disturbed. “It’s like a prop,” he laughed.

LLNYC’s Look at Listings

Luxury Listings NYCNovember 10, 2016

At 464 Greenwich Street, you'll find a townhouse with a $27.5 million price tag and an unusual façade. The Tribeca townhouse was built in 1892 by the builder Hugh Getty for Samuel Crooks, a wholesale coffee and tea merchant, who used the building as a roasting plant and its signage remains above the entrance.


The current owner is J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler, who bought the place in 2008 for $5.5 million. He commissioned the French architect Thierry Despont to redesign the residence into something less like a coffee warehouse (we would imagine) and more like a single-family home.


These days, the 9,000-square-foot spread comes with five bedrooms, five bathrooms, two half-bathrooms, a custom eat-in kitchen, a rooftop terrace, a gym, a sauna and commercial-sized elevator.


Drexler recently chopped almost $2.5 million from the asking price. Hopefully he'll have more luck selling this pad than his other Tribeca home at 140 Franklin Street, which has seen over $10 million chopped from its asking price since it was listed last year.


Fun/depressing fact, in 2002 the building was bought for the grand total of $365,000.


Jim St Andre and Shaun Osher of CORE have the listing.


Unit Details:

Bedrooms 5

Bathrooms 5

Rooms 10

Built 1892

Property Type Townhouse

Size 9,000 ft²

Price Per ft² $3,055


Open House Near the High Line

Brick UndergroundNovember 04, 2016

Documentary fans and critics alike have been wowed by HBO's new movie about a changing block in west Chelsea, Class Divide, and how the High Line both connects and divides residents from very different socioeconomic backgrounds, and whose struggles may arise from different sources but are ultimately alike in some ways. (Check out our extensive interview with the doc's director.)


If you're a newcomer, or a neighborhood local who rents and is ready to buy, there are plenty of properties near the High Line throwing open their doors this weekend to apartment-hunting visitors. Have a look:


400 West 23rd Street, Apartment 4L. This one-bedroom, one-bath was once a two-bedroom, and be converted back again. High ceilings add volume to the rooms; a renovated kitchen that opens onto the entertaining space. Asking price: $925,000. Open house: Sunday, November 6, 2:30 pm to 4 pm.


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