Landlords stuck with old, fading garment factories on the far West Side are turning a former Felt Alley into a modern-day Fleet Street.
These gigantic buildings, once in danger of slipping into underuse and decay, have been refitted for media companies, an appropriate shift as clothing manufacturers have largely fled Manhattan.
The surprising overlap between the needs of news organizations and those of the departed garment manufacturers has been mutually beneficial, and turned the far West Side into an emerging office market, according to area brokers.
“These buildings lend themselves to media companies,” said Michael Forrest, executive managing director at CH Commercial, an affiliate of Citi Habitats.
They have physical attributes that traditional Midtown office towers lack, including large floor plates and high ceilings. Because they were constructed as factories, they can accommodate the high-tech equipment that media companies need, such as recording studios and backup generators in case of another blackout like the epic one last summer, Forrest said.
Because these buildings are already primed to accommodate media tenants, it’s a bonus that the area is significantly less expensive than Midtown. Brokers said space in the far West Side ranges from the mid-$20s to the mid-$30s per square foot, compared to between $35 and $45 per square foot for comparable space in Midtown.
Other key amenities that mean less to, say, financial service companies than to media companies include roof space for satellite dishes and the infrastructure for 24-hour-a-day use, such as all-day air-conditioning, said Mitchell Konsker, an executive vice president at Cushman & Wakefield.
Konsker should know. He brokered one of the biggest deals in the area – representing the Associated Press in its leasing of 280,000 square feet at 450 West 33rd Street, where the news cooperative began moving in July. David Dusek of Cushman & Wakefield also represented the AP in the deal.
“The AP did an exhaustive search of the entire market for two years before settling on this space,” Konsker said. Previously, the world’s largest news organization was spread out in three different buildings in Midtown, including its world headquarters at 50 Rockefeller Center, where it was one of the original tenants, he said. Now it has consolidated into a single space.
Its new roof has room for 10 satellite dishes and can accommodate its staff on three floors of about 100,000 square feet each, making for “better synergies” between departments, he said. Other amenities include a basketball court, gym, cafeteria and outdoor terraces.
The Daily News, U.S News and World Report and the public broadcasting station WNET-TV are already located in the squat building.
The AP felt confident enough in its choice to sign a 15-year lease, the terms of which were not disclosed.
Brokers acknowledge that the area is unlikely to draw law firms and accounting firms, which have little use for the kinds of physical attributes that these buildings offer. They say that as more media companies move in, the companies that service them – such as advertising and public relations firms – are likely to follow suit.
In addition to being close to media companies, these types of creative firms are attracted to the loft-like spaces available in former warehouses, with their abundance of natural light and high ceilings, brokers said.
Of course, the prospect of expanding the Javits Center and a new stadium for the New York Jets football team looms over the whole neighborhood.
If the stadium project goes through, then the neighborhood could see an influx of the same financial companies and law firms that won’t consider the area now. “If the stadium includes new office space looking over it, that will have real panache,” Forrest said.
But for now, the far West Side remains a cheaper alternative to Midtown with particular appeal to a niche segment of tenants.