Upside abandons residential and Warburg downsizes

By Candace Taylor | January 12, 2009 03:13PM

Upside Ventures and Warburg Realty have joined the ranks of New York brokerages which are restructuring their businesses in the midst of the economic downturn.

Upside Ventures has closed its residential brokerage, Upside Residential, for the foreseeable future, according to Ralph Trionfo, the company’s president, while Warburg has announced it will shutter its office at 65 West 13th Street.

The news comes in the wake of several similar announcements last week, as brokerages face a severe slowdown in real estate transactions due largely to this fall’s Wall Street meltdown. The Real Deal reported that Homestead New York is closing up shop, while rental giant Citi Habitats has closed two of its offices.

Trionfo said Upside Ventures, founded in 2001, has halted residential activities in order to focus more on its core business: commercial sales and leasing, and investment acquisitions. The firm expanded into residential sales and rentals in 2007, but “it’s not our strength,” Trionfo said.

Now that the residential market has shifted primarily to rentals, “it’s not something that is a priority for us,” Trionfo said, adding that he may look into reviving Uptown Residential in the future.

Trionfo said Upside Ventures now has less then five brokers and employees, down from around 13 at its peak. At one point there were eight residential brokers, he said, noting that the residential brokers weren’t all let go at once. “It was a gradual move,” he said.

Upside Ventures has not closed any offices, he said, and is still located at 595 Madison Avenue at 57th Street.

At Warburg, the shuttering of the 13th Street office, located between Fifth and Sixth avenues, will mean the layoffs of a sales director and an office manager, said Frederick Peters, the president of Warburg Realty. Agents stationed there were relocated to other Warburg offices around the city, Peters said, though he would not comment on how many agents worked in that office.

But, on the Warburg company blog, Peters wrote: “We are able, because of our substantial investment in technology over the last few years, to offer a number of our agents the opportunity to work principally from home.” He added, “this fact, combined with current business realities, led to our decision to close our office at 65 West 13th Street…In deciding to proactively consolidate, to hope for the best but prepare for the worst, we are positioning ourselves to comfortably weather this downturn in the markets and emerge a stronger, leaner, healthier company.”

Warburg has four other offices in the city for its roughly 150 agents, according to the company’s Web site.