Which office tenants are looking for the biggest blocks?

A ranking of the companies on the hunt for the most Manhattan office space

(Click to enlarge for full list)
(Click to enlarge for full list)

Landing a monster office tenant is getting harder these days. Most of the big companies hunting for space committed in the last few years, fueled by confidence in the market and concern over escalating rents.

Today the number of tenants looking for 1 million square feet of space or more can be counted on one hand: electronics giant Samsung, global bank Deutsche Bank and private equity firm BlackRock, according to published reports and interviews with brokers. By comparison, back in 2012, there were twice as many tenants looking for blocks of 1 million square feet or more, including Time, Credit Suisse and News Corp.

This month, The Real Deal compiled a list of the 12 biggest tenants in the market. To do that, we combed through CoStar Group data to see which companies have leases expiring as far out as 2022 and then determined, through published reports and sources, whether those firms are on the hunt. Financial firms dominated the list, taking eight of the top 12 spots. They are reportedly looking for a combined 5.5 million square feet of space.

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Brokers say the lack of big tenants can be attributed to belt-tightening, more efficient (and therefore smaller) office spaces as well as many tenants getting leases locked in over the past few years for fear of missing an affordable rental window. They also predicted demand would soften in the face of a cooling global economy (see related story on page 36) and because of the bumper crop of Manhattan office supply coming on line. “Technology allows them to shrink staff,” said Scott Panzer, a vice chairman at the brokerage JLL, who represents tenants and landlords. “The reduced need for space and the ongoing oversupply will cause a correction.”

New York City is currently in the midst of a commercial construction surge, with some 30 million square feet of space planned or under way (see commercial scorecard on page 104). Some say they are not as concerned about the market filling the new space coming on line as they are about finding tenants for the older space that’s being vacated. And landlords may come up short if they rely on tech companies to fill that older space. “In general, TAMI [technology, advertising, media and information] is growing, but my guys tell me not as quickly as finance is shrinking,” said Michael Cohen, president of the tri-state region for Colliers International.

Several brokers said some of the companies on TRD’s list — such as New York Life, which occupies a big chunk of space at 63 Madison Avenue — are unlikely to move. Nonetheless, their leases will still need to be renegotiated under new market conditions. Samsung, however, may be looking to buy space. That would follow in the footsteps of Coach, which recently bought a 740,000-square-foot office condo in Related Companies’ 10 Hudson Yards. While rumors have been swirling that Facebook is looking for about 500,000 square feet, one broker familiar with the search said that is not the case. (The company is not on TRD’s list.) The global law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy is, however, on the lookout for about 350,000 square feet, and is reported to be eying Related’s 55 Hudson Yards, set to open in 2018. 

The top dozen firms on TRD’s list are looking for a combined 7.4 million square feet. By comparison, last year tenants leased 31.4 million square feet in Manhattan, according to Colliers. Any new deals these companies strike will likely happen during the next two to five years, the typical time frame that large firms take to analyze their space needs and make a move. And if these firms opt to relocate they will “leave behind a substantial block of prime space in Midtown,” said Cohen.