Convene closes Manhattan locations as corporate events fail to return

Meeting space provider is pivoting to virtual events

Convene CEO Ryan Simonetti (Convene)
Convene CEO Ryan Simonetti (Convene)

As Manhattan’s office landlords struggle to get people to return to the workplace, the city’s biggest provider of on-demand, in-person meeting spaces and conference centers has scaled back its footprint.

Convene in recent weeks has closed three of its New York City locations, or about a fifth of its portfolio in the city.

The three meeting spaces — at 780 Third Avenue, 730 Third Avenue and 810 Seventh Avenue — shuttered in mid-October, a spokesperson for Convene confirmed to The Real Deal. That brings the company’s footprint to 11 locations in New York and 30 in total.

The spokesperson said the three centers were some of Convene’s older locations, and that the closings were the result, in part, of the company pruning its portfolio.

Convene laid off or furloughed about 150 employees, or a fifth of its workforce, when it temporarily closed its locations earlier this year. The company spokesperson said some of the furloughs have become permanent layoffs while other employees were brought back.

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But Convene — founded in 2009 and backed by the likes of RXR Realty, the Durst Organization and Brookfield Asset Management — is hiring for parts of its business that are growing, such as a service producing virtual meetings that it launched in the midst of the pandemic. Since the spring, the service has hosted 62 virtual meetings and is on track to hit 85 by the end of the year, the spokesperson said. Convene has built out three broadcast centers for the virtual meetings platform and plans to build out another two by early next year.

The pandemic has thrashed Convene’s main line of business, which caters to the hum of corporate gatherings and business conferences that have all but disappeared from the 9-to-5 routines of workers who now Zoom from their kitchen tables.

Manhattan’s office occupancy rates have failed to rise above 15 percent, even after business leaders made a strong push to get people to return to the workplace in the fall following months of hunkering down at home.

The exodus from Manhattan’s core and uncertainty clouding the future of the workplace has hammered the stocks of New York’s office REITs, shuttered restaurants and retailers that require a steady stream of workers, and rippled through businesses that provide short-term, flexible spaces for employees and meetings.

IWG, the world’s largest short-term office company, has put more than 100 of its United States workspaces into bankruptcy in recent months as part of a broader, pandemic-driven initiative to scale back its portfolio. Just this week, though, the company announced it will open its first Brooklyn location in a former WeWork in Williamsburg.

Knotel is reportedly looking to slash its global portfolio by 60 percent and WeWork continues to lose money, although its executives are looking to turn a profit next year.