Long gone are the days when the New York workforce happily settled into bare-bones Midtown office towers, got lunch at the corner deli and promptly went home at 5 p.m.
Seemingly everything has changed about a city work day — perhaps nothing more so than the rising expectations employees, and as a result employers, have for their workplaces.
Office landlords have scrambled to accommodate the changes, adding building upgrades as tenants depart leases. But no one has a leg up quite like developers building new offices from scratch, who are putting in amenities you’d expect from a condo or hotel.
“The bar [hadn’t] been set very high for offices,” says Stephen Winter, vice president of commercial leasing at Related Companies. “Selling a new office building [to potential tenants] offers a huge competitive advantage.”
Landlords realize the best companies are competing for new talent, and that an office can be bait. It’s not unheard of to dedicate up to 20 percent of a building to amenities, says Steven Durels, director of leasing at SL Green Realty Corp. The company is building One Vanderbilt, a $3 billion, 1.7-million-square-foot project next to Grand Central Terminal.
The amenities, Durels says, “are not afterthoughts.” The 30,000 square feet of perks include an auditorium, board room, food and drink options, and communal spaces Durels likened to “an upscale hotel lobby.” A bike room will be equipped with changing rooms and showers, and, on the 56th floor, tenants will have access to a high-end cocktail lounge and event space with a 1,500-square-foot terrace.
Blender, a 15,000-square-foot coworking space set to open at 135 Madison Ave. this month, “is bridging ‘workstyle’ with lifestyle,” says co-founder Scott Sassoon. Starting at $500/month, membership comes with 2,500 square feet of Cafe and event space, cultural programming and a yoga ambassador. The landlord is The Rosen Group.
In the Know Experiences, a concierge company, will help arrange customized itineraries and accommodations for Blender members. Lia Batkin, the founder of In the Know Experiences, says coworking offices started clamoring to include travel and lifestyle concierge services as perks over the past year.
Landlord the Kaufman Organization has overhauled four older buildings in NoMad to attract tenants “who now treat their offices in the residential style,” says Michael Heaner, a partner at the firm.
A top-floor office at 45 West 27th St. with its own private roof terrace has piqued the interest of many potential tenants, according to Heaner. Tenants also approve of having an elevator that opens up directly onto the floor, in this case, 5,700 square feet of cool-looking floorplates. Asking rents are $72 per square foot.
In 2015, Kaufman tapped modern artist Skott Marsi to create 70 distinct pieces of art for elevator cabs at three NoMad properties, including 45 W. 27th St. Kaufman asked Design Republic to handle the lobby; the architecture firm also designed a cafe lounge at another of Kaufman’s offices, 550 Seventh Ave., slated to open later this year.
Over in Brooklyn, landlords also are taking the lifestyle/workstyle concept to new levels, transforming historic properties into something closer to a campus than an office.
Dumbo Heights, a 1.2-million-square-foot office and retail development, offers tenants a rooftop sky lounge with a bar and plasma television, as well as bike storage, locker rooms and showers.
“We did a lot of research with anchor tenants who signed on early to understand exactly what types of amenities they wanted,” says developer Asher Abehsera, CEO of LIVWRK (Dumbo Heights is a partnership led by Kushner Companies, RFR and LIVWRK). “We look at it as horizontal real estate, in which tenants can be engaged. The vertical towers are more isolated.” Asking rents range between $55 and $60 per square foot.
Roulston House in Gowanus, which will occupy turn-of-the-century warehouses, will offer tenants a 5,000-square-foot roof deck amenity as well as a food and beverage component. “It’s a major advantage to work from a blank canvas . . . we don’t have to work around lease confines,” says Joe Cirone, a Cushman & Wakefield broker who will offer leases at around $45 per square foot when the project opens early next year.
Empire Stores, in former coffee warehouses that line the Dumbo waterfront, was transformed into offices complemented by an outdoor roof deck and 80,000 square feet of “highly curated” restaurant and retail space, says Jack Cayre, principal at Midtown Equities. “It used to be that a law firm needed to be on Park Avenue,” he says. “With the rise of the tech industry, people now look for the coolest space they could possibly have to attract talent.” Asking rents there range from $65 to $85 per square foot.
There’s perhaps no developer quite so ambitious as Related Companies, now building 10.6 million square feet of office space within its Hudson Yards mega-development. Offices will come with perks like a sky-high observation deck at the 2.6-million-square-foot office tower 30 Hudson Yards, but Related’s Winter likes to tout the entire project as a perk. With its park space, retail, food, rentals and condos, he says, “we want tenants to know that once you get here, you don’t have to leave.”