How We Started

Colliers International proudly traces its roots back to a local firm founded 1898. Today, our offices in 68 countries are aligned under a single brand and leadership, providing our clients with best-in-class resources while maintaining our historical flexibility and local ties.

Colliers was one of the first truly global commercial real estate organizations, formed more than 30 years ago as a network of independent firms. As client needs evolved, Colliers embraced the the opportunity to build an integrated global platform of professionals and property services to meet the demand for globally consistent service, accountability and integration.

Our Legacy in New York

Since its inception as a family-run, Manhattan real estate firm nearly a century ago, Colliers International’s New York office has evolved, through organic growth, affiliate partnerships and strategic mergers and acquisitions, into a full-service organization focused on exceptional client service and committed to accelerating client success through both local expertise and Colliers’ global network.

The Birth of a Real Estate Powerhouse

Colliers International’s New York office was founded in 1926 by two real estate brokers, Victor J. Cohen and William Silverman. Known as Williams & Company, the firm specialized in the loft and industrial markets in today’s Midtown South, providing asset management and advisory services to banks, landlords and investors, and eventually becoming partial owner in several of the buildings they managed.


Over the next few decades, Williams & Company, now called Williams Real Estate Co. and operated by the next generation of family professionals, grew its practice to encompass both tenant and agency leasing services in the commercial office market — in addition to maintaining a strong presence in the loft and industrial markets. The firm was responsible for concluding some of the largest and most significant transactions of the period in New York.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Williams continued to play a role in notable leases in New York. The firm’s principals also added to their real estate holdings, acting as both owner and managing agent. Later, they expanded their activities to include partnerships in the development of 1700 Broadway and 1 Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, and ownership in 15 other buildings.

In the decades leading up to the turn of the century, Williams saw further growth of both its services and reach in the New York Region. The firm became a founding partner of GVA Worldwide Ltd., a global strategic partnership of leading real estate organizations, and created a new entity, GVA Williams, to act as the third-party brokerage and management division of Williams Real Estate Co Inc. Its affiliation with this 85-office, 20-country network escalated the firm’s client service capabilities to a global level. Closer to home, Williams added Tri-State depth with new offices in New Jersey and Connecticut.

A Turning Point

In 2008, Toronto-based FirstService Corp. acquired a 65% interest in GVA Williams and the firm was renamed Williams Real Estate, a FirstService Company. For FirstService, the acquisition was a gateway into the New York market; Williams benefitted from the greater capabilities of an international platform and new mortgage brokerage, asset management, project management and hotel and hospitality consulting services.

To strengthen their competitive position in the evolving global marketplace, FirstService Williams and other FirstService partner firms committed to uniting under a single brand, Colliers International, two years later.

The Way Forward

Today, Colliers International is the fastest-growing commercial real estate organization in the New York Region. The firm serves clients through the expertise of 410 professionals, including 150 brokers, in seven offices across New York City and the outer boroughs, Long Island, northern and central New Jersey, southwestern Connecticut and Westchester County, NY. Strategic corporate moves — including the acquisitions of project management firms Strategic Business Solutions and Gorton & Partners, and affiliate Colliers International of Long Island — and the recruiting of brokerage, professional, specialty and support leaders have expanded the firm’s capabilities to office, retail and industrial tenant and landlord representation; capital markets and investment services; corporate solutions; consulting; project management; valuation and advisory; and property management. Colliers now manages almost 11.5 million square feet of space in the New York Metropolitan Region, and in 2016, concluded over 940 leasing and sale transactions totaling 13.7 million SF.

Did You Know?

Colliers was one of the first global companies to expand operations in Asia, Central Europe and Latin America. We're committed to providing our clients with access to emerging markets around the world.

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