There was a time that you’d never see the words “Manhattan” and “tech hub” in the same sentence. Manhattan was arguably the center of the world for banking, advertising, arts and culture — but not technology. And certainly not “New Tech” or the technology-based companies that have come online, as it were, in the past 20 years or so.
Times have changed. Today, the once-exclusive domain of Silicon Valley is no longer so exclusive. With the evolution of established tech companies — plus the incubation of new companies — Manhattan has become a New Tech hub where such companies thrive and where employment opportunities abound.
For example, the long-time site of electronics and appliance retailer P.C. Richards & Sons in Union Square will soon be home to a new $250 million tech hub, which New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio described this way: “This new hub will be the front-door for tech in New York City. People searching for jobs, training or the resources to start a company will have a place to come to connect and get support … It represents this city’s commitment to a strong and inclusive tech ecosystem.” The 258,000-square-foot hub will provide space for tech worker training and education as well as flexible workspaces for startups.
This surge of New Tech has had a markedly positive effect on the Manhattan office market. But this is not a brand-new phenomenon. In fact, we are now in the third wave of New Tech in Manhattan — or what we like to call New Tech 3.0. In this post and in the second and third installments of this series, we’ll look at the reasons for this third wave and the opportunities that are resulting from it.
But first, let’s rewind the tape (does anyone remember tape?) and look at the evolution of New Tech in Manhattan.
NEW TECH 1.0
The mid- to late 1990s and early 2000s saw the emergence of what would become iconic technology-based businesses and their indispensable platform, the internet. This was the dot-com boom.
That boom included numerous startups that attracted significant amounts of venture capital as well as companies that recognized the value of the internet as a venue for conducting business — such as retailers. This first wave of New Tech included the launch of Amazon (1994), eBay (1995), Google (1998), PayPal (1998), Salesforce (1999), LinkedIn (2002), Facebook (2004) and more.
During this time, New Tech companies began to establish a foothold in Manhattan for many reasons, including access to talent, financing and customers. Centered in the Flatiron District and the vicinity of Midtown South, office leasing velocity originally witnessed a meteoric rise connected to the internet, new media, telecommunications, digital media, software development, game design and financial technology firms fueled by venture capitalists seeking high returns in a fast-tracked IPO era.
But as we all know, the boom was followed by a bust. As TIME reported, “In March of 2000 … the dotcom bubble, which had been building up for the better part of three years, slowly began to pop. Stocks sunk. Companies folded. Fortunes were lost, and the American economy started to slip down a slow mudslide that would end up in full-on recession.”
One of the main reasons for the bust was that many of these new companies failed to generate revenue or profits and as a result, investments in these companies lost their value. Consider this: In the 2000 Super Bowl, 17 dot-com companies ran $44 million worth of ads. The following year, only three dot-coms advertised during the big game. New Tech 1.0 had come to a close.
NEW TECH 2.0
In 2002, after an eight-month period of recession, we started to see the second wave of New Tech, building on the phenomenal growth of technology companies in Silicon Valley and up and down the West Coast, including LinkedIn, Salesforce, Indeed and others.
With that success came the need to expand geographically and strategically — with NYC as the logical destination. Case in point: Google’s watershed 2-million-square-foot purchase of 111 Eighth Avenue in 2010 was soon followed by LinkedIn, Facebook and Amazon establishing major presences in New York City.
What’s also interesting — and sometimes overlooked — is the number of startups that launched not in Silicon Valley, but here in New York. These include Etsy (2005), Buzzfeed (2006), Tumblr (2007) and Kickstarter (2009). In May 2012, New York became the fastest-growing hub for digital companies in the U.S. outside of Silicon Valley.
2013 saw a number of high watermarks for New Tech in NYC, as reported by the New York State Comptroller. For example:
- By Q3 2013, nearly 7,000 high-tech firms called New York City home, which is near the record level before the dot-com crash.
- High-tech employment reached 103,100 jobs during that same quarter — 25,600 more jobs than four years earlier, when the economic recovery was beginning.
- The high-tech industry grew more than four times faster than the job growth rate in the rest of the city’s economy.
Although technology is only one sub-sector of the TAMI businesses (technology, advertising, media and information), TAMI leasing activity surpassed FIRE (finance, insurance and real estate) leasing in 2014 for the first time ever.
But wait. There’s more!
NEW TECH 3.0
According to data Colliers has collected, 2016 saw a new surge in office leasing growth within the New Tech sector.
In Manhattan, yearly leasing by technology companies increased by 28.6%, the sector’s strongest year behind 2014. This included Google’s leasing 264,000 square feet at Super Pier, as well as Salesforce.com’s lease at 1095 Avenue of the Americas and Facebook’s lease at 225-233 Park Avenue South — which together totaled approximately 400,000 square feet. In 2016, 65% of New Tech deals in New York City measuring over 20,000 square feet reflected positive net absorption.
For the sixth consecutive year, Midtown South captured more than 50% of all tech leasing, up 5 percentage points from 2015. This activity was led by leases from Google, Facebook and the tech “elder statesman,” Verizon. In fact, with the exception of 2014, Midtown South had its best full year of leasing in a decade.
All indications are that this new surge — New Tech 3.0 — isn’t going to die out any time soon. For example, Spotify is moving to its new 387,000-square-foot U.S. headquarters at 4 World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan and adding more than 1,000 new jobs.
As New Tech companies flourish, demand for space is increasing and landlords are commanding higher asking rents. For example, in Midtown South, the average asking rent average increased year-over-year to a new record high in 2016.
But it’s not just about the numbers. New Tech 3.0 has also changed the New York City skyline. One of the best examples is the fact that 1095 Avenue of the Americas no longer sports the MetLife logo. The building is now Salesforce Tower New York and will soon bear its logo. This iconic address, long associated with the insurance business, is now the new East Coast home of a cloud computing business. It’s hard to find a more emblematic transformation than that.
So, what’s driving New Tech 3.0 in Manhattan? We’ll look at the reasons behind this surge in part two of our series.
As president of National Office Services for Colliers, Cynthia Foster leads our national office platform across multiple service lines, including capital markets, tenant representation, leasing agency, property management and valuation.