Big real estate investors say Sandy hurts lower Manhattan values

Wed Nov 7, 2012 8:48pm EST
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By Ilaina Jonas

NEW YORK Nov 7 (Reuters) - Lower Manhattan office building values are likely to suffer as a result of damage inflicted by Superstorm Sandy that has left thousands of downtown Manhattan workers unable to return to their offices, major real estate executives said at a conference on Wednesday.

"I think there's been value erosion downtown," Howard Lutnick, chairman and CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald LP and BGC Partners Inc, said during the New York University Schack Institute of Real Estate Capital Markets in Real Estate conference. "It had just started to come back. The concept now of fear of flooding is going to affect values."

About 500 of his employees are unable to return to the three floors they occupy at 199 Water Street. Lutnick expect that to continue for six weeks to two months. Meanwhile his staff has been doubling up at the company's midtown offices and trading floors at 499 Park Avenue and its connected building at 110 East 59th Street.

Nearly one-third of the 101 million square feet of office space in downtown Manhattan either was closed, powered by generators or had no heat due to the flooding Sandy inflicted last week, said Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. There was no correlation between the age of the building and the damage suffered, the real estate services company said.

Lutnick, unfortunately, knows about disasters. The company occupied floors 101 through 105 of One World Trade when it was destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001. Cantor Fitzgerald lost 658 of its 960 employees who worked there.

"All disaster recovery plans are a disaster," he told about 475 real estate investors, bankers and students at the conference.

Cantor Fitzgerald's lease at 199 Water Street expires in about 15 months, he said, and the company has yet to decide whether to renew it. Lutnick said downtown landlords may have to make more concessions and ultimately take in less rent to convince tenants to stay.

"They'll have to offer more value to get them to stay," he said.   Continued...