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Amazon, Facebook Expand in New York -- WSJ

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12/07/2019 | 02:49am EST

By Keiko Morris

Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook Inc. are loading up on new office space in New York City, helping fuel an expansion of tech companies that is remaking a swath of Manhattan less than a year after Amazon dropped plans to build its second headquarters in the city.

The giant online retailer said it has signed a new lease for 335,000 square feet on Manhattan's west side in the new Hudson Yards neighborhood, where it will have more than 1,500 employees. The new lease represents Amazon's largest expansion in New York since the company stunned the city by abandoning plans to locate its second headquarters in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City.

The deal comes the same day The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook is in talks to lease 700,000 square feet in a neighborhood nearby. Combined with Facebook's other recent deals in the city, such a move would catapult the social-media company into the top ranks of the city's largest corporate tenants, alongside JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp., which have had a major presence in New York for many years.

For Amazon, the new lease and accompanying jobs come in a manner that couldn't be more different from its earlier dealings in New York. Amazon said it is taking the space -- in a property being redeveloped at 410 Tenth Avenue -- without any special tax credits or other inducements like those it had been offered previously. And this time, the company ran no cross-country tournament, in which some cities felt they were being played against each other in the contest last year for what Amazon termed its "HQ2" site and the jobs it would bring.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, both Democrats, had courted Amazon -- and the company's pledge to create 25,000 new jobs -- by offering up to $3 billion in financial incentives. Amazon canceled its plans for the project after facing a backlash from some politicians and activists over the package offered to the company.

After the Journal reported on Amazon's new lease, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), a vocal critic of the HQ2 effort who represents neighborhoods near the proposed site, tweeted, "Won't you look at that: Amazon is coming to NYC anyway - *without* requiring the public to finance shady deals, helipad handouts for Jeff Bezos, & corporate giveaways."

Many in the New York business community worried that Amazon's withdrawal would signal to other tech giants and large companies that New York had become inhospitable to business. Instead, Amazon's continued expansion marks the latest sign that tech companies are scrambling for prime Manhattan real estate to attract the city's large and well-educated talent pool.

"It's clear the main reason Amazon wanted to be here was the availability of a skilled tech workforce plus the synergy with related industries," said James Parrott, an economist at the New School. "And New York City still retains that attraction."

A tech corridor stretching several dozen blocks is emerging on Manhattan's west side, where Facebook's search for new office space has led it to consider the Farley Building, a landmark post office under redevelopment across the street from Penn Station, according to people familiar with the matter. The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company said last month that it had signed a lease for a 1.5 million square-foot campus at Hudson Yards, several blocks further west.

Combined with a deal at Farley, that lease and Facebook's existing offices would bring its total footprint in the city to more than 3 million square feet. All told, that would create space for more than 14,000 Facebook employees, according to rough estimates by real estate consultants.

Alphabet Inc.'s Google, which has plans to add 7,000 employees over the next decade in the city, signed a lease earlier this year for 1.3 million square feet at a converted former freight terminal in the Hudson Square neighborhood as well as space in two other buildings nearby.

New York is emerging as an East Coast hub for technology because of the size of its labor force, its extensive transportation system and the cultural and entertainment activities that come with a big city, analysts and real-estate executives said.

"It's hard to predict future growth, but we believe New York is a vibrant market with a tremendous pool of talent," a Facebook spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

Tech, advertising and media companies have been the biggest contributors to Manhattan office leasing this year, according to real-estate services firm Newmark Group Inc. Those numbers don't include Amazon's new Tenth Avenue location, which owner SL Green Realty Corp. is redeveloping. Amazon already employs more than 8,000 people between its tech hub and fulfillment centers in New York City.

In New York City, "Google is forming its own community and campus," said Victor Rodriguez, associate director of analytics at CoStar Group Inc., a real-estate data firm. "It looks like Facebook wants to do something similar."

Average annual tech-sector job growth between 2009 and 2018 has increased at a pace almost four times as fast as the city's overall private job growth, according to Mr. Parrott's analysis.

The increase in tech professionals, who typically earn well over $100,000 a year, have helped fuel job expansion in rental housing, restaurants, car services and personal services such as fitness trainers. The number of for-hire vehicle drivers in 2018 was 120,000 -- four times what it was in 2014, Mr. Parrott said. He added that part of the city's Uber and Lyft traffic can be attributed to tech workers using those ride-hailing services.

The tech interest is also giving a welcome boost to the city's office market, injecting new demand when many other businesses have hesitated to expand. That is good news for office owners who are expecting about 22 million square feet of new office space to be completed between now and 2023, according to Newmark Group.

It is also helping to counter the effects of turmoil at WeWork. The co-working company decided to put aside initial-public-offering plans and has been cutting back demand for leases after its rapid growth made it the largest occupier of Manhattan office space.

The growing tech appetite is already having a spillover effect, creating new opportunities for other projects. Tokyo-based advertising and public-relations firm Dentsu Inc. had been close to a deal at the Farley Building but was bumped when Facebook showed interest, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Not long afterward, New York developer Tishman Speyer said it had signed Dentsu to a long-term lease at the Morgan North building in Manhattan's West Chelsea neighborhood.

Write to Keiko Morris at Keiko.Morris@wsj.com

Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
AMAZON.COM, INC. -0.79% 2153.13 Delayed Quote.17.45%
HUB CO., LTD. -1.37% 1010 End-of-day quote.-3.35%
SQUARE, INC. 0.59% 85.74 Delayed Quote.36.25%
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