By: Ilana Siyance
Brokerages and real estate firms are starting to report a modest but heartening uptick in office occupancies.
As reported by the NY Post, Jonathan Mechanic, chairman of the Fried Frank law firm’s real-estate practice, is excited to be back in his office after months of working virtually. He says his division did well working from home over the summer, with notable deals including the $1.8 billion financing of Brookfield’s One Manhattan West and the $350 sale-leaseback of 522 Fifth Ave. Still, he was thrilled to go back to their downtown offices at One New York Plaza last week. “I reopened our offices on Sept. 14 for our people to come back on a voluntary basis,” Mechanic said. “It was so invigorating. Our department is very closely knit.” Though he didn’t complain about the six months he spent in the Hamptons working remotely, he said he eagerly wore “a brand-new suit and a yellow tie” to his first day back in the office. “To me, coming back is a turning toward normalcy. It’s so energizing to be in office surroundings again — even seeing the security guys downstairs who I know forever.”
Peter Riguardi, CEO and tristate President of JLL, said office use has “definitely increased since then (Labor Day). Not to 25 percent, but it’s increased.” He said that at his own commercial real-estate firm, about 40 percent of his workforce returned to 330 Madison Ave. “Some companies that told their people not to return until next year are starting to second-guess themselves,” Riguardi said.
For instance, Citigroup, who had originally set the return date to December, is apparently fast-tracking a partial return to offices at their 388 Greenwich St. headquarters. As per the Post, sources said Citigroup now plans to increase its metro-area occupancy to 30 percent by October 5th, up from just 5 percent, though all returns will be voluntary.
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon asked senior traders to return to their desks by September 21. This is despite the fact that one employee who was already in the office was diagnosed with COVID-19 and sent home. The bank’s spokesman Brian Marchiony said, “We won’t hesitate to reverse course if we start to see worrying trends.” But, added there have been, “very limited cases”.