Manhattan Real Estate Guru on the pandemic’s impact on Tech Office Spaces

Alex Cohen

Alex Cohen is currently the owner of Future Workspace Development, an LLC he founded in 2018. He is also an independent real estate agent associated with Compass.com as well as a real estate expert at CentSai. Before this, he was the Lead, Commercial Specialist at Core Real Estate from 2015-2017. Prior to this, he was the Senior Director of Commercial Brokerage at Cushman & Wakefield.

Educated at Yale and Princeton and an innovative thinker and leader in New York’s commercial real estate community, Alex Cohen develops strategy, advises, manages and analyzes commercial office, retail and mixed-used acquisition and lease transactions for tenants, landlords and investors.

Specialties
• Office and Retail Lease Negotiation
• Commercial and Multi-Family Investments
• Corporate Location Strategy
• Property Repositioning and Marketing Strategy
• Site Due Diligence and SWOT Analysis
• Coworking and Office Space Disruption
• E-commerce, Demographics and Retail Disruption

We meet Alex in his quiet apartment, just a block away from the famed Central Park in New York’s busiest borough – Manhattan. Alex has just returned from a weekend at the Hamptons and has just a few minutes to chit chat with us before he heads out for a slew of meetings with clients and other realtors.

Alex is a gentleman known for his expansive knowledge of commercial real estate, with insightful observations about today’s new economies. We sit across him curious to know, what he thinks about the real estate market in Manhattan in this Coronavirus pandemic era and to give us some extremely helpful predictions about the future shape of office and retail space.

He starts with saying that 2019 was a trendsetting year for office markets, particularly in New York and in other the coastal tech-driven markets such as Boston, San Francisco, LA, Seattle, and tech hubs like Austin, TX. The downside according to him was the very clear ‘overexpansion’ and financial problems of companies like WeWork. He says that it cast a pall on the third and fourth quarters, primarily in terms of psychology, because there was an expectation that we would be coming into higher levels of vacancy and softening rents as WeWork space potentially came back to the market, pushing up vacancy.

With these problems churning in the background, Alex says that the market had very high valuations that reflected good office fundamentals, low unemployment, and steady GDP growth, with only moderate amounts of speculative new office construction on the supply side. There was roughly 160 million square feet of office space under construction at the end of 2019 (about 2% of the nation’s total office stock). Slightly more than half of this office construction was going to be delivered in 2020. But now with the CoVid situation, Alex feels that it cannot be easily predicted when the situation will come back to normal as most companies are promoting work from home and letting go of office spaces they previously had leased.

In these times, he adds that he is not sure companies will need more space like they did before. Lesser employees can only ensure social distancing protocols by adding partitions, spreading out workstations etc – so it is probably ideal for small firms However larger tech companies will likely rethink how existing space is allocated.

We are sitting a good six feet from Alex with our masks on, as he continues to talk about a world where companies will start to encourage a proportion of workers to continue to work from home, but in-office, they’ll have specially design collaboration centers, conference rooms, and meeting rooms that meet social distancing standards but also allow some limited face-to-face interaction.

Going by trends of bigger companies now moving towards a permanent work from home culture, Alex notes with a hint of sadness, the real estate market will change forever in New York. There would be a long drawn price pressure war in the rental market he says.

But that forever is not a necessarily a forever, as the real estate market is bound to pick up once a vaccine is rolled out or the disease dies out on its own eventually.

As we leave Alex to get ready for his next meeting, we recall his words: technology tenants will eventually stay committed to their work-together culture. It is a part of who they are. Let us hope for the best.

And so we will.

If you are in the market looking for a good real estate agent, contact Alex Cohen for a consultation.


Investors and analysts look to me to assess how today’s disruption impacts REITS, real estate brokerages, new real estate technology and the future of office, retail and multifamily markets

Alex Cohen

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