By Sarah Trefethen
Sometimes, even if you’re not sure where the puck is going, you should skate for it anyway, Arthur Mirante told the members of B’nai B’rith at the group’s monthly luncheon last week.
“I can’t remember a time in my 35-year business career that has been so characterized by uncertainty,” Avison Young’s Tri-state president told the crowd.
Unlike in booms and downturns of the past, when everyone could at least agree on the way things are trending, today’s risks are harder to identify and quantify, according to Mirante.
“It’s virtually impossible to forecast and know where the puck is going to be so we can skate there,” he said, referring to a famous Wayne Gretzky quote about planning ahead in ice hockey.
Contributing to the uncertainty are factors including an increasingly global economy, changes driven by new technology as well as political and financial crises in the United States and around the world, Mirante said.
But the US economy has been steadily recovering, and New York real estate is an investment class desired around the world, Mirante said.
An over-abundance of caution in the face of uncertainty, he said, has led to reduced levels of leasing, prolonged negotiations and a preference among users to renew in place in order to reduce capital expenditure.
“It’s most likely a mistake to be on the sidelines waiting for this uncertainty or these headwinds to dissipate,” Mirante said.
Avison Young is not waiting. According to Mirante, the Canadian firm is the fastest-growing real estate service company in the world, with plans to expand into Western Europe in the next 17 months.
He also championed the new developments planned for the far West Side of Manhattan, including Related’s Hudson Yards project as well as the Moinian group’s 3 Hudson Boulevard, where Avison Young is the leasing agent.
He dismissed the suggestion that the new construction would lead to an over-abundance of office space.
“Having new building produce that frankly is more efficient more sustainable and more adaptable to the requirements of the users of the space is a good thing,” he said.
Based on AY’s calculations, he said, if employment in New York City continues to grow the city will need more Class A office space even if the average usage goes down to 150 s/f per person.
“I lived through two periods I can remember when vacancies were 5 percent, 6 percent, and it wasn’t good for the city,” Mirante said.