By Sarah Trefethen
If the sheer number of people who made the hike to Steiner Studios on Tuesday for Massey Knakal’s Brooklyn Summit is any indication, Kings County is hot.
Residential and retail investments already thrive in the borough, and Brooklyn’s office market may be the next big thing, judging from the comments at one morning panel.
“It would be very difficult for us to staff all the different roles that we have to fill if it were not for Brooklyn,” said Mark Schulze, vice president of Makerbot, a company that makes 3D printers in Brooklyn. The company signed a lease for 31,000 s/f in Forest City Ratner’s MetroTech last year.
The idea that Brooklyn has evolved into an environment where employable and creative people choose to live and work was a hot topic.
“Part of it is a little bit organic, quite honestly, what’s happened in Brooklyn,” said Alireza Esmaeilzadeh, vice president of commercial development and leasing for Forest City Ratner. “There’s a lot of factors outside of real estate that have come into play to create this ecosystem.”
While the employers on the panel emphasized the appeal of cobblestone streets and biking to work, it was up to the real estate pros to take a step back and point out that the world of work is going through a change.
“The opportunities for lifestyle improvement today are outweighing work-style choices,” said Peter Miscovich, of Jones Lang LaSalle. “The days of people commuting two hours to Manhattan are ending.”
For Makerbot, having the company’s manufacturing, design and marketing teams all in the same borough has allowed the company to grow at an unprecedented rate, according to Schulze. The four-year-old firm employs 300 people.
“There’s a regular exchange of knowledge that happens between our office and the factory,” Schultz said. Two common themes in discussing modern office space demands also got airtime from the panel: density and infrastructure.
The modern tenants filling in spaces like MetroTech often use as little as 80 s/f per employee, Esmaeilzadeh said, in contrast with the more traditional allocations of more than 200 s/f.
“We almost want to drive employees to have to collaborate,” said Alex Patterson, chief culture officer at Tough Mudder, a company that organizes extreme obstacle course races.
He described “college-cafeteria style” cubbies for employees, and a common social area by the front door, where no one can escape Friday afternoon team drinks.
But technology infrastructure is always a concern. Without specifying which of his company’s locations had failed in that regard, Patterson made it clear that services like internet connectivity are no longer luxuries.
“A big pain point for us was being on Skype with an office in the UK and having the internet go down,” he said.