By Daniel Geiger
Nomura, the large Japanese financial company, has completed a deal to move its facilities from downtown’s World Financial Center to Worldwide Plaza in midtown, sources with knowledge of the transaction say.
A spokesman at Nomura conceded that a large annoucement regarding the firm’s New York real estate was afoot but said that he didn’t know yet what it would be and refused to offer official comment. Another spokesman for a party involved in the deal said that an announcement would be made Wednesday morning.
Nomura, according to real estate executives familiar with the terms of the deal, will take about 900,000 s/f in the lease, absorbing roughly half of Worldwide Plaza’s 1.8 million s/f in what is one of the largest office relocations in Manhattan this year.
The lease comes after months of rumors about the move, which included conflicting reports from real estate experts and even those with knowledge of the negotiations, whether Nomura would actually depart from Lower Manhattan or remain in place.
Even in recent weeks, executives at Brookfield Properties, the real estate investment trust that owns the 8 million s/f World Financial Center complex, had appeared to hold out hope that they could keep Nomura, which is one of their largest tenants in the city.
At a press conference earlier this month, Dennis Friedrich, one of Brookfield’s top executives stressed that the company hadn’t yet made a decision to leave and Ric Clark, Brookfield’s chief executive, joked that though the owners of Worldwide had sent moving vans, Brookfield kept sending them back.
The deal is a huge victory for George Comfort & Sons, the real estate investment firm that bought Worldwide Plaza at the bottom of the recession and turned away other smaller, but still sizable, tenants in recent months to land Nomura, which will absorb nearly all of the building’s vacancy.
Nomura will leave behind hundreds of thousands of s/f at Worldwide Plaza that it subleases from Merrill Lynch, whose tenancy has itself been the topic of much speculation. Merrill leases roughly half of the World Financial Center in a deal that is set to expire in 2013. Though real estate executives familiar with the firm say that it likely will retain some presence at the complex – it has a roughly 50 percent ownership stake in Four World Financial Center – the company, which was acquired by Bank of America during the financial crisis, is nonetheless expected to shed a significant portion of its space.
While it appears that Brookfield will be facing substantial vacancy in Lower Manhattan, the company appears to have positioned itself to face the challenge. Earlier this month, Brookfield announced that it is undertaking a $250 million renovation of the World Financial Center’s retail space to remake and expand it into a destination on par with other successful large scale retail concepts in the city such as the Time Warner Center’s shopping mall and the popular Italian food emporium Eataly. The new space will feature fine dining and eclectic food stations, a gourmet market and luxury shopping that Brookfield executives would feature a unique group of tenants. The executives said that the space would cater to neighborhood residents and tourists but that it would also be an amenity for office users at the property.
Brookfield, which has holdings around the globe and in Canada, also hired Mitch Rudin to become one of its top U.S. executives. Rudin, who had previously been the New York area chief of the real estate services company CB Richard Ellis, was widely seen as an executive with impressive leasing credentials in the city who could provide an experienced hand in guiding the company’s efforts to fill space here.
Battered by the downturn, Lower Manhattan’s office market has also bounced back. In recent weeks, Condé Nast completed a roughly 1 million s/f deal to anchor One World Trade Center, which, at a symbolic 1776 feet, will be the tallest skyscraper in the city. Conde’s relocation has boosted the area’s desirability as an office neighborhood and is expected to promote more leasing activity.
A team from the real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield led by one of C&W’s top leasing dealmakers, John Cefaly, represented Nomura in the transaction at Worldwide. Cefaly couldn’t be reached for comment nor could Peter Duncan, the chief executive of George Comfort & Sons.