By Sarah Trefethen
Technology companies are redefining the New York City economy, and as rent in their favored Midtown South neighborhoods continue to rise, landlords in places like the former finance-centric streets at the southern end of Manhattan are eager to attract the newcomers.
The idea that the young and connected employees of the technology-driven business just want a place to hang out may seem clichéd, but it’s compelling enough that a coalition of Lower Manhattan real estate and business interests has formed to update the area’s image by hosting and promoting networking and social events. An initiative of the Downtown Alliance, LaunchLM (for “Lower Manhattan”) is all about bringing people together, according to the program’s director, Daria Siegel.
“We really think that tech really thrives through a sense of community, and the challenge is the geography of Lower Manhattan is so spread out,” she said.
There are currently more than 600 technology companies with offices south of Chambers Street, according to the Downtown Alliance.
“Lower Manhattan is filled with all sorts of industries, but we think technology is really the future of what this area is going to become,” Siegel said.
Local real estate interests have embraced LaunchLM. Bill Rudin, president of Rudin Management, is a member of the new project’s leadership council.
“Lower Manhattan has a rich history as a center for innovation, and with this new initiative we can cement New York as the place to be in today’s digital age,” Rudin said in a statement.
Representatives from Brookfield, Silverstein, Savanna and L&L Holding as well as CBRE and Cushman & Wakefield have been a part in the year of planning that lead to the mayor’s announcement of the project last week.
“Space, as you know, is always critical, particularly for events and programs,” Siegel said. “We’re really going to be tapping into our real estate friends to help us out with that as much as possible.” A recent series of events held at the South Street Seaport demonstrate the kind of programing LaunchLM will promote.
Dubbed “Tech Tuesdays,” events in the series were each lead by a Downtown tech company. The first, led by the Flatiron School, was titled “Code and Beats” and featured DJ music and an opportunity for laptop-equipped programmers to relax, listen to the music and work on programming projects as instructors circulated the crowd offering help and tips.
“It was pretty cool to see a bunch of young people just sort of casually coding and getting the support that they need,” Siegel said.
Jeremy Moss, director of leasing at Silverstein Properties, represents his company in the program.
“For me, it’s interesting because I get to talk to people in an industry that I don’t work in directly but that increasingly I’m serving,” Moss said, adding later: “They’re very cool people.”