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Manhattan Printers Waiting for Good News

October 1998
NEW YORK—The fate of some of Manhattan's printing industry may well lie with a real estate broker's ability to close the deal.

Approximately 20 to 25 borough printing companies, which have anywhere between six months and three years remaining on their leases, have signed on with broker Insignia/ ESG thus far and more are anticipated.

Procured by the Association of Graphic Communications (AGC), Insignia/ ESG is attempting to find sufficient space for the caravan of printers and other businesses, which face exile from landlords who chose to lease space at a higher rate to office-type businesses rather than heavy-equipment manufacturers. Presently, Insignia/ESG has 350,000 square feet for relocation, with more space expected to be added as additional printers, finishers, heavy manufacturers, etc., join the fold.

A boom in the Manhattan real estate market is at the heart of the problem for printers. Landlords, seeing space leasing as high as $30 per square foot for office environments, are turning away their heavy-machinery tenants at the conclusion of their leases, which called for rates below $10 per square foot per year.

As demand for real estate in Manhattan increases, so does the likelihood that printing activity will move to the brink of extinction in the borough.

Insignia/ESG Managing Director Michael Geoghegan hopes to find new accommodations for the printers before the leases expire. He is currently negotiating with a number of landlords. His goal is to have a deal in place before the end of the year.

"We expect to do something over the course of the next couple months," he says. "We'll really have to do that to meet landlord schedules because if we don't step up and take advantage of the opportunities, someone else will."

The main opportunities appear to be sites on 26th Street—the Starett-Lehigh building—and 11th Avenue. Regardless of the venue, Geoghegan says space—more than enough to accommodate the displaced tenants—will be addressed on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Geoghegan cautions that apathy among printers could have serious consequences. He feels printers should get involved in the process long before leases expire, for the real estate trend has long-term ramifications for the industry.

"If we all hold our ground, we can stake a claim for ourselves," Geoghegan says. "This is a wake-up call for the printers to push the city, push the landlords and push the brokers."

He added that, given the dynamics of the negotiations, which could prevent a quick deal, printers in Manhattan with leases terminating soon should be prepared to move.
 

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