NEW YORK — Three high-profile firms, Laird & Partners, Judith Leiber and Cynthia Steffe, have signed deals to move to larger corporate headquarters, taking advantage of the soft commercial real estate market and locations that support the brand images.

This story first appeared in the March 5, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

According to PBS Realty Advisors, which brokered the deals, office rents are down 10 percent since the Sept. 11 attacks and there’s about 14 million square feet of commercial space available in Manhattan, from 59th Street to Wall Street. About 8 million square feet was leased last year and based on what is expected to become available this year, there’s about a two-year supply of office space in the marketplace.

“For anyone with leases coming up, it behooves them to look at the market,” said Laura Pomerantz, a principal in PBS, a full-service a real estate company providing brokerage and other services to corporations, including retailers and manufacturers and individuals.

“Tenants are getting free rent for four months to a year, construction dollars and a favorable base rent,” added John Brod, also a principal at PBS. The principals declined to specify financial terms of the deals.

PBS said that commercial rents run from $52 to $60 a foot in the Plaza Hotel vicinity, $30 to $45 around Grand Central Terminal, $25 to $35 in the Garment Center; $25 to $35 from Flatiron to SoHo, $20 to $30 along Tenth Avenue in the thirties; and $20 to $32 in Chelsea.

Ad man Trey Laird, whose year-old firm has Donna Karan and Gap as clients, is moving May 1 to 475 10th Avenue, a former factory building. He’s taking an entire 18,500-square-foot floor with a 10-year lease. The building is occupied by other firms in the creative and architectural fields, including Ian Schrager; Gwathrney Siegel & Associates, and Richard Meyer & Partners. “This is a little off the beaten track, but it’s not far from the fashion district,” Laird said. “We didn’t want anything that was too corporate. It’s an old landmarked factory building, but we’ll do a modern buildout so it will be a mix of old and new.”

Moving into Laird’s old space at 550 7th Avenue is Cynthia Steffe, a division of Leslie Fay, run by John Pomerantz, Laura’s husband. Steffe is taking a 12,000-square-foot showroom on the 10th floor, moving from a 8,034-square-foot space on the 21st floor. The building also houses Michael Kors, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Bill Blass and Jill Stuart, among other designers. Laird’s lease there was about to expire.

Around May 1, Judith Leiber is taking 9,300 square feet on the 17th floor of 600 Madison Avenue, between 57th and 58th Streets, close to other luxury firms. The company is currently located at 20 West 33rd Street. Others at 600 Madison include Tiffany & Co. and Frederic Fakkai. Susan Sokol, a Judith Leiber board member, said, “the neighborhood is in sync with the Judith Leiber brand and the connotation of luxury.”

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