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WSJ: Class A Office Space Seeing Some Declines, Too

Class A, amenity-rich office space has been viewed as a potential salvation for the commercial real estate market, as companies embarked on a post-pandemic “flight to quality.” 

Now that thinking too may be tested, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal.

 "Rents at the highest-end buildings have been falling, while the rate of leasing has been slowing. Tenants have become more sensitive to costs in a world of higher interest rates and lingering concerns about a possible economic slowdown, market participants say,” according to the article. 

“The ship has sailed on full return to the office for most companies,” said Rob Sadow, chief executive of Scoop Technologies, a software firm that developed an index that tracks workplace strategies. “They’re not going to go from three days a week to five days a week by making their space nicer.”

In New York, SL Green Realty   called One Vanderbilt across the street from Grand Central Terminal in the fall of 2020. It boasted a 4,000-square-foot terrace and cafe and a menu overseen by star chef Daniel Boulud. The 93-story building quickly filled up even though its top asking rents were near record levels at more than $300 a square foot

That sort of exceptionalism is beginning to wane, the article reported.  "Asking rents for prime space in 16 U.S. markets declined in the third quarter after increasing on average from about $61 a square foot in mid-2021 to close to about $70 in the second quarter of last year, according to CBRE Econometric Advisors. They were just under $69 in the fourth quarter, CBRE said.”

Cost-conscious companies are noticing that the gap between asking rents in top buildings and lower quality buildings is widening. The result: Renewals were 42% of the leasing volume last year, compared with 31% in 2018 and 2019 combined, according to CBRE.

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