By Peter Elston
With an eye towards distressed assets, Renaissance Properties specializes in value-add investments with a focus on pre-war prime assets. From commercial and retail building ownership, to leasing, management and construction, the firm has built its reputation on the superior capabilities and efficiency of its people, its most important resource.
Founded in 1959, its emphasis has always been on quality and attention to detail, Renaissance brings a high level of comfort and modern technology, including the most elegant build-outs and the fastest services to its treasured tenants
Lead by the father and son team of Kenneth and Bradley Fishel, Renaissance Properties looks to bring workforces back to New York in the post-COVID era with their renovated commercial properties.
New York Lifestyles sat down with the father and son duo to discuss the history of Renaissance Properties and the future of commercial real estate in New York.
With Renaissance being a family business, did you always aspire to be in real estate?
KF: I grew up in the real estate business and always loved it. It has always been a passion of mine to restore historic buildings to their original beauty.
BF: The mathematics and tangibility of real estate is what initially attracted me to the asset class. What has kept me in real estate is the endless knowledge to be acquired in the fields of engineering, law, finance, design, marketing, and construction. Beyond the insights that each of those fields provide, it is the timely coordination between them that is the key to success in creating aesthetically pleasing functional spaces. Perfecting this process is my aspiration in real estate.
What have been some of the challenges you have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic?
KF: Our tenants have been severely impacted by the economic fallout from the virus. As a result, we have done everything we can do to support our tenants and keep them in business.
BF: Running this business during the pandemic is like going to war. We are attacking the enemy on multiple fronts: Maintaining tenancy, which entails renegotiating each lease—if they are still in business. Attracting new tenants, which entails new marketing offerings like a COVID Clause in the case of another state-mandated shutdown, or additional amenities like new lobbies or communal roof decks and bike rooms. To take it a step further we are offering our architectural services free of charge to any prospective tenant that needs a floorplan made up quickly with the goal of making it very easy for them to say yes to our spaces before anyone else’s. By being proactive in our approach, we have been getting ahead of the competition, especially since we were the first to drop our asking rents and are now providing a few fully furnished spaces.
What changes have you made to your properties to accommodate people returning to the workplace?
KF: We adhere to all NYS guidelines and beyond. Moreover, our buildings are historic in nature and feature large operable windows which allow for natural cross ventilation.
BF: Aside from the additional amenities mentioned above, we put together an entire COVID playbook that’s available on the homepage of our website which includes new cleaning schedules/protocols, installed Merv-13 filters to all AC units, temperature checks, UV lights, etc
What do you think will happen to commercial real estate in Manhattan the next few years?
KF: New York City will come back! And New York City real estate will come back too.
BF: A COVID discount will be in effect for at least the next two years, which should be reflected by a 20 to 30 percent drop in rents. Combine that with rising taxes and insurance and you will see a lot of defaults in 2021. The bigger REITs and funds will survive only to scoop up what the smaller highly levered companies, have left behind. For us, we will have to be cutthroat in our pursuit of survival and eventual growth once we’re on the other side of COVID, when there’s more opportunity.
Their efforts have borne success in leasing in a challenging environment. Their flagship property at 632 Broadway has signed leases with Tumblr, Serengeti Asset Management, and HealthQuarters (in collaboration with Mount Sinai Hospital). At 264 West 40th Street leases have been signed with Asian Media Rights, CNM LLP, Pierce Mattie Public Relations, Kokolakis Contracting, Capital Signs and Darius Rose. Their newest historic tower at 62 West 45 Street has undergone a full renovation, and leasing activity has been dynamic. Leases have been signed with financial firms EA Markets and Axio Financial, each of which have leased full floors.
For more information on Renaissance Properties, visit renaissancepropertiesny.com.