Sublets Lure Manhattan Start-Ups
July 23, 2013

To understand how the current office market for technology companies can resemble a Russian nesting doll, with layer upon layer of increasingly smaller subleases, it might help to consider the upper stories of 568 Broadway in SoHo.

In the cast-iron former sewing factory, Scholastic, the publisher, is subletting two floors of space to Foursquare, a social media company. In turn, Foursquare is subletting one of those floors to a handful of other tech firms, including Fueled, which designs apps for phones...

Of course, the office within an office within an office can carry risks. If the first, second or third tenant goes bankrupt, a subletter could find itself without a home. But because their own leases are so brief, these low-rung tenants can also easily wind down operations quickly if, say, their app never catches fire.

“They don’t know about the future, so flexibility is key,” said Heidi Learner, the chief economist at Studley, the commercial real estate firm, who is the co-author of a report on the tech sublet trend. “You don’t know about what head count will be, whether you will get any venture capital funding, or whether you will be acquired.”

The news site BuzzFeed, for example, has signed a two-year sublease for space in the new headquarters of Tiffany & Company at 200 Fifth Avenue, across from Madison Square Park. BuzzFeed, which had been based on West 21st Street in a 20,000-square-foot space, will take an entire 58,000-square-foot floor, which is one of seven floors Tiffany has there.

The rent was not disclosed, but Greg B. Taubin, the Studley broker who represented Tiffany, said that comparable sublet space in the area went for $65 a square foot.

“Companies like this don’t sign long-term leases because they don’t have a crystal ball,” Mr. Taubin said. But for Tiffany, which doesn’t need the space immediately, there’s an upside in cost reduction, too, he added.

Sublets Lure Manhattan Start-Ups

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