Commercial Real Estate & Advisory

Cover Story – Big Players in the Small Market Branch Out

By Jessie McGee | October 1, 2006

Since its establishment in 1979, Sinvin Realty has been one of downtown Manhattan’s most active office and retail brokers. Now led by principals Bruce Sinder and Christopher Owles, Sinvin was one of the first companies to focus on the downtown market and was instrumental in SoHo’s extraordinary transformation from a manufacturing zone into one of the world’s most lively art, retail, and tourist centers. By negotiating sales and leases for some of Manhattan’s most high-profile tenants, Sinvin has spearheaded the commercial development of other downtown neighborhoods such as TriBeCa and the Meatpacking District, and also has had a major impact in Greenwich Village, Flatiron and Chelsea. Sinvin focuses on the ultra-hip, creative sector, while also maintaining a firm grip on more traditional commercial businesses.

Within New York real estate circles, the name Sinvin is synonymous with downtown. By focusing on this market, Sinvin’s knowledgeable brokers offer their clients an unsurpassed level of service and expertise that they may not have found at a more typical “uptown” firm. Sinvin’s brokers have the tools and the contacts to successfully market the properties they represent, offering well-established listing and database placements, high quality marketing techniques, and—most importantly—their broad “inner circle” of contacts and resources. “Because we are known for our high level of activity downtown, other brokers call us first with their customers’ space requirements,” said Bruce Sinder. “Landlords feel confident in giving Sinvin the exclusives.”

Sinvin understands all types of space needs, serving a highly diverse group of clients from national retailers to international office tenants. Sinvin’s forte is serving creative companies in the design, technology, and production fields, having carved out a particular niche for itself working with such production and post-production houses as @radical media, Framestore, and The Mill. The firm also handles retail businesses, primarily working with fashion and home furnishing companies, as well as restaurants.

Sinvin starts each assignment with a thorough “needs analysis” to help direct the tenant through the leasing procedure. This process includes evaluation of the tenant’s current situation and business plan, a comparative property search and strategic site selection, deal structuring and financial analysis, and proceeds with diligent transaction management and negotiations. “Sinvin adds substantial value to transactions at every stage,” said Sinder, “with the ultimate goal to ‘make the deal happen.’”

“The way a client manages and utilizes its space is critical to the success of its business,” added Christopher Owles. “It has a fundamental impact on the company’s effectiveness and profitability. We believe that if we give personal attention to our clients by guiding them through the leasing process, listening to their concerns, and not losing sight of them—they’ll never feel like they’ve been buried in the crush of a giant brokerage company.”

Due to Sinvin’s excellent representation, clients develop a loyalty to the firm, which has allowed Sinvin to grow with their clients’ growing businesses. Marc Jacobs, Olive & Bette’s, James Perse, and Mad River Post have all signed at least three leases with Sinvin, Jacobs and Perse even working with them to secure locations in Los Angeles.

Sinvin’s deals help to reshape and redefine entire neighborhoods, always bringing in the lush factor. In a 2001 project with Swiss furniture manufacturer Vitra, Owles spent 18 months finding the perfect spot—incorporating all of the company’s budgetary, aesthetic, and space requirements, and negotiating the complex deal. Owles zeroed-in on 12,100 sq ft at 29 Ninth Avenue, an 1898 warehouse being redeveloped by Philip Katz, Charles Blaichman, Bill Schaffel, and Joe Daly.

As Crain’s New York Business columnist Lore Croghan reported in “Deal of the Week”, “The long months spent with the developers paid off in an unexpected way for Mr. Owles: They got to know him so well that they hired him as the leasing agent for the rest of the 60,000 sq ft building.”

Sinder and Owles took notice that, unlike many areas downtown, rents in the Meatpacking District were not affected by the tragedy of 9/11, making this area ripe for an upscale retail boom. In addition to Vitra, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the four-star New York chef, signed a lease for the 15,000 sq ft corner space on West 13th Street for his hot new Asian street food restaurant, Spice Market. Topping off this trendy tenant trio, Sinvin signed on Soho House, the exclusive private club from London, for their new club and hotel, which now occupies the lobby, the third through sixth floors, and the roof of the loft building.

These deals, along with others in this area including gigantic spaces for Theory and Bumble and bumble, totaling more than 150,000 sq ft in all, prompted Real Estate Weekly to feature Owles as one of the “Rising Stars in the Industry” in April 2006.

Sinder is habitually quoted in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and was recently profiled in the New York Post. Vice president Roxanne Betesh is regularly recognized in the mainstream and trade press for her achievements. In just one of Betesh’s many projects, she was named the exclusive broker for the 100,000 sq ft retail space at the Terminal Warehouse in West Chelsea, of which she has secured ten leases in the past year.

“Roxanne has great instincts for what works in retail,” said Madelyn Wils, president and CEO of the TriBeCa Film Institute. “We chose her because we trusted her and knew that her advice was ‘right on.’ We trusted her to be our partner and represent us with integrity, which she did. We would not hesitate to hire her again.”

Michelle Stone, a managing director at Sinvin, was featured in Real Estate Weekly’s “Profile of the Week”, which highlighted her unique success. Stone, a prize-winning former principal of SITE, one of the world’s most innovative architectural design firms, has been responsible for more than $150 million in leases and sales in the ten years she’s been at Sinvin.

“Michelle is able to fuse the aesthetic with the functional,” said Eric Clough, founder of 212box, one of six architectural firms Stone closed deals with in the past year. “In my experience, she knows what makes space special and desirable to someone like an architect who has a trained eye. She also knows how to be tough in negotiations and get the best possible lease terms for her clients.”

Sinvin’s expertise isn’t limited to leasing. The firm is also well versed in sales and other investment deals. In the past two years, Sinvin has negotiated close to $64 million in commercial condominium sales, which is significant given that this market in New York City is small.

On the expansion path, with the employment roster growing, Sinvin is in the process of moving into a new, much larger office in the coming months. Its new salespeople, in conjunction with the company’s veterans, are carrying its commercial business into other areas of Manhattan and beyond. As the firm branches out from its downtown roots, its brokers always bring with them Sinvin’s signature edge.