If you’re mourning the demise of Hudson Yards’ short-lived palatial Neiman Marcus NYC flagship, don’t despair — you can still visit, but you’ll need to bring your work laptop. Developer Related Companies plans to fill the space with office tenants, some pulled from the roster of companies already housed in Hudson Yards and eager to expand their footprint.
In an interview with David Westin on Bloomberg’s “Wall Street Week”, Related CEO Jeff Blau projected an optimistic year for commercial real estate on the west side, bolstered in part by the repurposing of shuttered retail spaces into corporate hubs. One such space is Neiman Marcus, which opened to much hype (and a ribbon-cutting performance by Liza Minnelli!) in March 2019, only to file for bankruptcy in May 2021 and permanently close the location in July.
“At Hudson Yards we built a 7-level retail center that was anchored by Neiman Marcus — and when Neiman filed for bankruptcy, instead of trying to re-tenant that for retail, we decided to repurpose that to office space. And so now we are in the process of converting and creating about 400,000 feet of new office space at Hudson Yards to deal with the increased demand that we’re seeing from actually, mostly, a lot of tenants that are in place today that are growing and expanding,” said Blau. Both investment management firm BlackRock and Facebook parent company Meta currently lease space within Hudson Yards.
Despite the slings and arrows of omicron, “New York is really, I would say, on a tremendous rebound, post-COVID,” said Blau. “In terms of the city overall, you’ve definitely seen people who left during COVID come back.” He noted offices in Related’s buildings were currently at about 40% capacity and that “we’ve got double-digit increases in occupancy,” estimating that “our tenants are planning for real return to work, whatever that new definition is, for sometime in the month of February.”
But while some C-suite executives are spouting declarations of “post-COVID” and “return to work,” the definition of return to work is still very much up for debate among employees. A January 6 survey from Morning Consult found 55% of respondents would rather quit than return to the office, up from 45% the previous week.
In addition to increased concerns over an endless carousel of highly-transmissible COVID-19 variants, employees have cited the relationship between workplace equity and flexible, remote work — specifically, women with childcare responsibilities said they’d be 32% less likely to leave their jobs if remote work options remained available to them.
What’s clear is the need for employers and employees to align on a future workplace setting that is squarely designed with pandemic insights in mind. Jim Harter, Chief Scientist of Workplace and Wellbeing at Gallup Inc told Bloomberg: “When organizations don’t communicate effectively about what the future looks like, it creates uncertainty and can cause people to quit. Matching what employers and workers want going forward is essential, because work will never be the same again.”
But for those returning to in-person work at Hudson Yards, there are some definite upsides to working in the city’s most upscale mall. In addition to luxury retailers like Cartier, Dior, Fendi and Stuart Weitzman (lunch hour shoe shopping, anyone?), several high-profile restaurants have weathered the pandemic, including queensyard, Wild Ink, and recently opened sky-high Peakaboo late-night cocktail bar — perfect for indulging in a post-work cocktail with breathtaking views of the city. And while the Neiman Marcus space may soon be known more for board meetings than bootcut jeans, the renewed presence of Hudson Yards’ office workers could strengthen the recovery of the fabled Midtown West retail complex.