The Legal Aid Society, a major nonprofit law firm, has signed a 30-year lease for nearly 200,000 square feet in Lower Manhattan’s Tribeca district, bolstering the slow recovery of the borough’s office market. The organization leased the space at 40 Worth St., a 16-story neo-classical building owned by GFP Real Estate between Church Street and West Broadway.
The Legal Aid Society decided to consolidate its footprint, which currently includes offices at 40 Worth St. as well as two buildings further south, 199 Water St. and 80 Pine St. The new lease for 198,900 square feet of commercial office condominium at 40 Worth St. creates a single location for the social justice law firm.
A CBRE team of Craig Reicher, Christopher Mansfield, Greg Maurer-Hollaender and Peter Gamber represented the tenant in the deal, while GFP Real Estate’s Brian Steinwurtzel and Roy Lapidus represented the commercial condominium landlord, 40 Worth Street Associates LLC. The Legal Aid Society’s new space was formerly occupied by Charity Water and Public Health Solutions, which were relocated within the building.
After a complete overhaul and build-out of the space, the nonprofit will occupy part of the ground floor and mezzanine, as well as the entire second, fifth and 12th floors and a portion of the third floor, according to a statement. Gensler will lead architecture, design and workplace strategy. The expansion space will be built out first, an effort slated for completion in March 2022, after which the tenant will renovate its existing offices through the fourth quarter of the year.
Built in 1929, 40 Worth St.—also known as the Merchants Square Building—measures 755,000 square feet and spans a full block nearby the 1, 2 and 3 trains. The property is home to the East Coast headquarters for fashion brand The Gap, as well as a variety of major nonprofits including the Acumen Fund and the Innocence Project. The building also houses Frenchette Bakery, which opened last October in the former Arcade Bakery space.
Availability soars 70 percent
The new lease is among the largest recent office transactions in Manhattan’s struggling market, where leasing activity remains at less than half its average monthly volume since before the pandemic. A total of 1.5 million square feet was leased in May, up 56.1 percent over the previous month and an 8.2 percent increase year-over-year, according to the latest market snapshot by Colliers.
This compares to an average monthly volume of 3.6 million square feet in 2019. Manhattan’s availability rate climbed for the 12th conservative month in May to a record high of 17.1 percent, up 0.6 percentage points from April, the brokerage noted. The borough’s availability has surged by 70.2 percent since March 2020 to a total of 91.6 million square feet.
The largest lease transaction in May was the Securities and Exchange Commission’s 303,000-square-foot extension at 200 Vesey St., part of Brookfield Place in Lower Manhattan. In the previous month, pharmaceutical software developer Schrödinger notched the biggest lease by taking 109,000 square feet at 1540 Broadway in Midtown.