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CoStar Market Insights: Brooklyn Could Prove NY Metro's Best Hope for Landing Massive Amazon HQ2 Project

September 28, 2017
Albina Reydman is a market analyst with CoStar Market Analytics covering the New York City region.
Albina Reydman is a market analyst with CoStar Market Analytics covering the New York City region.
Prominent Brooklyn developers like Rubenstein Partners, Forest City, and Jamestown are joining forces to make the case for Brooklyn as Amazon’s next home. This is not surprising; after all, Amazon would not only fill vacancy in their speculative projects, but could also be a catalyst for further leasing in the borough. But how much sense does a New York move really make for the e-commerce giant?

Using Amazon’s Request for Proposal (RFP) and CoStar’s unparalleled database of commercial real estate information, the CoStar Market Analytics team developed a ranking of potential Amazon HQ2 destinations among metros with more than 1 million people. The rankings weigh the share of a metro’s population holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, the total number of computer and mathematics jobs in the metro, the rate of tech-related job growth from 2013-15, the total amount of proposed office space tracked by CoStar, the average price/SF of office properties in the metro based on CoStar sales data, and the affordability of the metro based on CoStar apartment rental data.

The New York-Newark-Jersey City metro comes in 6th according to this system, largely driven by an educated populace, an abundance of tech jobs and building proposals. Unsurprisingly however, New York ranks last in affordability.

Brooklyn, which is the nation’s fourth largest city by population, could be Amazon’s most realistic option in the metro. Amazon’s current headquarters is located in what was, two decades ago, a low-rise industrial submarket. It is not a far reach then that the company could venture into a neighborhood like Sunset Park or North Williamsburg / Greenpoint, where projects are underway that could accommodate the initial move, and redevelopment potential is high (at least relative to Manhattan).

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Jamestown and its partners purchased a distressed industrial plot on the Sunset Park waterfront in 2013 and has since transformed the space into a self-described "microcosm of NYC." The massive development includes 6.5 million square feet of space, well over 500,000 square feet of which is available for lease, meaning that Amazon could start the first phase of its expansion quickly. And best of all, the development is directly adjacent to a number of sites with redevelopment potential, which would allow Amazon to slowly expand into the submarket, something that just a handful of sites across the metro offer.

Although Brooklyn on a whole is significantly more affordable than Manhattan, areas like DUMBO / Downtown Brooklyn and Williamsburg / Greenpoint / Navy Yard rank among the most expensive submarkets in the nation. Rents in the average 4 & 5 Star units in both of these submarkets top $3,800/month. For comparison, despite Downtown Seattle’s white-hot job market, 4 & 5 Star rents there average $2,500/month.

Southwest Brooklyn, which encompasses Sunset Park as well as neighborhoods like Greenwood, Borough Park and Bay Ridge, has limited 4 & 5 Star stock, but rents in those assets average just $2,600 - a steal for New York. This discount comes with less developed retail amenities, and a longer commute to Manhattan.

Amazon’s laundry list of requirements means that no metro is a clear-cut winner. Brooklyn may be one compromise though, with fantastic access to talent and several buildable sites. But Amazon will have to pay up if it wants employees to take full advantage of what the city has to offer, even if it’s in Brooklyn.

CoStar Market Insights is a new feature providing a snapshot of recent real estate trends. The CoStar Market Analytics team monitors commercial and multifamily real estate across 206 metro areas, with a granular understanding of the projects, players and economic trends that move these markets. Learn how CoStar Market Analytics can add to your market knowledge, helping to minimize risk and maximize returns.
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