Soccer pro turned broker Justin Myers riffs on NYC’s office market
One of Myers’ brothers, Jake, worked in the technology industry, and it was through his ties to the sector that Justin Myers found his clients for office leases.
Since then he has ascended to his current role: executive managing director and principal at Lee & Associates. His clients include Ceros, HelloFresh and JSM Music. He also has dabbled in leasing laboratory space for biotechnology companies.
What’s your secret sauce for getting clients?
I have the best local market expertise in Midtown South due to all the canvassing I did for tech companies in that area. I was hired by HelloFresh three years ago to help them consolidate and expand from 40 W. 25th St., where they had 22,000 square feet. Our knowledge of the area is uncanny. We knew what their neighbors were doing. We knew what was happening in the building, and none of it was even on the market.
When I went to try out for Major League Soccer, there were 20 goalkeepers at the tryout, and I outhustled them all. Footwork and hustle are important. In real estate, you cold-call, you canvass, you talk to the super, you walk the building, walk on the street, meet people.
How has your soccer career made you successful in real estate?
As a goalie, all you do is fall down and get back up. If you translate that into real estate, you might get 20 nos, but all you need is one yes to win. And the 20 nos are good market information you can use moving forward.
How did you celebrate your first big deal?
ClassPass had 1,500 square feet at 121 W. 27th St., and the company was growing so fast, while my client on the 12th floor of that building wanted to sublease space. I saw that ClassPass employees were taking calls in the hallway because their office was too small. I took them to the 12th floor and then I showed them available properties on that street that day, and it morphed into me finding them a new office at 275 Seventh Ave. for 28,000 square feet within a year.
I celebrated that deal by paying off my brokerage draw. Then I went back to work to make more deals. It’s amazing how much life costs in New York.
What’s a complicated deal you worked on recently?
We represent a landlord at 116 W. Houston that had leased four floors to Knotel. Starting about a year ago, we had to negotiate a termination for Knotel. Speaking with Knotel was difficult because they were going through bankruptcy and they had a 10-year lease in the building.
Once that termination was done, the landlord wanted us to release the space at market rents, which were much lower during the pandemic. We were able to accomplish leasing all of the floors to tech companies on an as-is basis, with Knotel’s furniture.
It took about six months to lease up the 6-story building to four separate tenants.
What’s your Hail Mary move to keep a client from walking out the door?
Always have a backup plan. There’s 600 million square feet of space in New York, so always have another option that your tenant can maneuver to and that you can leverage. On the landlord side, it’s important to have another potential tenant lined up if one doesn’t work.
Have you seen a change in how tech companies think about office space?
Some companies need a lot of help figuring out how many people to put in their space. A 10,000-square-foot office could have meant 90 people a decade ago, but now it’s more like 50 people.
As a broker, how do you still close the deal? The office still has tremendous value—it may be less, but it’s still important. And you have to have more common space and meeting rooms, so you may not need as little space as you think.
Some challenges we’ve had with clients are companies who have taken space in 2018 or 2019, before the pandemic, that are thinking about subletting or consolidating. The sublease market is so saturated now it’s hard to receive equal value.
Clients are rethinking their space requirements all the time. A couple of tech clients who have taken space over the last year or so are now going to be subleasing because they haven’t hired as much as they thought they would.