In one of the hottest real estate markets in the city, one building in particular is attracting a diverse list of companies.
The Falchi Building, located at 31-00 47th Street in Long Island City, was once used by Gimbels department store. Built in 1922, it served as a warehouse and distribution facility.
Now the five-story, mixed-use building is home to an eclectic mix of companies, ranging from tech giants Uber and Lyft to foodie favorites like Doughnut Plant.
Bringing those different businesses together was part of a larger strategy, according to Greg Smith, president of JRT Realty Group, the brokerage firm leading the leasing alongside Cushman & Wakefield at the Falchi Building.
“They’re trying to bring tenants to the building that will be local, artisanal type of tenants to appeal to the overall theme of the building, “Smith said, “and to draw additional tenants, both on the ground floor and upstairs to the offices.”
In 2013, the Falchi Building was bought by Jamestown, the real estate company that owns Chelsea Market. Like the popular Manhattan market, the Falchi Building features retail and food production options in the lobby and ground floor.
Some of the vendors that have signed long-term, multi-year contracts with Falchi so far include Juice Press, Doughnut Plant, Stolle Bakery, Astoria Distilling Company and L’Arte del Gelato.
In addition to those traditional food options, the lobby also has pop-up food vendors, which are usually small, local companies looking to grow.
“We started the food box concept, which is providing space for local artisanal food vendors to come and grow their business at Falchi,” Smith said.
Smith said they are targeting smaller, non-name brands for the retail section. Doughnut Plant and Juice Press each have roots in Manhattan, while Stolle Bakery has another operation in Moscow.
“They wouldn’t accept Starbucks, for example,” he said.
The floors above are rented as office space to tech companies like Uber, Lyft and Spaces, a co-sharing work environment. Each office space is 140,000 square feet, Smith said, with the potential to combine space for larger tenants.
“The offices are seeking tenants in a creative, sharing economy,” he added. “That’s the overall idea of the building.”
The Falchi Building used to house many light manufacturing businesses, such as jewelry or watch repair companies, but now those industries are looking for alternative locations.
“There are still operations in the building that are of the light manufacturing nature,” he said. “But since Jamestown took over the building, there’s been a massive transformation of the building to different types of tenants.”
As the jewelry businesses leave, Smith said they have recently done deals with companies that fall under the “new tech economy.”
“They are themselves forming the backbone of a new industry hub within a building,” Smith said. “As the building is evolving, so are the dynamics of the tenants.”
One of the building’s tenants is Coalition for Queens (C4Q), a nonprofit that looks to foster the borough’s technology community. Smith said there is a lot of collaboration between the tech companies and the creative and co-working tenants.
For example, C4Q provides training for young people interested in becoming web designers. Those trainees could be the future employees of other tech businesses in the building.
It’s not just the office spaces that are collaborating within Falchi. Smith said almost every event that Jamestown holds brings together the different aspects of the building. At one recent event for the real estate community, Jamestown provided food from the pop-up vendor, while Juice Press provided the drinks.
At another networking event hosted by Webline, a web design company with an office on the ground floor, the food vendors brought the food while Astoria Distillery Company, the first gin distillery in the city since the days of Prohibition, supplied gin drinks to the guests.
In addition to business events, the Falchi Building also hosts many events for the Long Island City community, including dozens of art shows and exhibits, a photography class show for LaGuardia Community College students and “hack-a-thons” put together by C4Q.
Smith said the building is fully leased, except for a few small spaces. He said there’s a high demand especially from tenants in Manhattan, where leases are much more expensive than Long Island City.
“The demand in the Long Island City market far outstrips the supply, which is the reason why the only spaces we really have in the building are spaces we take back from existing tenants,” he said. “The building is full because the demand is surging.”
Smith added that as more retail options come in, more and more of the remaining light manufacturing tenants on the ground floor will shift away as their leases expire. He also said the last component is to activate the roof, which will “bring tenants together for some community purpose.”
The Falchi Building could set an example for future mixed-use buildings that want to combine the growing tech industries with local businesses. Smith said Falchi has been characterized as the “it building” in Long Island City, where they have something of everything.
“There are a slew of property developers and owners that are walking up and down the corridors of Falchi to try and figure out what ideas they can bring to bear on their own assets,” he said.
For example, the factory next to the Falchi Building used to be a Macy’s warehouse, but is now on the path to replicating its neighbor.
“Everywhere you look, people are seeking properties to transform them to appeal to the constant demands of tenants looking to find a home in Long Island City,” Smith added.