I thought that in my years as a reporter I had navigated some fairly treacherous terrain. Then I tried making my way through the hectic ridiculousness that is the New York commercial real estate market. My God. Not that I'm trying to become a mini-Donald Trump or anything, just looking for a little slice of office space for our expanded operation here at TPM. But it ain't easy.
For instance, on one of my first jaunts into this square foot jungle, I went to see a space listed at 750 sq. ft.
That seemed like a decent amount of space for four people -- me and three employees, all in one open work area. So after working out some preliminaries over the phone, I made my way down to the neighborhood in question, found the appointed building and ambled up the staircase to get my first look at the new TPM world headquarters. After a bit more smalltalk with the landlord I found myself in a room that struck me as, well ... somehow very cramped.
I started making my way around the stretched out little box not knowing quite what to make of it. And as I looked around for things to look like I was looking at (not as simple a proposition as you might think) and questions I thought I should think to ask, we came to the conclusion that we were in a room that measured 30 ft. by 9 ft.
"Of course, you know, you lose a little square footage in commercial space," the man assured me with a sort of trailing off cadence.
At this point, I should say that I quickly banged out the numbers in my head, which suggested this space was really rather closer to 270 sq.ft rather than the advertised 750 sq.ft. Should, but unfortunately can't since the whole experience had left me in such a cloud of weirdly-self-inflicted bamboozlement that somehow it wasn't till I was back on the street making my way back home that I progressed from thinking something just wasn't quite right about the place to a more mathematically-grounded realization that there had been a certain lack of truth in advertising about the aforementioned square feet.
In any case, now a couple weeks later I'm nothing like the commercial real estate naif I was then. I'm well-versed in the distinction between rentable and usable square feet. Only a rube wouldn't know that it's standard to include less-than-easily-utilized space such as the walls of the building, stairways you have no access to and sometimes even patches of land in nearby counties when tabulating 'rentable' square feet.
Anyway, live and learn.
What I choose to report on and write about here at TPM has always, to a great degree, tracked my own interests and obsessions and curiosities. So if you start noticing posts on sub-letting or loft space or the low-end Manhattan office space market popping up, you'll know what went wrong.