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Ghost Rental Spaces Provide Homes for 'Unwelcome' Tenants

By Amy Zimmer | July 31, 2013 7:48am
 Conrad Bradford finds "ghost spaces" for schools, yoga studios and others unwelcomed by many landlords.
Broker Sleuths Ghost Listings
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MANHATTAN — A music school, an artist and a zen boot camp, all with A-list clients, were struggling to find spaces to lease as landlords are often reluctant to take on supposedly challenging tenants.

That's why these clients ended up in so-called "ghost spaces," with the help of broker Conrad Bradford.

Bradford specializes in helping clients find ghost spaces — places not listed on commercial real estate databases such as CoStar but which are available for rent, for those in the know.

When Tone Academy of Music, painter James Austin Murray and the boot camp company Circuit of Change were each looking for new homes, they became stuck. Building owners didn't want to rent to schools — too many loud children, Artists, they feared, would live in their workspace, and yoga studios brought too many sweaty bodies.

Since so few brokers know where to find ghost spaces, there’s much less competition for potentially noisy tenants like Tone Academy of Music, which teaches violin, piano, voice and other instruments to infants and children.

Ghost spaces hide everywhere and are unlisted for a variety of reasons, said Bradford, who works at Miron Properties and focuses his attention on the area from 59th to Chambers streets.

Sometimes he will spot a place that’s just been vacated or is undergoing renovations, catching it before it heads to the database. Sometimes he’ll find places never destined for databases, perhaps because the landlord doesn't speak English or thinks he can rent out the space himself, or he or she simply forgot about the space.

Bradford zips around Manhattan on his motorized Go-Ped kick scooter scouring the streets for these spaces, talking to building owners, landlords and other sources as he sleuths around town.

“It’s shoe leather, making rounds," he said. "I’m pretty much anywhere I want to be within 15 minutes."

 Jenny Murphy, of Tone Academy of Music, which recently moved to a new space in TriBeCa.
Jenny Murphy, of Tone Academy of Music, which recently moved to a new space in TriBeCa.
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Jenny Murphy

“When I’m going after these properties I don’t see anyone else," Bradford said. "The vast majority of people don't know about them. A lot of agents rely on a [database] tool, and we still do need them. But if you get down to the dregs in the database, what are your options?”

Tone Academy grew from 40 to 150 students, said founder Jenny Murphy, and no longer fit into the TriBeCa space she had been renting, on an hourly basis, for the previous two years.

“The building has to be okay with the two buzzwords, children and music. It seemed like almost an impossible task until [Bradford] found this unlisted listing," Murphy said of her new space at 118 Baxter St., which opened in mid-July following a four-month search. 

To retain her students — which include the kids of notable New Yorkers such as actress Amy Carlson, owners of brunch hotspot Bubby’s and Kenneth Cole’s former CFO — she wanted to stay in the neighborhood but had specific needs, such as an elevator for strollers and a doorman so kids wouldn't need to continually buzz in.

"He was like a dog on a bone," Murphy added of Bradford's approach to finding her a space.

Tone’s new home had been occupied by a company that disappeared “in the middle of the night,” leaving everything behind — including workers' full coffee cups on desks — Murphy said.

Murphy met broker Bradford through her exercise trainer Brian Delmonico, whose Circuit of Change incorporates yoga, martial arts and gymnastics into workouts. He had been running small outdoor boot camps when Bradford found him a ghost property in Union Square two years ago at 57 W. 16th St.

“Getting the right space is really important,” Delmonico said. “I look back and it’s changed my whole course of life.”

The business grew from 100 members to 1,500, Delmonico said.

Murphy hopes her school will flourish in its new, bigger TriBeCa quarters, too.

“Here we could design space for our needs," she said. "It’s going to resonate throughout the whole business.”