They included four transactions of more than 100,000 square feeteach: three in Midtown and one in suburban New Jersey. And in whatwas reportedly the largest deal of the year, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind,Wharton & Garrison opted to stay at 1285 Ave. of the Americas.The law firm rented a total of 585,000 square feet in the 1.4million-square-foot tower that's owned by AXA Equitable LifeInsurance Co. and institutional investors advised by J.P. MorganAsset Management.

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But do these deals, and the general uptick in leasing velocityduring the third and fourth quarters of '09, signal renewedtraction? Michael R. Laginestra, the CB Richard Ellis vice chairmanwho helped negotiate Simon & Schuster's 292,000-square-footrenewal at Tishman Speyer's 1230 Ave. of the Americas, thinksso—but with some caveats.

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Although a partial unfreezing of the credit markets compared totheir state of paralysis a year ago has encouraged tenants to act,"there are still real problems with the underlying fundamentals—andI'm not just talking about New York City real estate, but theoverall economy," Laginestra tells GlobeSt.com.

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That being said, he believes the leasing momentum was noyear-end blip, but will carry forth into this year, and that thefirst quarter of 2010 will be normally low-key, rather than nearlycomatose as it was last year at this time. "I talk to my clients,and they're active; they're working deals," he says.

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In its Q4 Manhattan office report released Wednesday, Jones LangLaSalle notes that there were 25 leases of more than 100,000 squarefeet during the second half of '09, compared to just eight in thefirst six months. Among them was CBRE's just-announced125,771-square-foot, 15-year renewal of its own lease at TishmanSpeyer's 200 Park Ave., where it's been based since 1987. However,big deals or no, JLL says vacancy rates ticked upward somewhatacross the three submarkets during Q4, while asking rents continuedto erode.

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"Despite prevailing stability in the vacancy rate, averageasking rents throughout Manhattan moved lower," says JamesDelmonte, VP and director of research for JLL's New York office, ina release. "Adjustments in pricing have been the most dramaticamong class A properties in Midtown. At $65.19 per square foot, theMidtown class A rate is down by 28% from the same time last yearand off by 33% from peak in May 2008."

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As to whether rents will continue to level off, Laginestra saysit's going to be very much on a case-by-case basis, and adds thatdecline is partly a matter of perception. "If you paid $60 per footin what should have been a $50 market, and you took 10 floors andthen decided you overbought and needed to sublease one of them,you're going to say 'the market's going to continue to decline; ourspace is worth only $50 per foot,'" he says. "If you paid $50 perfoot, you'd say the market's flat. So it's really a case of howwell you negotiated your transaction."

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Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny is managing editor of Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com. He has been reporting on business since 1988 and on commercial real estate since 2007. He is based at ALM Real Estate Media Group's offices in New York City.