Nearly one-third of that added inventory was brand-new space:SJP Properties' 11 Times Square, counted in the tally by CassidyTurley (formerly Colliers ABR) for the first time. At the moment,the speculative office property is 100% vacant although publishedreports suggest that could change by the time the tower comes online later this year. Another newly added property, the new GoldmanSachs headquarters at 200 West St., is counted as 100% occupied.With these new properties in the mix, Manhattan's total officeinventory is 449.1 million square feet.

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Although figures may vary by company due to differingmeasurement methodologies, the consensus view of reports by CBRE,Cassidy Turley and Jones Lang LaSalle is that Manhattan's vacancyrate did decline month-over-month in January. CBRE's figures show a10-basis point drop from 9.8% in December '09 to 9.7%, whileCassidy Turley says it was 13.5% in December and 13.3% last month.Coming in between those figures is JLL, which puts the island'soverall vacancy at 12.8%.

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According to JLL, Midtown's class A vacancy rate "improvedslightly" to 14.3% during January, compared to 14.7% at the end ofthis past year. "Several large deals that were supposed to close inDecember carried over into the new year," according to JLL. Due tothe increase in activity and "no notable blocks of space" placed onthe market, the class A vacancy for Midtown dropped below 14.5% forthe first time in nearly a year, JLL says.

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The overall Midtown South vacancy rate fell to 14%, compared to14.4% in December, according to Cassidy Turley. Submarkets with themost improvement were Hudson Square and SoHo/NoHo/Village.Downtown, the overall vacancy rate ticked upward to 7.8% in Januaryfrom 7.6% at year's end, says CBRE.

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In class A properties Downtown, vacancy rate remains"technically still within equilibrium levels" at 8.8%, according toJLL's report. The comparatively low vacancy rate Downtown "may bethe 'calm before the storm' as several large dispositions arelooming. Vacancy levels are expected to rise steadily over the nextfew years as several firms reevaluate their real estate needs."

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While a year-over-year comparison by CBRE shows that asking rentdeclines continued through 2009, falling from $63.65 in January '09to $48.86 per square foot last month, the reports suggest that themarket is stabilizing. "Manhattan average asking rent appears to benearing the bottom of the cycle (if it is not already there) withthe overall figure closing January at $50.80 per square foot, downonly slightly from $51.10 per square foot in December," wroteRobert Sammons, managing director of research, in the CassidyTurley report. "For Class A space alone, the average asking rentclimbed to $63.05 per square foot from $62.80 per square foot, thesecond consecutive monthly increase."

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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.