As businesses in the New York City area start to roll out reopening plans and consider their post-covid strategy, the outer boroughs could hold increasing appeal for commercial tenants.

That could be good news for new office building developments in Long Island City and downtown Brooklyn.

Big office space users have been reluctant to leave Manhattan in the past, but now companies are seeking plenty of room for social distancing. Building owners and commercial brokers are forecasting many may relocate their offices away from expensive and crowded Manhattan office space or open satellite offices in outlying boroughs to provide employees more space at a lower cost per square foot. 

Brooklyn office rents are significantly cheaper than in Manhattan, averaging just over $60 per square foot for Class A properties, according to Squarefoot.com. Better parking access could be another plus, since it saves employees from having to take crowded public transit into the city as the pandemic wears on. 

One of CBRE’s top New York brokers, Paul Amrich, said there has been far more investment in commercial and residential real estate in both Brooklyn and Long Island City than in the runup to previous economic downturns, which better positions the submarkets to capitalize on lower-cost and more spacious office offerings.

“The boroughs stand to do better because of the specifics of this event, but also because they are far more mature than they ever have been in past cycles,” Amrich said in a statement.

Amrich is handling the leasing for JEMB Realty Corp’s 1 Willoughby Square in downtown Brooklyn. The new, 34-story building, which is about 25% leased, brings online 500,000 square feet of loft-like, class A space. 

Architect FXCollaborative, which designed the space, is the anchor tenant, occupying three floors. It offers 14,500 square foot open floor plans that are free of columns, allowing for flexibility in configuring space around safety requirements.

In Long Island City, Kaufman Organization principal Grant Greenspan, sees more opportunity for its newly completed project, The Cardinal Building, at 21-01 51st Ave. The three-story, industrial loft design offers 65,000 square feet of commercial office space with open floor plans and a rooftop deck.

Greenspan predicted that Long Island City’s lower prices per square foot will appeal to prospective tenants, given the current uncertainty of the economy. 

Time Equities’ Silks Building has also opened in Long Island City, located at 37-24 24th Street. The renovated industrial loft space, formerly a silk factory, offers space for social distancing. It also has multiple staircases and entrances, so workers don’t need to cram into elevators in a central lobby. The four-story, 120,000 square foot building is already mostly leased.

Brian Soto, Time Equities’ director of acquisitions and asset management, said he expects many big companies to keep their Manhattan space but, as they bring people back into the office, to open up satellite offices in the suburbs like Westchester, Fairfield and Bergen Counties that allow for greater social distancing and easier access by car.