Barbara Nelson is editor of Real Estate New York .

NEW YORK CITY-With New York City leading the nation in job and wage growth, its economic future has no signs of weakening, said panelists at a Real Estate Outlook seminar earlier today. Housing demand is booming here as well.

The discussion included Rosemary Scanlon, a panelist and an associate professor of economics at the Real Estate Institute of New York University and a consultant in urban and regional economics; John Powers, chairman of the New York Tri-State Region of CB Richard Ellis; Stuart Match Suna, co-owner and president of Silvercup Studios and Barry B. LePatner, founder of LePatner & Associates. Scanlon said describing New York City’s economy as “robust is an understatement.” When Wall Street is doing well, so does New York City, since 21% of the total wages in the city are generated on Wall Street. “So much is driven by what happens on Wall Street,” she said. In addition, Wall Street bonuses were up by 20% in 2005, over the previous year, which is very much an indicator of good times ahead.

Even though the nation’s housing demand may be slowing, it is still very much alive here. In 1995, there were just 5,000 housing permits issued. That number grew to 25,000 in 2004 and hasn’t shown signs of stopping. “As long as I have been tracking housing development in New York City, it is still a factor of demand,” Scanlon said. “We still need every bit that’s being built.”

With demand for housing so strong, most new construction in city has been residential, leaving little developable land for the construction of office towers. The exceptions are the city’s West Side plan to add 28 million sf of commercial office space over a 30-year period as well as the Ground Zero development that will add 10 million sf of office space over the next five to six years.

In Midtown vacancy rates are hovering just below 9%, with only four properties now under construction: One Bryant Park, the former New York Times Building, the new New York Times Building and the Verizon Building that will add about three million sf in the next few years. However, demand will far outstrip the supply and rents are expected to exceed $100 per sf. “It’s a question of how high rents will go,” Powers said. “There is a flight to quality. Top buildings are already going at significantly higher rents.”

With the strength of New York economy fueled in part by companies doing business in the financial arena there may very well be price wars in New York City’s future. “The financial industry in New York will put pressure on the market and when they need space they will take it down at any cost,” Powers said.

Suna spoke about Silvercup Studios, the two-million-sf mixed-use project in Queens that will add 665,000 sf of office space to the Long Island City waterfront. The project is currently in the Uniform Land Use Review Process. The seminar was hosted by LePatner & Associates LLP, the Rampart Group Insurance Associates, Sterling National Bank and Berdon LLP and held at the University Club.

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