Cresa finds niche representing commercial real estate occupiers

This article appeared originally on Rochester Business Journal.

When the search is on for a house, most buyers appreciate the market savvy and guidance provided by their real estate agent.

So it seems to reason that businesses may want the same personalized service when it comes time to lease space or buy a building.

That’s the premise behind Cresa, a global commercial real estate firm representing only space occupiers.

“Just like when you buy a home, there is someone who can represent you when you’re leasing space,” said Zac Conley, managing principal of Cresa offices in Rochester and Albany.

Cresa entered the Rochester market in January and officially opened its East Avenue office in August. While there are dozens of high quality commercial real estate brokers in the Rochester market, Conley says Cresa is different because the focus is on only the tenant or owner occupant, not the property owner looking to lease or sell space.

“You can get really great service from our competitors,” Conley said. “But we only work with occupiers, it’s like a generalist vs. a specialist. It’s all we do.”

Cresa provides an array of services, including finding space, assistance in lease negotiations and design of the workplace or manufacturing space.

Maybe their calculations are based on old formulas or on the amount of space needed for a workforce that is fully in the office, when today’s work-from-home arrangements may mean considerably less space is necessary.

The Cresa advisors also are willing to point out to a prospective property buyer that bigger isn’t always better.

“Our view is let’s close the deal that makes the most sense for our clients,” Conley said. “It may mean less money for us, but it ensures we’re going to get hired again. I’ve told so many people over the years, ‘You don’t want to buy this building.’ They’re surprised, but I’d rather get them in the right deal than have them upside down in a property.”

Conley has operated Cresa in Albany since 2014. With a solid client base in the Finger Lakes, Western New York and Southern Tier, he realized in 2020 that it was time to open another office. Ben Kirnie and Chris Lindner, who previously worked for Rochester’s Pyramid Brokerage Company, a Cushman & Wakefield affiliate, were hired to run operations.

They believe the Rochester market will continue to grow as employers continue to allow flexibility for workers and employees gravitate away from major metropolitan areas. And the educational system, technology base and pro startup environment make the region attractive to tech companies.

“Maybe I’m too much of a cheerleader but I think Upstate New York has a lot going for it,” Conley said. “I just think there’s a lot of really smart people here and the area can realize brain gain instead of brain drain.”

Figuring out what’s best for a firm in terms of space needs remains a work in progress. As new variants of COVID-19 become known, many companies prefer to maintain workplace flexibility. They’re not able to commit to long leases because of the ongoing uncertainty.

“We’re doing a lot of one-year renewals,” Lindner said.

Said Conley: “This new hybrid workplace, people still don’t know what that means yet. What do we need for an office? Unassigned seats? Fixed worked areas? We have some clients where no one — even the CEO — has a desk.”

The recently opened Rochester office enables Cresa to have a better feel not only for what companies need, but how to obtain the best terms, Conley said.

“The reality is, you need boots on the ground to really understand the market,” Conley said.