Is a 3D printing boom on New York City’s horizon? We asked this important question back in December when the Netherlands-based 3D printer Shapeways signed two leases totaling 35,000 square feet of space in Long Island City and in Midtown South, the former for manufacturing space and the latter for front-office and sales personnel. Coupled with MakerBot’s space in Brooklyn and the city’s continued focus on attracting engineering and technical talent to Gotham, it seemed reasonable at the time to suggest that 3D printing could become New York City’s next big thing.
Already it seems like the answer to our inquiry might be yes: Shapeways recently announced that it will double its presence at 419 Park Avenue South from that initial 5100 square feet on the 20-story tower’s 8th floor to over 9000 square feet by expanding into the entire 9th floor. The deal also gives Shapeways future expansion rights that would allow it to take up to 30,000 square feet across three floors. It also preserves the original lease obligations, including the deal’s 10-year term.
The company, which is headquartered in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, does not actually manufacture 3D printing equipment (like Brooklyn’s MakerBot). Instead, it prints custom products for clients on a project-by-project basis using specialized equipment at its 25,000-square-foot Long Island City facility. It also has some significant venture capital backing – over $10 million from Lux Capital and Union Square Ventures – which is partly why it chose 419 Park Avenue South for its Manhattan office location in the first place. The tower – which stands at the corner of East 29th Street, just north of Madison Square Park, was built in 1927 as the Bowker Building and designed by Walter Haefli of Ely Jacques Kahn’s office.
Asking rents for Shapeways’ new space have been in the $50s per square foot – a significant increase from years past. But that’s not a surprise given the appeal of Midtown South and Silicon Alley to technology industry firms, many of which are heading north to Times Square for cheaper rents, higher vacancy rates, and larger floor plates. “A lot of emerging tech companies are being pushed out of the area because of the rising prices,” a Shapeways spokesperson told Crain’s, which reported on the deal last week. “But Shapeways wanted to be here, this is an important location for them that is close to venture capital sources in the tech sector, not to mention transit hubs like Penn Station, Union Square and Grand Central.”
3D printing is an exciting new technology that seems poised to capitalize on New York City’s focus on developing and nurturing STEM talent. It’s still early to draw definitive conclusions about the technology’s long-term ability to buoy New York City’s economy, but more deals like Shapeways suggest that its future in Gotham is bright indeed.