For many, Midtown Manhattan represents the place to leave at the end of the day. It’s where office and retail workers escape from, clamoring on buses, subways and trains, taking off their suits and uniforms the moment they get home, getting the city off the backs. So it may come as a surprise to many, especially those that work there, that Midtown Manhattan is becoming a booming hub for residential living.
There are several factors at play. Firstly, the old adage of “build it and they will come” applies. A deluge of luxury high rises have been soaring skywards adding amenities that make living in Midtown thoroughly enjoyable — gyms, spas, restaurants — along with the obvious convenience ofa walkable distance to and from work and the added attraction of being close to Broadway, Central Park and scores of other entertainment options.
It's meant that the landscape of Midtown is changing. Large swathes of office heavy areas that stretch from beneath Broadway to Central Park used to be dark and desolateat night with most of the fun happening downtown. The increased focus on creating ultra thin, super tall residential buildings is transforming chunks of city. The only thing higher that the groundbreaking skyscrapers themselves are the prices they are selling for.
The skyscraper at 432 Park Avenue was designed by the starchitect Rafael Viñoly for developers Harry Maclow and the CIM Group. The penthouse in the property has already sold for a staggering $95 million, close to $11,500 per square foot. A full-floor unit on the 96th floor will be the highest condo in the western hemisphere until the completion in 2018 of the 1550-foot tall 225 West 57th St, by developers Extell. One of the most discussed of the the new luxury towers in midtown has to be 53 West 53rd Street designed by architect Jean Nouveau which will also house the Museum of Modern Art in its striking criss-cross metal and glass facade. Clearly this is not the Midtown of your parents’ generation.
Other factors are at play as well. There will always be a certain luxury retail attraction for the ultra wealthy living in these luxury condo but for other retailers the advent of e-commerce has decimated stores that sell things which can just as easily been purchased on amazon.com. This has meant that their places have been taken by amazon proof stores such as restaurants and “experience” destinations where customers can get involved in activities (meet and greets from sports stars). This in turn has meant that the businesses now stay open later than if they were merely retail stores, adding a friendly, livelier after dark atmosphere.
The existing, older towers in Manhattan have realized that in order to compete with their sleeker, amenity heavy bethren, they need to polish up their act. Moribund real estate mutton is being rejuvenated as luxurious light and airy lamb. According to the NY Post at least 11 Manhattan office towers, ranging in age from the 1950’s to the 1990’s, are getting do overs to the tune of $2 billion. Some, such as Douglas Durst’s 4 Times Square are barely two decades old.
From green technology (cleaning, recycling) at the Empire State Building to modern tiling, green terraces and light filled lobbies with public food courts, older buildings are being rebranded to keep in line with the tastes of their millennial workforce. Case in point is 159 E. 53rd St which is being upgraded to the tune of $150 million. Owned by Boston Properties, which also owns the neighboring 399 Park Ave, new additions will include a new facade, new private lobby and a revamp of a sunken public plaza on the corner of 53rd Street and Lexington Avenue. There will also be a new entrance along East 53rd St offering increased street accessibility to the below-grade food hall via a large stairway. A new private lobby will service the five office floors above.
Then of course there’s the 800lb gorilla in the room — Hudson Yards and all the development taking place on the west side of Manhattan. Only a five to ten minute subway ride separates much of midtown to from it and vice versa. Throw in the massive upgrades planned for the city’s transit hubs — Penn Station, Grand Central, The Port Authority Bus Terminal and its easy to see why Midtown Manhattan is becoming the place to be. At last.