New York City is in a constant state of flux. At no time was this better illustrated than during the recent New Year’s Eve celebrations. Photographs of Times Square celebrations past were constantly flashed across television screens, but what Times Square was this? With the exception of the Paramount Building at 1501 Broadway, there was barely a recognizable landmark to be found. Were it not for the geographical layout of Broadway and Seventh Avenue, many of our older citizens would be hard-pressed to identify the theater district of 1940 with the millennial melee of 2000.
Neighborhoods throughout Manhattan are subjected to this same, strange metamorphosis, as well. Twenty-five years ago, you couldn’t pay a young couple to move to certain areas in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Some old-time residents recall particular streets that were among the most dangerous, drug- and crime-infested areas in Manhattan. Those that lived there wanted to move out. Today, good luck finding a studio apartment in the area for under $2,000 per month.
Yesterday’s squalor has a way of turning in to today’s prime real estate. A stellar example of this is the dramatic change that has come over the Flatiron district and surrounding environs down to–and including–Union Square, one of the hottest neighborhoods to emerge in the past ten years. With the renovations of the Hugh O’Neal building at Sixth Avenue and 21st Street, and the introduction to the area of many commercial chain stores, such as Barnes and Noble (at both Sixth Avenue and 22nd Street, and Union Square North), Bed, Bath & Beyond, Old Navy, Today’s Man, and The Wiz, real estate prices have skyrocketed, leading many once commercial properties to be rezoned for residential use. One Seventy Fifth Avenue (at 22nd Street) is currently going through such a transformation from commercial to condo, with two- and three-bedroom apartments starting at $1.3 million and above.
"We tend to focus on properties south of 23rd Street," says Edward Baquero, managing partner with Landmark Developers, LLC in Manahttan. "Adaptive development has many advantages over new construction. First, you can turn around a property in eight or nine months, as opposed to a year or more for new development." Baquero notes that SoHo and TriBeCa are still two of the hottest areas of development in Manhattan, and says that by retrofitting existing properties in the area with the amenities of new construction–the type you would find, for example, on the Upper East Side–he is able to offer quality living space at a lower price per-square-foot. "There is such great diversity of cultures down here, we’re finding even some of the established law firms and retail businesses from Uptown are eager to move into the area. It’s such a creative area, still full of galleries, and eclectic shops and restaurants. People want to live down here. With that in mind, our newest space offers residents 24-hour concierge service, wood-burning fireplaces, and wine cellars. Each apartment measures from 4,200 square feet for the smallest unit, up to 6,500 square feet."