In about a decade from now, a six-story retail complex will open on the Hudson Yards site in Midtown West. The shops there, including two floors of restaurants and a dine-in movie theater, should do for nearby luxury towers what the Time Warner Center, one of Related’s earlier experiments in large-scale development, did for Columbus Circle in 2003.
“It’s certainly helped establish the Eighth Avenue corridor as highly desirable residential location,” said Jacqueline Urgo of the Marketing Directors, who has helped launch new developments in both Midtown West and northern Hell’s Kitchen.
With dining options ranging from Masa, a Japanese restaurant serving $400 sushi plates, to the bar fare at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Time Warner Center is more entertainment destination than mall. “The retail flourishing there allows shopping as theater, which is what’s planned for Hudson Yards as well,” Urgo said.
At the Sheffield, a condo tower Urgo is marketing on 58th Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues, the Time Warner Center features prominently in promotional materials. In the sales center, a photo collage of nearby attractions includes shops at the complex.
“It’s been an unbelievable sales program,” Urgo said of the 580-unit building, a rental before being repositioned as a luxury condo. “It benefits from the excitement of Time Warner.”
Over at Griffin Court, a 95-unit condo on Tenth Avenue developed by Alchemy Properties, the iconic towers are visible from the corner and top-floor units, along with the Hearst Tower and Empire State Building.
“When people want a city view, they want a landmark city view,” said Ken Horn, president of Alchemy.
Eight years ago, the building would have had few vistas to boast about. “I remember when Two Columbus Circle was there. It was a hideous building,” Horn recalled. “There was no new development.” Since Time Warner opened, a row of glass rental towers have sprung up on Tenth Avenue, in the West 50s.
Not only are the shimmering towers an architectural boon to northern Hell’s Kitchen, but a draw for affluent foodies. “Whole Foods is in Time Warner,” said Horn. “I would bet more than half the residents shop at Whole Foods.” A similar number, perhaps, attend concerts at Jazz at Lincoln Center, which overlooks Central Park on the tower’s fifth floor.
Griffin Court is seeing about two closings a week. Hudson Hill, another Alchemy property in the shadow of the Time Warner Center, sold out after a year and two months on the market.
Units at Griffin Court are priced between $1,100 and $1,200 per s/f, so the Time Warner Center, which has seen apartments sell for as much as $37.5 million, isn’t direct competition.
“It’s a totally different market,” Horn explained. “You can use it as an anchor, and a tool for marketing.”
Hudson Yards has taken on a similar role. Though the project is 10 or 12 long years away from completion, the mere promise of its construction has helped transform Midtown West from an industrial wasteland into one of Manhattan’s hottest neighborhoods.
According to a New York Economic Development Corporation report on Hudson Yards, nearly 3,000 residential units have been constructed in the vicinity over the last six years, at rental buildings like the Atelier, Hudson Crossing, and the Orion.
An Eastern Consolidated report on the neighborhood noted that “the Atelier, River Place, the Silver Towers, MiMA and soon the Atelier II, five new buildings on far West 42nd Street alone, have attracted residents to venture west.”
With its gritty fringes and proximity to the clubs and art galleries of Chelsea, the neighborhood has drawn fashion-conscious bohemians, investment bankers, and digerati — a dream demographic for retailers. “There are lots of singles, which means no kids in private school and more money to spend,” said Jay Cross of Related, who spoke at an AREW luncheon just hours after Mayor Bloomberg announced that handbag maker, Coach would be anchoring the first tower to be built at Hudson Yards.
After building a rental tower in the neighborhood in the late nineties, Gotham Organization felt like a pioneer, said Melissa Pianki, a senior vice president at the firm. When the company broke ground last week on a luxury development on 11th Avenue, between 44th and 45th streets, which will boast a 10,000 s/f courtyard, the surrounding blocks no longer seemed like the Wild West. “Now we think of this as an established neighborhood,” Pianki said.
With Coach relocating to Hudson Yards in several years, the timing of construction for the project, which has yet to be named, couldn’t be better.
“We’re thrilled,” said Pianko, who serves as project manager for the development. “Maybe some of their employees will move into the building.”
For the most part, though, she predicts the mix of condos and rentals will fill up with young professionals with offices in midtown, or those that commute through the Lincoln Tunnel to New Jersey. “If there’s a couple, and one person works in New Jersey and one works in midtown, you can easily commute,” she said.
For 40 years, the block-long site sat in limbo. Before the city decided to rezone it for housing, there were talks of building a television studio. Gotham acquired it six years ago, and worked with the city as the area was rezoned.
TF Cornerstone, another early pioneer in Midtown West, saw three years of patience pay off after acquiring land to build two rental towers on West 37th Street. Sensing that the neighborhood was one of Manhattan’s final frontiers, the company sat on the parcels, at 505 and 455 West 37th Street, until residential zoning was introduced in 2005.
“At the time, we didn’t know about the Hudson Yards project, we didn’t know about the No. 7 subway extension,” said Jon McMillan, director of planning at TF Cornerstone. “It was the icing on cake.”
What the neighborhood hasn’t seen much of, McMillan said, is condo construction. With rentals rising left and right during the real estate boom, land in the neighborhood grew expensive. And residential zoning is limited to the blocks east of Hudson Boulevard, a four-acre park under construction between 10th and 11th Avenue, from 39th to 42nd Street.
“You have to be in just the right spot,” McMillan explained. Still, Urgo of the Marketing Directors said that a handful of new condo developments are in the works. “I think that they’re all going to come very quickly,” she said. “There’s going to be a critical mass.”
All McMillan sees missing is a good supermarket. When marketing a ground-floor retail space at 505 West 37th Street, “we tried really hard to get a grocery store,” he said. A deal in the works fell apart, and Ark, the restaurateur that owns Bryant Park Grill, signed a lease instead.
But there’s room for basic amenities at luxury buildings elsewhere in the neighborhood. The Gotham development on 11th Avenue will offer 17,000 s/f of retail, most of it on the ground floor. The space is too small for a Whole Foods, Pianko said, but perhaps suitable for a Trader Joe’s, which the company brought last year to the base of the Corner, a rental tower on the Upper West Side.
And of course, food establishments will abound at Hudson Yards. With two floors of dining options, the mall there promises to double the entertainment and dining options in Columbus Circle. “It’ll be Time Warner on steroids,” said Cross.