Posts Tagged ‘Soho’
Saturday, March 31st, 2012
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on March 31st, 2012
Forty years ago, zoning laws were enacted in New York permitting joint live/work quarters for artists who were certified by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. They were necessary to protect the remaining manufacturing uses as well as artists who occupied vacant or underutilized buildings here. Now, SoHo/NoHo are vibrant and diversified mixed use communities occupied not only by artists, but also by individuals and families with a broad range of professions. In addition, the zoning does not allow retail use of the ground floors of many SoHo/NoHo buildings, even though most ground floors now have retail uses.
We live under a growing cloud of illegality and it’s time to clear the air. We can no longer ignore the long standing reality that the zoning of Soho and Noho does not match its current use.The SoHo/NoHo Action Committee has worked on behalf of the community to assess the current uses in the community and initiate appropriate changes to the current laws. They are committed to protecting everyone’s occupancy and livelihood, certified artists as well as non-artists.
Since meeting June 2011, the SoHo/NoHo Action Committee has made great progress and brought their concerns to governmental agencies such as the New York City Department of City Planning, the local City Council representatives, Community Board representatives, the Mayor’s office and others in the political community. BUT they cannot move forward without an accurate and comprehensive survey of how these loft buildings are occupied–both commercially and residentially. Here’s where they need your help:
The Committee is hiring an independent surveying team from the Real Estate Institute of Baruch College and they need to fund their work this summer. This survey is critical to progress on this important issue. No New York City agency will entertain this application without a survey of the existing conditions in the Soho/Noho neighborhood. Your support will enable bringing SoHo/NoHo into the 21st century and protect the property rights of countless owners who have contibuted to these vibrant neighborhoods. It is time to face the reality that lofts in SoHo/NoHo are no longer used for manufacturing, that many people occupy their spaces as residences, and that the manufacturing zoning which allows only certified artists is no longer the solution. This must change and this survey is a critical element to bring about this change.
The legal funding goal is $25,000 and must raise this amount by May 15th in order to complete the survey this summer. If each family in the community donated $100,or each building $1000, this goal would be reached quite easily. Please pass on the word to anyone living in Soho or Noho to join and help in this critical moment to affect the kind of change that respects the past and acknowledges the future of SoHo/NoHo. Make your checks payable to:
SoHo/NoHo Action Committee
c/o Margaret D. Baisley, 561 Broadway, Suite 10C
New York, New York 10012
Saturday, January 28th, 2012
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on January 28th, 2012
As I look out of my window in the distance I see a large U. S. Post Office facility and it reminds me of the on-going debacle that is the Post Office. I speak on this subject from a real estate perspective living in an area (West Chelsea) that has witnessed a radical transition from an entirely commercial area (that died) to a mostly residential and art gallery neighborhood. Real-estate-wise this has happened here, in Soho, Tribeca and around the world. It’s called evolution, and some keep fighting it……especially the US Post Office.
The problem with the Post Office is it acts and thinks like a big government. So the first thing it wants to turn to is protecting exactly what it does, keep doing it the same way, but apply extreme austerity measures by cutting. The employees only focus on keeping their benefits and keep working in the exact same manner as before demanding that the rest of the country support this farce. Both are wrong. And they are an incredibly accurate reflection of what is happening in our country politically as well as what happens in real estate…..until smarter people step in to change things.
In Soho, artists moved into mostly abandoned buildings where the wholesale textile industry used to thrive. When the industry died, so too did the neighborhood. Big scale developers were not interested because the land in Soho is not the best for building huge, hideous structures as it does not have the best bedrock for this type of construction. So artists moved in, upgraded the buildings to somewhat liveable….then came the restaurants and retail, and all of a sudden it was cool to live in a loft. So rich bankers bought lofts from the artists (making many of them very rich), renovated them, and within a few years Soho became a very high end residential real estate environment. But of course, government could not keep up, and still wants to enforce a program (A.I.R.) to protect the environment as an artist’s studio environment…..while collecting significantly higher real estate taxes from the new inhabitants. Another perfect example of government fighting evolution. Just like the post office.
Real estate is the most visible form of evolution in my mind…..seeing the speed of transformation of entire neighborhood uses is pretty astounding. And it works best when government and commerce work together as is witnessed now in the Hudson Yards, West Chelsea and the Financial District. Its smart government (raising real estate tax collection, encouraging transactional taxes, higher employment, etc) AND smart commerce (construction profits, rental incomes, tax breaks, etc).
Now back to the Post Office: the world has changed! We don’t mail as many letters as we used to. Federal Express ships boxes better than you and with much less attitude (lets face it: a trip to the post office used to be about being annoyed and insulted by rude, lazy, slow staff). We send e-mails. We send e-vites instead of mailed invitations. Now instead of ONLY focusing on cuts or preserving history, maybe its time for the Post office to re-invent itself. Here are some ideas:
1) Look closely at Federal Express and UPS: both have grown dramatically as the world evolved into ordering massive volumes of product on line, efficiently, cost effectively and with a friendly demeanor.
2) What other tasks could the post office perform, knowing that much of its real estate is located in PRIME locations in the hearts of most communities: how could they provide one-stop shopping for mail, stationery, coffee, tech supplies? If Duane Reade can sell sandwiches, what else can the Post Office sell?
3) Could the post office forge strategic partnerships with on-line retailers?
4) What about selling/leasing the roof real estate of all their locations for solar + wind farms? Replacing the light poles on top of their facility in West Chelsea with wind turbines could provide lighting for the roof as well as pay the electric bill.
5) What about all the post office vans becoming driving billboards advertising things besides the POST OFFICE? Or advertising all the new services they are introducing to the world?
Frankly I see ALL the opportunity for the post office in their real estate: yes, they have to trim costs and make their methods and staff more efficient. But more importantly they need to EVOLVE and re-invent their role in our society. Lets not forget: Apple was never a phone manufacturer a few years ago. Now just a few years later, it dominates the market.
Friday, July 15th, 2011
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on July 15, 2011
The question arose this week (and many times before) about the future of West Chelsea as an Arts Center: will West Chelsea go the way of Soho? Will Gagosian become the Gap? Will Prada replace Paula Cooper? Chanel replace Cheim & Reid?
“The biggest difference between Soho’s evolution into a high fashion retail environment and West Chelsea to-day is the fact that now most galleries own their space and don’t rent,” says Matt Amico, a West Chelsea resident and a Prudential Douglas Elliman broker. “When I moved into the Caledonia (450 West 17th Street)it was a brand new construction building: Alternatively, had I moved into Soho years ago, I probably would have replaced an artist.”
Soho artists did own many of the lofts that they moved from, mostly because they had bought them for next to nothing years ago: subsequently they have left behind a huge mess with the AIR program and walked away with huge, often retirement-fund-sized profits (well deserved, as they pioneered the area and transformed many derelict buildings into habitable homes and studios). West Chelsea is very different as the focus is not so much artists as it is galleries….and these (often highly profitable) galleries own their space this time: In Soho most were renting their retail/commercial space.
Another huge value to anyone in commerce is the high concentration of an industry: With about 350 art galleries concentrated within just a few blocks, the ability to lure potential art buyers is so much greater than being spread around the city, or worse, outside of the City removed from easy access. “The experience of visiting West Chelsea is now further enhanced by the fact that the recently opened Highline Park extension acts as a connector between West Chelsea’s arts district and the Meatpacking District, a thriving retail environment: so the area combines everything that Soho was 15 years ago with what it is to-day.”
The Highline Park, the new Avenue’s School, new restaurants, amenities and services combined with the Hudson River Park to the West add fuel to West Chelsea’s fire. When the subway stop is added to Eleventh Avenue and 34th Street, the northern end of the Arts District will be connected to Times Square via a 5 minute subway ride. Add to this a substantial volume of construction planned for the Hudson Yards area, diminishes the urgency to vacate current art gallery spaces to convert them or tear them down for residential use. There are still many vacant/commercial, non-art gallery building sites in West Chelsea to satisfy developers for several years. Walking on the Highline Park the other night amongst a very civilized group of calmer, more elegantly dispositioned New Yorkers, you actually saw the realization of this amazing neighborhood transformation: illuminated landscaping bracketed by exceptional new buildings that arch over the park such as the two stainless steel clad HL23 and 245 Tenth Avenue …..and in the distance a host of interesting new building mixed in with the older residential and commercial structures….and one day soon all this will terminate at a brand new Whitney Museum….
So my conclusion is that the unique flavor that has been created in West Chelsea is here to stay, for at least the next 10 years, and possibly much longer. Remember the entire area was re-zoned too to prevent a big mess, so maybe this is one area that will serve as a textbook case study for responsible development?
Thursday, March 31st, 2011
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on March 31, 2011
Residential real estate sales in Downtown New York soared in the month of March, and as the first quarter of 2011 draws to a close, it is clearly evident that the market has recovered strongly from a year ago, and even from the last quarter of 2010. This week an interesting sale occured: the signing of a contract on the top five floors at 471 Washington Street, a building situated directly on Canal Street, once considered New York poison, location-wise, with its excessive traffic and activity, mostly headed towards the Holland Tunnel. This almost $ 20 million sale (just under $ 3,000/sf) for the penthouse located at the northern end of Tribeca with a swimming pool and rather wonderful, protected views towards the Hudson River represents the third mega sale on Canal Street in recent years.
The first two were at 1 York, another building that is essentially located on Canal Street: one was a combination of several apartments with the set back terrace (not the penthouse) bought by Michael Hirtenstein a few years ago that are still being renovated into a mega-mansion style apartment also including a swimming pool. Last year the 1 York penthouse sold for around $ 23 million, the record for Canal Street…..so far.
So what else lies in the future of Canal Street? Will these apartments hold their value? Will they soar in value? Only time will tell. Canal Street certainly benefits by its proximity to Tribeca and Soho. These sales are certainly a potent message on the power of a protected, big view……something all these apartments feature…..regardless of traffic, noise or perception.
Sunday, December 19th, 2010
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on December 19, 2010
Downtown New York residential real estate inventories are now approaching the levels of 2005…..does this equate to the beginnings of a shortage? With new construction having ground to a virtual halt over the past 2 years, we should not expect any brand new DELIVERABLE quality ultra-luxury apartments for at least 2 years. This may result in two scenarios:
1) Sellers who have been waiting for pricing to recover to sell their homes may list now, thus producing the quantity of inventory to keep the markets balanced.
2) Because rebounding new construction will only be able to deliver product in about 2 years, pricing on ultra-luxe buildings could escalate, possibly dramatically. Ultra-luxe is in pretty limited supply regardless with only a handful of buildings that qualify. New ones are on the way.
In the past weeks we have seen numerous prize apartments sell at premium prices: Wendy Maitland just sold a prize unit at 40 Mercer in Soho for over $ 3,200/sf. Raphael De Niro just sold the penthouse at 166 Perry Street in Greenwich Village, and this is on top of units at Superior Ink, 200 Eleventh Avenue (West Chelsea) and 100 Eleventh Avenue (a non-top-floor penthouse was recently sold by Holly Parker for a premium price, $ 2,700/sf, although the press focused exclusively on the discount off the asking price). With these units gone, sold at premium pricing, and not that many left of this caliber, the next few months could prove to be very interesting indeed. Are we entering an era of LUXE HYPER-INFLATION?
Saturday, October 23rd, 2010
Is Downtown Manhattan the new New York SUBURB?
With 200 Eleventh Avenue, you have a garage attached to your own apartment……many full-full service buildings are becoming similar to suburban ‘gated communities’ affording even more conveniences than their suburban counterparts….think 101 Warren Street with its own Whole Foods, Bed Bath and Beyond and Barnes and Noble IN the building….in the suburbs you have to drive to those chains. Bicycle use has doubled in the past few years. Millions of trees have been planted, and parks are sprouting on every corner.
New York is becoming more suburbanized. You’ve got Home Depot, Costco, all the amenities that used to be reserved for the suburbs. The younger generation wants to live in Brooklyn, Hoboken, Chelsea, Tribeca, Soho and the Lower East Side, not in Westchester and Connecticut. Transportation from these areas to downtown is actually easier than to midtown. So when the decision makers are the next generations, it is likely that the importance of Grand Central to the decision makers will decrease relative to today. Advantage, downtown. It is fashionable to live and work Downtown….think VOGUE moving from Times Square to the Wall Street area.
“Convenience is the new luxury,” says Leonard Steinberg, publisher of LUXURYLETTER and managing director of Prudential Douglas Elliman, New York’s leading real estate brokerage. “Downtown dwellers love being able to walk to work. Walking is the one thing suburbs don’t allow. Downtown used to be all about manufacturing and finance offices: gentrification has changed that forever. A walk down a typical downtown street will include commercial lofts transformed into elegant homes, a doorman greeting guests…..tree lined streets, sidewalks with Mom’s or nannies with strollers, several Starbuck’s, only Downtown there is a strong infusion of unique boutiques and restaurants with an edgier flavor than Uptown,and certainly more interesting than the mix offered in Greenwich, Alpine or White Plains.”
Walk up Tenth Avenue from 14th Street and spot new condominiums and rental buildings by the dozen mixed in with hip, cool offices. Hudson Square surrounded by Tribeca and Soho features a substantial volume of media company office. Cross the street from Goldman Sachs and you land in Tribeca….stay on that side of the highway and you’re already in Battery Park City, and area that has grown tremendously in desirability. And all of this comes with greenery once only promised in suburban life.
Cut a commute from 1 hour a day to 30 minutes, and that adds up to more than a 5 day vacation per year…..