Wall Street Journal flogs north Tribeca for no apparent reason

too much time on their hands?
Believe me, I get that one purpose of the media wing of the Manhattan Real Estate Industrial Complex is to create ‘news’ about little neighborhoods, in part to follow a narrative of up-and-coming. This Wall Street Journal piece from last week, Upscale, With Rough Edges Intact, serves that purpose about the classic Manhattan loft micro-nabe northern Tribeca (north of N. Moore Street) but it really irritates me and I am not sure exactly why. If you’ve got time for a therapy session, soldier on….

terribly mangling the new development time line
Laura Kusisto’s thesis is simple:

in a surprising reversal, real-estate prices in northern TriBeCa, the triangle of real estate between Canal Street and North Moore, now surpass those in the area’s southern reaches.

The median price of condos on the market in northern TriBeCa is $3.3 million, or $1,472 a square foot, according to StreetEasy data analyzed by The Wall Street Journal. The median price of a condo in southern TriBeCa is $2.8 million, or $1,268 a square foot, the data show.

TriBeCa north commands higher prices these days in part because it has emerged as an exclusive enclave for young families and secretive celebrities aiming to escape the hordes of tourists in SoHo and southern TriBeCa.

I don’t know where to begin. (Though I am curious about what caused the tipping point in prices compared to the south.)

I will start with her details. As ‘proof’, she offers sales at current new development 250 West Street (at which no units have closed yet), a story about Duane Park (well south of N. Moore) in the 1980s, 2008 new development One York, which somehow inspired River Lofts at 416 Washington Street (where sales started in 2005) and the Sugar Warehouse at 79 Laight Street (where sales started in 2002), with the laughable comment that “[m]any of these new condo buildings were completed just in time for the recession”.

Her editor attempted to help, by including the The Fairchild at 55 Vestry Street on the accompanying map, as this new development was “completed just in time for the recession”, with first closed sales in 2010. But they both missed Pearline Soap at 414 Washington Street, where sales began to close in November 2008, Zinc at 475 Greenwich Street, where the first sales closed in June 2008, and the Tribeca Summit at 415 Greenwich Street, where the first sales closed in April 2008.

For more current fare, Kusisto might also have talked about the current new development, the American Express Carriage House at 157 Vesey Street (no sales have closed yet), or the revived 471 Washington Street (no sales have closed yet).

For more bleeding edge development, she might have talked about the locally game-changing Hubert at 7 Hubert Street, which was a new new development way back in 2004, or the Fischer Mills Building at 62 Beach Street, which dates from 2001.

I could include other high-end inventory in the northwest corner of Tribeca, but I hope you get the point. Starting with 250 West Street is one thing, but highlighting the 2008 One York as inspiration for two much earlier developments, while ignoring the other nearby trend-setters is … odd.

premise about ‘neighborhood’ is really about new developments
This is like saying that the “neighborhood” just west of Columbus Circle “commands higher prices these days in part because it has emerged as an exclusive enclave for young families and secretive celebrities aiming to escape the hordes of tourists in” the Upper West Side, and ‘proving’ this by citing increased median condo prices in a small area that includes 15 Central Park West and the Time Warner Center. Those two condo developments were wildly successful, have achieved prices previously unseen nearby, and (probably) have had some collateral impact on values nearby.

As noted above, there have been notable new developments in northwest Tribeca that started closing in 2001, 2002, 2004 and probably each year since. Proportionately more new developments here than elsewhere in Tribeca, because Tribeca west of Church between N. Moore and Chambers was already pretty well developed by 2001.

So there is probably a story here. Just not the one in this Wall Street Journal hackery.

Instead of Bouley trash-talking about 1980s Duane Park (which I do not remember that way, and I ate his food when he was a mere chef at Montrachet), the geography cries out for a quote from one of the brothers Capsouto. They have lived the transition in northwest Tribeca from their corner of Watts and Washington since 1980.

Or talk to the Ponte family. Not only do they own one of the pioneering restaurants in this area, but they continue to own a lot of parcels with development rights nearby.

Instead of talking to a south Tribeca restaurateur about south Tribeca in the 1980s, you could ask the Pontes about the fish market that spilled out into the street at 460 Greenwich and which was declared (as recently as 1996) a “public nuisance”, as covered in the Tales of Olde Tribeca segment in my January 30, 459 Washington Street loft bounces back to the right price to sell. Or you could ask them what they plan to do with that lovely-in-a-gritty-way 460 Greenwich (rumors mongered by Curbed on September 22).

one more swing at the pinata
In typical Manhattan Loft Guy fashion (where too much is rarely enough), I think I have found the one factoid that initially set me off about the Kusisto piece.

The first major development to come to the area was One York, 32 condos in a converted Civil War-era warehouse.

The project’s developer, Stanley Perelman of Jani Real Estate, said that when he started marketing the building around 2008, it was a tough sell because the neighborhood remained rough around the edges.

"At the time, that project wasn’t for everybody. Today, it’s for most people. In three or four years, it will be for everybody," he said.

Oh dear.

Yes, One York sits at the northern edge of Tribeca, but I can’t think of anyone who would consider it as part of the same micro-nabe as 250 West Street, or the Sugar Warehouse or River Lofts, or anything else west of Hudson Street. It is not noted on the map, but One York sits at the multi-corner where Lispenard brings traffic east, exiting the Holland Tunnel. Sixth Avenue carries traffic north, to the tunnel and points north, and Canal is just a few yards away. This building is as much an island unto itself, surrounded by traffic, as any single building in Manhattan I can think of.

I estimate that the degree to which any marketing difficulties at One York were related to the northwest Tribeca historic district as (approximately) zero. And that is being conservative.

Have you ever walked west from One York? To get from there to the blooming Hudson River parks and walks, you first cross Varick where that tunnel exit is, then walk a pedestrian bridge over the tunnel spillways, then walk parallel to the spillway along Lispenard Laight (oops), then (finally!) cross the exiting-tunnel traffic at Hudson Street.

You need to put some distance from Hudson Street behind you, before finding that “bohemian quality that a lot of people gravitate to." From One York no one would think you are in a “quiet neighborhood [that] can feel deserted in the evenings”, not with 24 hour tunnel traffic (buses and trucks and horns, oh my!) on two sides.

And don’t get me started on the bit about “play[ing] stickball in the street".

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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