much diligence due over planned hotel in West 37 Street

how tall is a 300 unit hotel, anyway?
Part of the charm of living in loft neighborhoods (in Manhattan and elsewhere), for me and I suspect for many people, is that they may be ‘developing’ neighborhoods, with a certain vitality missing from more staid (mature) residential areas and (often, at least early) a discount from the overall market because the ‘developing’ neighborhood may be a little more gritty than mature residential areas.

Part of the risk of living in loft neighborhoods (in Manhattan and elsewhere) that are ‘developing’ neighborhoods is that they … uhhh … will continue to develop. Take the West 30s in Manhattan, for example, with classic loft buildings sitting on very gritty blocks, such as the Glass Farmhouse at 448 West 37 Street, the Cass Gilbert at 130 West 30 Street, the Courant and the Hartford at 360 and 348 West 36 Street (I love those names), the West Side Lofts at 347 West 39 Street, or 315 West 36 Street (why didn’t they give that one a name??).

In blogging terms, I hit this issue in this neighborhood a million years ago (in real terms, in my September 14, 2006, West 30s ready for a close-up (but send Max back to Bible study) and in my July 31, 2006, More on lofts with views / Big Sky Country in the West 30s, in which I noted “As grist for a future blog post, a couple of these buildings have nearby development slated which will impact some of the views, but that is for another day….”). Ladies and Germs, it is that other day!

CAUTION: views and light in Manhattan may be temporary
All of which is a roundabout way (the Manhattan Loft Guy way!) of introducing this news item from DNAinfo: Garment District Parking Lot to Become Hotel (h/t TRD) with this as The Story:

The Albanese Organization and The Buccini/Polin Group have purchased the parking lot at 312-318 W. 37th St. for $20.8 million from a pair of families that owned it for nearly a century.

The developers say they plan to build a 300-room hotel on the lot.

There is a nice photo of the parking lot on Property Shark, which also reveals that the roughly 100 ft x 100 ft lot has a Floor Area Ratio of 10, meaning that if the zoning otherwise allows it the lot could be built to its borders 10 stories high, or if the building took up only half the area of the lot, 20 stories high. Now look at that list of classic loft buildings sitting on very gritty blocks in the West 30s above. The Property Shark page for (the unnamed) 315 West 36 Street shows that much of this 140 foot wide 2006 condo conversion is directly south of the planned hotel at 312-318 West 37 Street.

I bet that everyone on with north-facing windows at 315 West 36 Street has been (or will be) researching the zoning regs and the plans for the hotel. Depending on the size and shape of the hotel (if it is ever built, of course), the “B”, “C” and “D” lines are in danger of losing some or all of their open north exposures (some north-facing units here have lovely terraces). I hope that every one considering buying one of these north-facing units is diligent enough to know about the plans to build the hotel (which may never be built, of course).

I hope.

I hit the issue of losing one’s view in my June 27, 2011, 542 LaGuardia Place sale from February is news to New York Times readers, which dealt with controversial (and long term) development plans by NYU, but the issue is much more common than you’d think. Consider the American Thread Building at 260 West Broadway in Tribeca, and the hotel that got built 25 years later nearly touching the north facades. Or — in the best example of forever views not being forever — the whole development of the shamefully named Riverside Boulevard by that ego maniac.

I hit those two examples and others in my July 11, 2006, Now you see it (and pay for it), now you don’t / what are views worth? (another million year old blog post!). That post was occasioned by an article in The Real Deal that directly bears on this risky-views-in-developing-nabes issue (hint: “development … can both destroy views and increase real estate values”). That TRD article (now seemingly vanished from the inter-tubes, darn) used Trumpville as an example, and the development whose views it ruined; let me quote from the article and that Manhattan Loft Guy piece:

What goes around…

Ironically, the article uses the Lincoln Towers buildings (about ten 30-story towers along West End Avenue in the high 60s) as an example of development that can both destroy views and increase real estate values. When the Towers were built in the late 1950s, anyone to the east that used to enjoy Hudson River boats and colorful New Jersey tinted sunsets lost all of that. But – over time – the introduction of so many new residents increased services over time and, thus, property values in the neighborhood.

"The construction of the Lincoln Towers [on the Upper West Side] worked as a positive," Kammerer said. "The expensive limestone buildings enhanced the neighborhood."

When an entire complex of properties like the Lincoln Towers is developed, it elevates the value of neighboring properties, translating into higher property values.

"There is a loss of scenic view but the association to the new units and upgrade in retail services increases the property value," Miller said. "However, more times than not, the view is blocked, but the neighborhood remains unchanged."

Trump’d again!

What’s weird about this example is that it was The Donald’s development over the old rail yards in the West 60s that caused the west-looking Lincoln Towers apartments to lose 95% of their river views, beginning with the first ‘Trump Place” apartments on ‘Riverside Boulevard’ in 1999.

The Lincoln Towers folks undoubtedly looked out over the rail yards for forty years and figured no one could build over that. No one but The Donald, as it turned out.

meanwhile, back on West 36 Street …
Whether their views are at risk or not, everyone on the north side of 315 West 36 Street will be dealing with construction outside their windows (if the hotel is ever built, of course). I dealt with some of the Big Picture issues in living near a construction project in my March 16, 2010, what about that (not yet) New Construction across the street?.

Here is a start: Community Board 4 meets every month on the first Wednesday at 6:30. Contact CB4 at 212.736.4536 or It pays to be diligent!

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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