If i can make it there, then I’m gonna make it anywhere,” crooned Frank Sinatra in his salute to the city that never sleeps. Not only do budding entrepreneurs, artists and others seeking fame and fortune head to New York City, but also those who’ve already made it big—because this is a place where they can meet others like themselves, do business and enjoy the best in culture and entertainment.
Imagine a map of Manhattan Island, the long, thin strip of land that the Netherlands ceded to Britain in exchange for the Spice Islands 400 years ago. Three-quarters of the way down the island, just below Central Park, is Midtown, where an extraordinary social phenomenon is taking place—the creation of a community of international super-rich. The development reflects New York’s status as joint capital of the world alongside London, and partially results from the wall of money moving out of China and other fast-growing economies into politically stable locations.
For the past decade, New Yorkers have referred to a strip of 57th Street roughly parallel with Central Park a couple of streets to the north as Billionaires’ Row. Previously a predominantly commercial area, this stretch of 57th Street is now lined with towering skyscrapers that provide condominiums for the world’s wealthy. But it doesn’t stop there. While uberluxury apartments continue to multiply on 57th, so do additional trophy homes on surrounding streets, putting Billionaires’ Row at the centre of an emerging billionaires’ enclave.
“Over the past 10 years, 57th Street and the area around it has emerged as a magnet for billionaires,” says Jason Mansfield of Knight Frank’s international residential development sales department in the US. “The area roughly runs between 52nd Street and 59th Street.”
The emergence of a billionaire boomtown is clearly evident on 53rd Street, which estate agent Stribling & Associates now dubs New York’s Second Billionaires’ Row. “53rd Street has all of the cachet of 57th Street,” says Pamela D’Arc, a broker at Stribling. “It’s the epicentre of New York’s global business, arts and cultural districts, and is just a short walk to Central Park.
Luxury shopping destinations lining nearby Fifth Avenue include Bergdorf Goodman, Saks and Tiffany & Co. All of this makes 53rd Street very appealing to developers and this stretch is now experiencing its own kind of boomlet. More than 1,000 new units are slated in the next two years.”
The pace at which the new quarter is developing appears to be quickening elsewhere, too. Amy Gotzler of Brown Harris Stevens, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate, has noticed a spike in the number of purchases in and around 57th Street since the start of the year, with strong sales at two developments: One57 and 432 Park Avenue.
“There have been 85 closings recorded at just One57 and 432 Park Avenue already, at an average price of US$21.4 million,” says Gotzler. The 425-metre-high 432 Park Avenue is the western hemisphere’s tallest residential tower.
To bring in big-spending clients from China, Russia, Europe and elsewhere, New York’s property developers have brought in the world’s big-name architects. Pritzker Prize-winners leaving their mark on 57th Street include France’s Christian de Portzamparc, who designed One57. Under construction on 53rd is 53W53, designed by his fellow countryman and Pritzker-winner Jean Nouvel, and 100 East 53rd Street, conceived by London-based architectural giants Foster + Partners.
“Nowadays, having a starchitect involved in a new development marketed to billionaires tends to be expected,” says Mansfield. “It excites buyers and allows new developments to compete in the marketplace. These architects push the boundaries in terms of design, and improve and reimagine what’s been built before.”
Another common characteristic of these retreats for the wealthy is the abundance and opulence of amenities on offer. At 53W53, residents have access to a 17,000sqft wellness centre with a 20-metre swimming pool framed by two large vertical gardens designed by French botanist Patrick Blanc.
The low-maintenance new apartments in and around 53rd and 57th are good lock-up-and-leave abodes for most foreign billionaires for whom the Big Apple is their second or third home, says Mansfield. For their American counterparts, New York is their hometown where they live for most of the year, so they tend to favour the spacious, older apartments with outdoor space available around 59th Street, the road that runs along the bottom edge of Central Park.
Owning a slice of the Big Apple is not only about kudos and having an opportunity to hobnob with an equally wealthy group of chums, of course. Manhattan was one of the few housing markets in the world where residential property prices did not crash following the credit crunch in 2008, and that certainly seals its reputation as a blue-chip property investment.
“Foreign investors are interested in these properties as they tend to hold their value,” says Mansfield. Like the perfect lunch combination, the Big Apple and the world’s big cheeses are made for each other, it seems.
(Text by Richard Warren)