Once a Midtown neighborhood defined by its dueling department stores, where the tired tenement buildings were almost an afterthought, East 59th Street is seeing a residential revival.
As an extension of a renaissance being seen all along the 59th Street corridor from the Hudson to the East River, the artery saw the development of Bridge Tower Place at 401 East 60th Street in 2000, with its 218 condominiums. Then came 205 East 59th Street, with its 62 condos offering lofty spaces topping out at 21 feet and echoing those of Downtown.
Brokers call the opulent One Beacon Court at 151 East 58th Street, at the top of the nearly completed Bloomberg Tower, the crown jewel of the area’s newly raised profile. In addition to housing the headquarters of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s eponymous financial news and information services company, the tower adds sparkle to the skyline and sidewalk, showcasing retail tenants such as Home Depot and H& .
“I’m a great fan of the building,” said Robin Rothman, a senior vice president with Sotheby’s International Realty and a neighborhood resident. “I think the greatest concern going into this was the area. I think what people didn’t recognize was that the area was really coming up, and so many people are preferring to live closer to Midtown. It’s a very interesting phenomenon.”
The line demarcating a yawning gap in prices between the East Side and the far East Side used to be Lexington Avenue, and few well-heeled Upper East Side families ventured south of 70th Street until recently, Rothman said. One Beacon Court is changing that.
“They’ve done an exemplary job architecturally,” she said. “You’ve got vast apartments and beautiful western exposures of Central Park and the rest of the city. I think it’s a far superior building to the Time Warner Center,” which is One Beacon Court’s contemporary rival on West 59th Street.
Prices are reportedly as high as $2,500 a square foot, though marketers did not respond to requests for figures.
Stuart Moss, a broker with The Corcoran Group, said the area has traditionally been a mishmosh of higher-end properties, such as the D & D building at 979 Third Avenue, and sagging five- to sevenunit tenement buildings. Bloomingdale’s department store sits at 1000 Third Avenue between 59th and 60th Streets. One Beacon Court was built upon the former site of Alexander’s department store immediately to the south. A multitude of interior designer showrooms and home décor shops have sprouted up along Third Avenue, and the new Home Depot outlet is cast as a complement to their presence.
With residential redevelopment best described as patchy, prices cover a surprisingly wide range, Moss said.
“The entire 59th Street corridor has really been built up with some very luxurious high-end buildings,” he said. “Each one of them seems to have a very different character and appeals to a very different type of person.”
One Beacon Court is for those who have more than one home, he said, while only a block away, 205 East 59th Street, being marketed by The Sunshine Group, appeals to the young, affluent buyer, perhaps someone working on Wall Street, who would be debating between Downtown and Midtown.
“In its own right, it has become a destination building, because of the two-story ceilings and the fireplaces in the apartments,” Moss said. “There’s a certain sex appeal that exists Downtown that the building also offers. So for a young couple, with one of them working in Midtown and the other Downtown, that would really be a very viable place to live.”
For families, there’s Bridge Tower Place, which cemented the supermarket-less neighborhood when Food Emporium opened in its ground-floor outlet. It also has a Bed Bath & Beyond store.
“Bridge Tower is very family-oriented, because of the apartment sizes,” Moss said. “There are many large two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments in there, and the building has playrooms and all of those family-like amenities.”
Nightlife revolves around cocktail lounges on Second Avenue as local bar owners curry favor with the younger set in the neighborhood, or court young hipsters from across the bridge in Queens.
“What’s interesting about that is, back in the 1970s, First and Second Avenue in the 60s was quite the hangout,” Moss said. “Way back, you had places like Adam’s Rib and Maxwell’s Plum, which were landmarks and really where the singles’ scene started. The first TGIF was on First Avenue.”
For more upscale residents, they may view the blocks east of Third Avenue as a blur they pass while zooming across the Queensboro Bridge as they head to their Hamptons homes.
“Transportation is great, because you can cross right over the 59th Street bridge and get out to your Long Island home,” Rothman said. “You’re even pointed in the right direction.”
Selling the neighborhood since One Beacon Court has not been difficult, she said, even with private schools far to the north. It has had great appeal to those who might be looking at Donald Trump’s 502 Park Avenue, Rothman said.
“These are people who’ve said, ‘I wanted the Park Avenue address, I wanted to be near Midtown, but these apartments don’t work for me. It’s too small, it’s too traditional,'” she said. “And they go to One Beacon Court, and it’s like a breath of fresh air.”
Moss said he feels a small, well-maintained park is needed, but the neighborhood has plenty of appeal for many buyers. “If they’re buying in one of the destination buildings, I discuss the quality of the space, and the amenities and services that those buildings offer,” he said.
“If they’re buying in something other than a destination building, I talk about very good public transportation, and very good luxury shopping as opposed to essential shopping.”