Union Square’s building blitz

Developers pour cash into Manhattan’s Silicon Alley as preservationists push back

Jun.June 01, 2017 10:00 AM

Union Square

Union Square — an already thriving slice of Manhattan — is getting an injection of new development. And the area, which gets an estimated 344,000 people passing through on a typical weekday, is also becoming significantly pricier. A slew of new projects, including Billy Macklowe’s 52-unit condo tower at 21 East 12th Street, are poised to change the office and residential mix in the area, which real estate players say extends a half mile in each direction from the park. Those projects come as the city is also investing big in the area. In February, the de Blasio administration unveiled renderings of its proposed Union Square Tech Hub, a 258,000-square-foot building that, if approved, would replace the P.C. Richard & Son building in a high-profile 14th Street location on the south edge of the square. Meanwhile, in 2014, IBM’s Watson Center moved into 51 Astor Place a few blocks south of Union Square, further cementing the neighborhood’s Silicon Alley status. But not everyone is happy with this investment and development rally. Preservationists are getting louder, and City Council member Rosie Mendez, who represents the area, is calling for a “contextual rezoning,” telling one news outlet that residents are “under great pressure by developers.”


The total dollar amount of real estate transactions, including building sales and development, in the Union Square area since May 2015. That includes the $209 million purchase of 114 Fifth in October 2015, the priciest property sale during the time stretch. 


The number of major tech, advertising, media and information — aka TAMI — office tenants in the Union Square area. Those companies, which are growing in ranks, already include Facebook, Hulu, StreetEasy, BuzzFeed and eBay.


The in-contract price for the most expensive pad at Macklowe’s 12th Street project. The Annabelle Selldorf-designed building, which the developer has had in the works since 2012, replaces a retail stretch that included the trendy bowling alley Bowlmor Lanes. Asking prices start at $2.4 million.


The maximum height that preservationists want for new buildings around Union Square. But several in-progress projects already exceed that limit, including a 14-story commercial project at 827 Broadway, a 15-story mixed-use tower at 809 Broadway and Macklowe’s 23-story tower.


The estimated cost of the Union Square Tech Hub (rendering pictured), which City Hall claims will create 600 jobs “in the tech ecosystem.” That will add to the 22,500-plus tech jobs in the Union Square area — the most of any sector in the neighborhood, including retail.


The price that Ranger Properties paid in 2015 for a pair of buildings at the corner of East 13th Street and University Place. The developer demolished the buildings, one of which housed the University Deli, and is constructing a seven-story luxury condo where prices start at $6 million.


The increase in median rent in the Union Square area since 2008. Residential rents have jumped to $3,700 from $1,353 in the nine-year period.


The number of passengers who pass through the 14th Street/Union Square subway station each year. That number will likely drop dramatically during the 15-month shutdown of the L train in Manhattan.

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