Apartments to light up Times Square

The renewed residential development that has perked up the Midtown stretch of Eighth Avenue over the last several years may soon be wheeling east to march toward the heart of Times Square.

Sherwood Equities recently filed plans with the city Buildings Department to construct a 25-story, 136-unit apartment tower at 1600 Broadway, just north of Times Square’s world-renowned bow tie intersection.

That’s in the opposite direction of the residential development that traveled along 48th Street into Hell’s Kitchen, reviving the once hard-luck neighborhood. Brokers now sell it as Midtown West or Clinton, and the area from Eighth Avenue to the Hudson River is now a hot destination for 25- to 35-year-old renters.

About 6,500 new apartments have been built in the Times Square and Midtown West/Clinton neighborhoods since 2000, according to Times Square Alliance president Tim Tompkins.

“High-end residential has been essentially sort of creeping down Eighth Avenue,” he said.

Carol Allen, a broker with Turfnyc LLC, said new residential towers, such as The Biltmore at 271 West 47th Street, have far more amenities than those of previous decades, including private residence clubs, lounges with fireplaces, screening rooms, billiard rooms, on-site parking and sun terraces, among other perks.

This is creating a sense of community that is luring young, single renters willing to consider prices such as $4,295 a month for a furnished 1,000-square-foot two-bedroom apartment, she said. Renters are often offered deals like one month rent-free, or building owners will pay the broker’s commission, rather than the tenant footing the bill.

The neighborhood upgrade includes a 42-story apartment tower being developed by Elad Properties, located just west of Eighth Avenue at 310 West 52nd Street.

Recently proposed residential development in Times Square may be part of the trend to serve more young renters, especially during a time when the office space market is still somewhat soft.

But it may also be geared toward another burgeoning market: clients seeking short-term furnished rental spaces as an alternative to hotels, or condominiums to serve as family pieds- -terre.

“There has been a lot of new development there, mostly rental housing until recently,” said Bellmarc Realty principal Neil Binder. “Now the big thing that’s going on is the concept of suites.”

Binder believes that much of the residential space in the Times Square area, which is bounded by Sixth Avenue and Eighth Avenue from 40th Street to 53rd Street, will provide condos to investors or companies that deal with short- and long-term furnished apartment rentals.

“The area has a very high demand for hotels, and there are five or six hotels in the immediate proximity [of the bow tie], but they’re all oriented toward the conventional form of hotel rooms,” Binder said. “There are very few around that are oriented toward renting a condominium for a short duration of time.”

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He said these types of hotel alternatives might garner $1,000 to $2,000 a night. Another option for developers is to produce condominiums to serve as pieds- -terre for suburbanites or Europeans. One emerging trend is multiple generations of a suburban family getting a Manhattan apartment as an urban getaway.

Many agents are foregoing finicky co-op boards and directing these clients toward condominiums. But this is difficult with 85 percent of Manhattan residential real estate comprising co-ops.

“There is a huge market for [pieds- -terre] in the heart of the city and even the Times Square area, now that Times Square is considered a vibrant center of the city more than ever,” Binder said.

It’s a departure from the area’s recent past, when Times Square meant a collection of rickety tenements, parking garages and lurid peep shows. City initiatives, the economic boom of the 1990s and increased national corporate interest have transformed the area into a shopping and tourist destination with attractions that are all legal and aboveboard. Brokers hope this will make it a residential draw as well.

Worldwide Plaza, on Ninth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets, is an example of this hybrid between investment properties and pieds- -terre, Binder said.

But that vision may not yet have captured developers’ imaginations. Jeffrey Katz, the chief executive of Sherwood, said he believes the primary demographic for the Times Square area is still the 25- to 35-year-old renter.

“In my opinion, I think that’s who’s there now, I think that’s who’s been coming, and I think that’s who will continue to come,” he said.

Since the six blocks surrounding the Times Square bow tie feature perhaps the world’s highest concentration of corporate headquarters, office workers may mean further potential for more renters.

“It’s all new, without housing options or with very few housing options,” Katz said.

He believes the short-term rental and pied- -terre market is a third and lesser component of the Times Square residential real estate market, as does Miki Naftali of Elad Properties.

Naftali said he has no intention of marketing his 42-story apartment tower primarily to investors.

“We are really marketing to the end user,” he said. “All of them live happily in our projects.”

Naftali said he believes that people seeking short-term rentals or pieds- -terre account for only 10 to 15 percent of the market, and thinks of Times Square as a place for the long haul.

“It’s a really good place to live,” Allen said. “It’s unbelievably convenient, and I think it will become very popular.”