May 17, 2016

High On Lower Manhattan: A Real Estate Panel

It's not just suits and high finance in New York City's oldest neighborhood anymore. Our panel of top influencers is shaping the Financial District's big moment.

by New York Spaces

The revitalization of Lower Manhattan is changing the way New Yorkers think about what it means to live, work, and shop in the city. Here New York Spaces sits down with area power players—Andrew Breslau, Senior Vice President, Alliance for Downtown New York; Ariel Cohen, Associate Real Estate Broker, Douglas Elliman, head of sales for 75 Wall; Paige Murphy, head of Marketing, Admissions and Communications, Léman Manhattan Preparatory School; Peter Poulakakos, owner/partner at HPH, a restaurant and development company; and Michael McNaughton, Senior Vice President, US Development, Westfield World Trade Center—to talk about the area's remarkable growth, future, and distinct new cultural vibe.

NYS: Is Downtown-Lower Manhattan now a fully integrated seven-day community?

Michael McNaughton: Lower Manhattan is busy all the time—days, nights and weekends—because it is home to a fast-growing residential population, millions of tourists, and of course, a vast professional, commuting group.

Paige Murphy: As a school we see what is absolutely a seven-day-a-week community. Families don't leave on the weekends. Over 80% of the families enrolled in our elementary school are residents of lower Manhattan.

Peter Poulakakos: Most of our retail and restaurant operations are open seven days a week, which was unheard of in the past.

NYS: Give us a sense of how things have grown.

Andrew Breslau: [The population has] quintupled from 12,000 to over 60,000 in the last generation, which is an extraordinary statistic. One of the slogans we use is, 'Come to where it all began, and where it's all beginning.'

PP: There is a massive emergence, more than in any other sub market. It's on the East Side and West Side, and above the Financial District. And the great thing is that it's converging.

PM: Our school has grown from 54 to 700 students in 10 years.

NYS: How do high-end buyers in this part of Downtown differ from those in other parts of the city?

PM: There's a great international population. They likely have been educated and worked abroad, and they're really drawn to the lower Manhattan community because of that international diversity.

NYS: How did you address that?

PM: Léman was one of the first to pioneer private school education in lower Manhattan. As far as the international piece is concerned, we decided four years ago to embark on a process to award the international baccalaureate diploma, or IB. We chose to offer it because many of the families we serve were looking for that kind of global perspective in their children's education.

NYS: Is this part of Downtown getting international pied-à-terre money?

AB: There are foreign investors who are looking at this as a great investment opportunity. There are people who are setting up an outpost for their family from abroad. You're also getting top tier media and ad execs thinking that this is the place they can buy a three-or four-bedroom apartment at a slight discount to some of the other luxury neighborhoods and it is a place where they can walk to work.

NYS: What's your sweet spot in terms of residential sales?

Ariel Cohen: One to $4 million dollars.

NYS: With the stock market in flux and a softening of the luxury real estate market, how do you think residential sales and businesses in the area will be affected?

AC: Fully emerged sub markets like Tribeca, for example, are going to be affected by price points. But we're still in a place where people are buying. With the slight discounting and extraordinary views it's a great bet down here.

PP: This area is thriving right now. Our businesses are doing well.

NYS: 75 Wall was a pioneer as a mixed-use conversion offering hotel amenities in this part of town. 30 Park Place and 5 Beekman, each with hotel components, are debuting this year. How important are integrated amenities to the Downtown condo buyer?

AB: I think Ariel can tell us the amenity game is an escalating warfare all over this city. It's great to see a pipeline of rich product like the Beekman, where you're going to have Tom Colicchio and Keith McNally doing the restaurants.

NYS: Is there a greater demand for outdoor space than in other parts of the city?

AC: Yes, because it allows you to have the most amazing outdoor experience with the most incredible views.

NYS: There's been a reduction in the FIRE (finance, insurance, real estate) businesses and a growth in the TAMI (tech, advertising, media, information) sector. How has this changed the culture of the area?

AB: Dramatically. This was a monoculture 25 years ago, it was all financial services. What we've added is advertising, publishing. The culture on the street is a lot hipper and a lot younger. You can feel it in the pulse of the street, and that's an exciting thing.

NYS: How does Brooklyn compete with you for the TAMIs and Millennials with residential and office space?

AB: Commercially, it's a very different order of scale. The amount of what's available down here dwarfs what's available in Brooklyn. Residentially, people like Ariel's clients, for example, are at a stage of life where they're starting families or beginning to do really well in their careers, so they can afford a seven-figure apartment.

NYS: Who are retailers catering to here—the tourist, worker, or resident?

AB: River to river, you have Brookfield, Westfield, Howard Hughes over on the other side, and the Seaport. In addition look what's happening on lower Broadway. The retail options are serving the 60-some thousand people who live here, the 300-plus thousand people who work here, and the 14.5 million tourists who come here. The spending power of those conglomerated audiences is extraordinary.

NYS: In regard to the retail mix at Westfield World Trade Center, I was surprised there were so many beauty companies and not much decor. Any reasoning for that?

AB: They're trying to augment a slightly different experience than Brookfield. You've got 50,000 commuters coming every morning and every night, [that's] guaranteed foot traffic through those stores.

MM: Design is going to be an exceptional part of the Westfield World Trade Center experience. Of course, that includes the Santiago Calatrava Oculus—an architectural marvel inside and out.

NYS: With the influx of people buying properties, you would think there would be an increased demand for interior design options.

AC: This is one of the reasons why 75 Wall has partnered with Ligne Roset. They're doing our models and our common spaces, but Ligne Roset can also furnish a buyer's apartment.

NYS: What do you predict for the area's water development in the next 10 years?

AB: The challenge of resiliency is one we're going to have to take a lead on. Sandy was an awful thing, but it was a very powerful wake-up call. You're seeing responses on the national and local levels, thinking about ways to preserve the harbor and preserve this economic engine of not only New York City, but the region as well.

Andrew Breslau
Alliance for Downtown New York
Paige Murphy
Léman Preparatory School
Peter Poulakakos
Owner/partner, HPH Group
Ariel Cohen
Douglas Elliman

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