Manhattan’s Wild West

Terminal Stores, Starrett-Lehigh, Autobahn Alley, Manhattan West and Hudson Yards. What do these five locations have in common? If you guessed that they are mentioned in the news nearly every single day and then some, you’re right—but there’s much more to it. They are all located in an area undergoing rapid transformation and one that has become a popular destination for a multitude of commercial and retail tenants.

While that’s nothing new, there is a recent shift worth noting: as tenants migrate west, the importance of the exact name of the district they are in (Financial District, Chelsea, West Chelsea, The Garment District) has become less meaningful. The lines have begun to blur and morph nearly as quickly as the rental rates!

Much of this has been driven by demand. Take Waterfront NY’s Terminal Stores in Chelsea. Approximately two years ago we worked with Quirky, a social product development company, on its trailblazing move there. Back then, it was one of the first to take the leap. Today, many innovative tenants are looking at the neighborhood as a viable alternative and joining Quirky and its predecessors. As architects responsible for workplace planning, we’re big advocates of the Terminal and nearby buildings and know that the growth we’ve seen in recent years has only just begun.

The trend continues farther downtown at the iconic, recently renovated Starrett-Lehigh building, now owned by RXR Realty. Those who took a chance early on, such as advertising giant Deutsch, and headed to 111 8th Avenue long before Google called it home struck gold in the neighborhood. Nearby, Autobahn Alley is also evolving, adding new prestigious automotive brands to its line-up.

Brookfield’s 7-million-square-foot Manhattan West, called the gateway to the Hudson Yards district, is incredible in its own right. Then add to it what Hudson Yards is slated to bring to the city by 2018—three modern office towers, six acres of public space, 20 restaurants, 100 retail shops and 500 residences, along with an open air observation deck—and you can practically taste the change.

This means the search is on for the “next big thing” neighborhood. Our clients have begun bringing west side Manhattan up to us in workplace strategy meetings and we’re doing the same. In this way, architects complement brokers’ efforts. For instance, we recently worked with a client who was looking at upper Park Avenue and is now considering heading downtown and exploring it as a serious option. Whether or not it’s the place they land, it speaks volumes about the change that has taken place.

While every area of the city has its pros and cons in terms of views, proximity to water and transportation, and even the demographic it attracts there are definitely many pluses to these districts, starting with an abundance of available square footage for lease and plenty of design and architecture options to explore. Best of all, they are flexible enough to work as well for Coach as they do for a pharmaceutical and for a private equity firm as for a social media company.

No matter what this vibrant mixed-use neighborhood winds up being called in the end, it has fast become a favorite of ours. In the past two years, we’ve helped one tenant head to the Terminal Stores building and two more are in serious talks for space. The grand total will amount to more than 100,000 square feet of space designed in that building alone, making it a destination for those going west.

As architects, we consider ourselves the counterpart to the broker and a valuable resource to tenants who, based upon our work in a neighborhood or district, look to us to make suggestions on where they should look and when. For now, our answer is to look west.

Scott E. Spector, AIA, is a principal at Spector Group, one of New York’s premier architecture and interior design firms and a leader in corporate tenant and building owner-based design. The award-winning company has affiliate offices nationally and internationally. To date, it has completed more than 1,500 projects.

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