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I N F O
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A D D I T I O N A L   I N F O
P A R T   I I


DESIGNS AND DREAMS
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The 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower competition
New urban plans - the utopized city
Dreams of grandeur - pride before fall
For the prestige - and marketing - how to add to the desirability
Boomin' again - background to the 1990s construction boom
The "Major league" takes over - institutionalized designing
New rules for debate - guide to judging
Office building design
Building security
Buildings and insurance
Car parking



* THE 1922 CHICAGO TRIBUNE TOWER COMPETITION
Despite that this study is concentrated on the development of the skyscraper in New York City, one can't bypass the development made in the rivalling "fresh water city", Chicago. This entry concentrates on the influential international competition that was announced in 1922 for a new building to house the Chicago Daily Tribune newspaper.

From the nearly 300 entries, the design by Raymond Hood and John Mead Howells was declared the winner (images). Its design followed the hitherto dominating style for skyscrapers, eclectic revivalism, in this case of neo-Gothic. The winners were publicly criticized for ignoring the blooming "Chicago Style", in favour of revivalism, in their design.

The second place was awarded to Finnish-born Eliel Saarinen's (whose son, Eero, was to design the CBS Building in New York 40 years later) design with uninhibited vertical rise and minimal decoration and which greatly influenced, among others, Hood himself, who regretted that it didn't win! Hood's later American Radiator Building, as well as the Rockefeller Center were greatly influenced by Saarinen's entry.

Also Walter Gropius's (who would later gain notoriety for his Pan Am Building) design had notable merits as a representative of the clean-cut European Bauhaus style. He stated that all design should be realized through mass production. The United Nations Secretariat and the Lever Building from the early 1950s were the first skyscrapers in New York City to fully realize his aesthetic vision.

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NEW URBAN PLANS
The expected growth of the city has created many urban plans with the aim of effectively dealing with the future development. While some of them materialized, a great deal of them has remained in the design and model stage, perhaps later affecting some realized project.

In 1929, Hugh Ferris made his plan for a suspension bridge-apartment skyscraper structure over Hudson River (the plans may have been inspired by the 1920 plan by Gustav Lindenthal for a suspension bridge over Hudson River at 57th Street with no less than 12 train tracks and 20 car lanes and towers taller than the Woolworth Building). The four-cabled suspension bridge was to collect toll revenue for the city, while the towers -- in the form of two skyscrapers -- would house inhabitants. Needless to say, it never got beyond design stage (the same happened to all Ferris' plans). Ferris is best known for his powerful renderings of the contemporary skyscrapers, published in his book The Metropolis of Tomorrow.

Undoubtedly Ferris' designs gave Raymond Hood ideas while he made plans for his utopistic "Manhattan 1950" city renewal plan in 1929. Hood's plans presented self-sufficient commercial concentrations of skyscrapers in Manhattan and numerous suspension bridges spanning Hudson and East Rivers, with apartment buildings for a total of three million inhabitants built over the whole length of the bridges. (Like modern-day versions of the medieval London Bridge!)

The high-rise building concentrations were to be located at even intervals along the avenues and at the ends of the apartment bridges, forming regular "spikes" all over the island instead of the present-day dipolar Midtown-Downtown skyscraper concentrations. The project also required multiplication of the number of cross-river bridges: just between Battery Park and the north edge of Central Park there were to be eight apartment bridges spanning Hudson River. East River would have had a similar treatment, with eight new bridges and the old bridges converted or replaced for apartment use.

The concentrated mass of Rockefeller Center (Hood was the chairman of the Rockefeller Center Associated Architects) was an example of the self-sufficient skyscraper "cities" that were to dot all of Manhattan south of Uptown.

The Nycroads site on the Hudson River Bridge plans and the Bridges across East River

In 1929, a concentration of Art Deco skyscrapers was planned to the area around a seven-block stretch of Christie and Forsyth Streets in Lower East Side. A year before, buildings between the streets had been razed to form a park that is still there, but the proposed sunken parkway and high-rise development were subsequently discarded.

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* DREAMS OF GRANDEUR
The nature and reality of skyscraper design and building is a compromise between the planners' will to drive through and complete the proposed building as planned and, on the other hand, the financial realities like the lack of funding.

Also the success in gathering the plots needed to build a large high-rise building -- or collect nearby plots for air rights transfer -- can affect the outcome of a proposed development. A solitary "holdout" on a site can either prolong the development process until a large enough offer is coughed up for selling the plot, the construction is begun while the old building is still intact (to be later demolished, or, like in the case of the 520 Madison Avenue, retained) -- or the "holdout" holds out. The case of the Metropolitan and Carnegie Hall Towers vs. Russian Tea Room is one of the latter. The success or defeat in obtaining the holdouts boils often down to matching or clashing personalities or "corporate images" really.

Although civic groups and preservation organizations, along with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, have often made the difference when the endangered building has been seen as architecturally important, the court can also decide otherwise. The development of the Celanese Building was continued after the solitary house-owner was ordered to sell his possession to the development corporation.

Many a building plan has been cancelled during the 100-year history of the New York skyscraper, and for various reasons, the main ones being undoubtedly economical. Of the sketched high-rises, the most fantastic must have been the hotel project that was proposed by a NY businessman for the Catalonian architect Antoni Gaudí in 1908: a 300-metre hotel building, of which Gaudí made only a few sketches before abandoning the project altogether and concentrating on his Sagrada Familia church. These sketches show a group of parabolical towers (in vein of Sagrada Familia) arranged around a central tower with a vast atrium, and complete with the fantastic exterior decor. The plans for the Metropolitan Life Building's extension in fact had some resemblance to the main tower of Gaudí's hotel plan...

The Great Depression of the 1930s smashed many dreams for tall buildings, like the aforementioned Metropolitan Life Building's extension which remained uncompleted. The undaunted plans from the late-1920s for a 400-meter skyscraper at 42nd Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues (which was eventually replaced by the McGraw-Hill Building) and the even more realistic plan for a 490 m tall one at lower Broadway.

Also the recession of the late-1980s, as well as political considerations, have forced the builders to reconsider the commitments to projects like the 383 Madison Avenue, the planned quad towers at 42nd Street/Times Square area by Philip Johnson and John Burgee and the 1986 South Ferry Plaza plan by Fox&Fowle and Frank Williams, a 50-storey proposition for an office tower over the South Ferry terminal in Downtown Manhattan.

Maybe the most notable of these was Donald Trump's planned mid-eighties scheme, the Television City, a waterfront complex of eight skyscrapers on a 300,000 m² plot on West Side Yards. There were to be one 65-storey and six 70-storey towers around a single 150-storey tower, beating Chicago's Sears Tower by 66 meters. The complex was to incorporate TV studios, apartment buildings, shopping malls and parks. Local resident resistance was instrumental in abandoning the project.

In 1992 Trump's re-plotted development attempt at the yards, the Riverside South (or Trump Place), was approved by the city, so new high-rise construction, albeit of less grandiose nature, is under way, after all. Before that, familiar "Trump-talk" about erecting a giant statue of Christopher Columbus (a gift from Russia, as he said) on the Hudson River was also heard...

The City Review essay on the Riverside South project
2000: Trump Place underway

Trump's enthusiasm for building high resurfaced in 1996, as he announced his plans to build the New York Stock Exchange Tower in Downtown New York as the world's tallest building (although even taller projects were studied elsewhere). This 140-storey, 546,5 m tall building was to be located at the east end of Wall Street and would have housed, for example, the New York Stock Exchange within its 325,280 m² of office space. The tower was designed by Kohn, Pedersen & Fox and was to take take three and a half years to build. Despite Trump's full-force involvement the proposal was eventually turned down. Now, with the Trump World Tower on the rise, Trump is getting at least some of his most ambitious high-rise plans realized.

Another skyscraper planned for the use of the New York Stock Exchange was the Finance Place, proposed in 1963. Designed by I.M. Pei & Associates, the building was to rise at downtown Broadway, on the a two-block site nowadays occupied by the U.S. Steel Building and the Liberty Plaza. The 45-storey building was to rise to the height of 200 meters, with sloping walls on the east and west facades. The sloping vertical support members were to support trusses at the top, from which the building's floors were suspended, thus leaving the huge 90 m wide Stock Exchange trading floor underneath the office floors entirely columnless. A bold concept which never got beyond the design stage.

A recent multi-skyscraper development that has succumbed to the economical and political rigours was the office tower complex planned to the southern fringes of rapidly "developing" Times Square. In 1984 the Park Tower Realty and the Prudential Insurance Company were developing a group of office towers to the south of Times Square area, which went through a number of revisions and changes but was nevertheless met with enough political resistance and economic uncertainty that it was discarded for good. The penalty of $241 million for not carrying out the development was amended in 1993 to a payment of $20 million to the redevelopment project 42nd Street Now!

Another area awaiting rebuilding and rising of a new superstructure has been the 3.4-acre plot owned by the city and the New York state, bordering Columbus Circle in west and commanding the southwest entrance to Central Park. Here, the New Coliseum project was to occupy the plot between 58th and 60th Streets, with the wall of the base following the curvature of the traffic circle. From the base a skyscraper structure was to rise to challenge the airspace of the circle along with the existing Gulf and Western Building and the Central Park Place. The project has been constantly met with protest from the neighbourhood citizens under the colours of the Municipal Art Society, which has recently released its plans for an alternative, more down-to-earth development visually defined by a giant artwork encompassing the Circle and thus giving the area new distinction.

2000 onward: the new development
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* FOR THE PRESTIGE -- AND MARKETING
With the competition for affluent residential tenants as strong as ever in the city, the developers and owners have to make strenuous marketing efforts to promote their real estate investment and get the required income from sold units.

In addition to the actual marketable value derived from the quality of the building itself, its location and the amenities it offers, there are other ways to add desirability, more connected to a perception of what the building represents.

THE NAME

To start with, a name that evokes a sense of uniqueness, prestige and impeccable quality is hardly a move in the wrong direction in that sense, although the names derive from a variety of sources and sometimes even "only" feature the building's street address -- although that is often chosen only after the address has been considered advantageous to the building's image, in one way or another.

In NYC, the naming convention started with the arrival of the high quality multiple-unit apartment building in the late 1800s. High quality in the sense that they were distinguished from the then-prevalent tenement buildings for the lower-class and immigrant populace by the better quality of life they offered, their location and, last but not least, by the prestigious name that in itself evoked an image of better living. As the truly luxurious apartment building arrived to the scene in the early 1900s, they, once again, had to be distinguished, ironically by moving away from the "made up" names for individual buildings as these conjured the image of the by now "merely" middle-class multiple dwellings. The street name was to be the simple naming convention for the upper class apartment building. Although the naming by street number has continued to date (425 Fifth Avenue, for example), the need for a distinguishing and value-raising identity in the glut of residential construction in the post-war decades prompted the return of The Name.

Trump, that is. Or could be, if judged by the prominence of that name in so many of the city's most notable apartment buildings -- no less than 10 namesake residential buildings (when this article was written), seven of which are skyscrapers, including the world's tallest apartment building. But in addition to the impression of a somewhat self-aggrandizing scheme that Donald Trump's naming of buildings represents, it also creates an image, almost a brand, that gives similarly an impression, almost an expectation, of high quality -- and as long as a luxury tenant can/has to him/herself decorate the condominium, at least in the new developments, the opulent style generally linked to the Trump brand isn't necessarily an issue. Also for many, especially outside NYC, the name of Trump epitomizes quality in itself, a fact not to be dismissed in the market game. In all, 22 buildings have so far incorporated the name Trump.

Often the name of a building, similarly to several office buildings, consists of a street "number" with a distinguishing name -- albeit the adress often only loosely connects with actual street names and numbers, or even actual locations. The names of these buildings usually have a "generic" number with affixes or names that draw from the history or locations within the vicinity followed by a "plaza", "towers" or other edifying definition. This name often also acts as the official address of the building (even though it usually still has an official street number, with the exception of combined superblocks or other anomalies), further erasing the distinction between a made-up building name and an actual address.

There are, however, streets where the name of the street in itself is enough to give the development an aura of quality and prestige; Fifth and Park Avenue addresses usually need only add the street number to make a building desirable. Long numbers combined with a numbered street are usually avoided, unless the number is round or the litany "sounds good" when pronounced. Thus, it is more likely that a development on a numbered street or a less desirable neighbourhood (a relative term) will be given a name.

When choosing a name for a new project, the process will take into account such factors as the locations in the vicinity, its history, the preferences of the targeted clients, the effect the name is hoped to evoke. Sometimes, the personal interests of the builders influence the naming -- names of relatives, places or persons of interest, the arts etc.

THE # OF FLOORS

Another marketing ploy widely in use is the representation of the number of floors in a building as higher than there are actual physical floors. That is used to give an illusion of a taller building and an aprtment being higher up than the actual number of floor in itself would indicate.

Thus, the 66-floor Metropolitan Tower, for example, is marketed as a 78-floor building; curiously, the next-door Carnegie Hall Tower is "rated" at its actual floor number of 60 floors, even though it is the higher of the two buildings.

Although the standard residential floor height is close to 9 ft, the upper-market residential towers can have higher-ceilinged floors, further adding to the height difference -- and to the incentive to tweak the numbers and give a building more pizzaz by making the marketed floors seem to be higher than what their actual floor number would indicate. While the method is not totally illogical or out of line if one considers the height of a floor from the ground as a starting point, it will lead to "ghost floors" between the actual ones and curious jumps between the highest commercial floors and the residential portions in mixed-use buildings. (The new [Sept. 2003] Park Imperial on Bway at 56th has no less than 21 ghost floors floors below its 48th-floor residential portion.)

It was the mixed-use Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue started the twisted practice in 1983. The floor number for the first residential floor was chosen as 30 because Trump calculated its height, located as it was above 19 retail and commercial floors -- each one higher than a residential floor -- as if the lower floors were standard residential floors, dividing the 300 ft height from the street by 10 ft per floor. Similarly, in his 72-storey Trump World Tower, the number of floors, 90, has been reached by dividing the building's total height (including the taller lobby and the technical floors) with the 10 ft floor height.

It is also true, though, that if the psychology of higher floor living attracts the clients, then why shouldn't a client buying a multi-million unit have the satisfaction of a floor number that reflects, in a way, an actual height from the street level. That's at least what the marketers are thinking and as there have not been any major qualms about the added number of floors with buyers, they seem to be generally happy too.

The building code enforced by the New York City Department of Buildings doesn't prohibit the unconventional numbering of floors, as long as the floors are numbered; the state attorney general's office requires the developers and marketers to state how many floors the building actually incorporates and the "real" number of the floor that a client will move into. The marketing floor plans are also required to show these actual floors. The sellers cover their bases by making the buyers sign a "release" in which they state that they understand the difference between the real, physical floor and the floor number they're being sold.

Info by The New York Times.

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BOOMIN' AGAIN
BACKGROUND TO THE 1990s CONSTRUCTION BOOM
After the office rental market -- which at the same time also inevitably affects the office construction market -- collapsed from the late-1980s on, rents fell due to lessened demand for space and even then the vacancy rate was alarming.

The 1980s boom had been fueled by tax incentives offered by the city, as well as an atmosphere of reckless investment boom (Gordon Gekko was there too...), leading to overbuilding and excess office space that was left unrented. With the city services still feeling the effects of the near-bankruptcy of the mid-1970s, the basis for tenant attraction was also somewhat feeble. The 1987 market crash further worsened the situation and put many of the newly-built properties into the hands of the financing banks as the tenants left the city. 300,000 jobs were lost in the process and the Midtown market had an 18% vacancy rate, in Downtown the figure reached 25%. Also the residential market suffered through the general loss of individuals' purchase power.

After the economy and construction market began to recuperate in the mid-1990s, the vacant spaces were finally being rented out and gradually the demand led to taking the abandoned construction plans out again and obtaining financing, land and tempting potential clients as lessees. Since the mid-1990s, office rents have risen together with the demand for new space and has, in turn, facilitated the construction of new buildings to profit from the growth and thus expected rental income.

After a profitable period of operations, corporations are now again commissioning new construction or renting space. Between 1994 and 1997, nationwide new office building construction trebled (although in NYC skyscraper development the era was still quiet), with a similar increase thereafter, the trend only being expected to reverse somewhat after a boom in the early 2000s. Even then, economic growth has been predicted to remain fruitful for new office development in the late 2000s. In New York City's downtown areas, there is, however, also the question of available plots.

There are a number of factors affecting New York City's role as one of the most notable major cities in the new construction and investment boom. If compared to the national average, NYC has a faster growing employment rate and GDP, as well as a lower inflation rate. Also the creation of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) improved the situation with their business-friendly policies (as long as they were not peep-shows or X-shops!). A position perhaps obtained with drastic measures by the police force, New York is nevertheless also the safest large city in the USA at the end of the decade, another factor not to be overlooked.

The status of the city as one with an expanding economy has led to its popularity not only in the corporations', but also in professional employees' eyes. New York City's position as a place that attracts young professionals has, in turn, attracted the companies that employ their skills. These companies will often also be the ones that can afford the high asking prices for office space in the hottest areas.

In order to ensure that the property doesn't get built into a saturated market, new building developments get started only after a notable amount of the office space has been pre-leased -- usually this has meant a large corporation being either a starting tenant or a co-developer (like with the Reuters Building). In either case, the tenant is expected to provide a notable amount of the total funding before investment is granted. Excess construction can lead to non-rentable properties and floors, which in turn leads to problems in even earning back the development and upkeeping costs, not to mention profiting from the property. Although the 1980s construction boom led to just that, the current boom has been slower in developing and will also be less susceptible to such a rapid downturn as in the 1980s -- unless a drastic change in economy occurs.

In fact, the extent of economic growth in NYC is such that there is at the moment a serious shortage of office space. This has, in turn, given the landlords "free rein" in pricing the rented spaces -- the price level in Midtown rose 30 per cent during 1999! The prices, in addition to the lack of space itself, have led to many corporations leaving New York City -- usually for New Jersey -- tax breaks or no tax breaks. Companies leaving the city is nothing new, during the recession they did it too, although now the reason is not the loss of the city's appeal, rather than its too great popularity, leading to an influx of trendy companies to "where it all happens". The departure of large corporations leads not only to loss of tax revenue (big businesses' big bucks mean big taxes) but also to loss of jobs that some other, arriving companies can't completely cover. The latter is especially true with the manufacturing trades that are being pushed out by manufacturing building conversion.

In the vanguard of the office construction boom are the new information technology, media and entertainment companies and investment banks which have chosen New York City as the place to operate from. As so many companies have made that decision, the city's already strong position as the premier city in entertainment and finance has strengthened. Also the deregulations of the recent years have led to an expansion on the activities, and, consequently, the office space demands of these branches.

Especially the Times Square area has been a hotbed for these new media empire headquarters, partly aided by the 20-year tax abatements offered by the city, partly because the area has become so fashionable as a media and entertainment hub. That also reflects on the asking rents that have zoomed from the level of the early and mid-1990s. While new office towers get built to the Times Square area and are well occupied by companies with the money and inclination, on the street level the situation is not very dissimilar. Many of the property owners have risen the retail space asking prices so high that only the largest and most prestigious retailers -- that is, large entertainment and retail brands and chains -- can afford them. Even if there is relatively little vacancy in retail spaces (and not very many of the theaters are empty and still unrenovated...), in many cases these are occupied by a different type of occupant than outlined in development briefs. Many planned entertainment schemes have been forced out of Times Square/42nd Street area by the excessive rent prices.

With much of the areas of the city zoned for commercial uses already having been built over, or under construction, certain non-commercial districts west of Seventh Avenue were changed into commercial zoning. This helped to ease the pressure and at the same time expand the Midtown commercial influence to the west and "revitalize" the area -- at least in commercial terms. These developments were further aided by the creation of the Times Square BID.

Nevertheless, there is still a lack of building land for a skyscraper-sized structure in the main downtown areas. Another factor that makes building difficult is a legacy of the boomin' 80s: lenders' reluctance to provide funding unless success is iron-clad. If these factors were in order, little trouble would be expected in finding tenants to occupy these speculative buildings, even with the current asking prices.

With the acute lack of office space, developers seek solution from the conversion of the old manufacturing and warehouses, like those in TriBeCa, Garment District south of Times Square and the area surrounding the Flatiron Building. Like the older buildings in Downtown Manhattan, these are also a target of the information technology, media and advertising companies seeking new space. While special zoning is used as a tool in trying to retain also the manufacturing activities in Garment District (mostly apparel-related, like the name indicates), the influx of high-paying, high-tech companies tends to raise the rents, thus making it more difficult for the manufacturers to remain in the area.

28 June 2001:
The Municipal Art Society and the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development (phew) have proposed areas zoned exclusively for manufacturing uses, areas where residential and especially the increasingly commercial development is curtailed or banned altogether. That, along with proposed incentives for manufacturers, could help retaining the still-considerable manufacturing "branch" employing 250,000 people in the city.

One, massive, example of conversion of old warehouse and manufacturing space into chic real estate for the use of new information age enterprises is the Starrett-Lehigh Building in the Hudson River waterfront. The 1931 behemoth building was bought in June 1998 for $152 million and has since attracted a number of notables in city's art and IT circles, not least because the rents are less than half of those in Midtown buildings. And although the building is remote and still somewhat derelict, it has continued to prosper in the market and its value has, in fact, risen to approx. $400 million.

NYT Article

In Downtown Manhattan, the scheme of office space conversion into apartments started the revitazation after recession. Although a similar conversion effort in the 1980s ended up dead and buried, partly due to lack of community facilities, after over 2.3 million m² of space in Downtown had been vacated by fleeing corporations in the early 1990s, the process was helped in 1995 by the rezoning efforts from a predominantly commercial area into a more mixed-use one, as well as by tax abatements. As the new breed of middle and high income clientele are ready to pay premium for high-standard lodging in an Art Deco building, turning these properties into residences was an effective way of disposing of empty real estate.

As the office market heated, the work on conversions was put on hold and office spaces rented for their original use. Info-tech and brokerage firms have been emerging as the district's new affluent clients, striving to relocate to the Wall Street area. The efforts of the local BID have been instrumental in cutting the office space vacancy rate by providing the information technology clients with assets such as properly wired office buildings for their operations. With Wall Street attracting firms from all over the world, the Financial District will be facing a shortage of suitable office space.

Despite the full-swing Downtown office space occupation, also residential conversions have remained in the agenda. Between 1995 and 2001, 5,500 rental apartments have been converted in more than 50 hitherto commercial buildings and work on 300 more will be started by the end of 2001. During the same time period, the number of residents in the area has grown from 15,000 to 25,000. The converted rentals are favoured by the young-ish and well-off working in the area, and although the asking prices reflect the area's popularity, the conversions have remained a success.

As of August 2000, the vacancy rate in Midtown was 3% and in Downtown 5%; similarly, the asking rent prices have risen about 50% in Downtown and almost doubled in Midtown from the levels seven and five years ago, respectively. (For example, in the period of 1996 to 2001, the Downtown World Trade Center has increased its occupancy from 78% to 98%, and the rents in the complex have doubled) These figures tell the dilemma of New York City, little vacant office space and with expensive rents. For corporations that are leaving Manhattan for these reasons, the emerging Queens or Brooklyn commercial centers have not usually been as lucrative (and with inadequate public transportation to Manhattan) as the incentives offered by the rapidly expanding New Jersey counterparts across Hudson River.

13 Mar 2001:
Although the economy and markets have come down from the top of the boom in 2000, the city has still rather limited amount of free office space, vacancy being still below 5%. The slowdown has merely brought the rent price levels -- and the landlords' willingness to seriously negotiate about rents -- to a more accommodating (pun intended) level. The 2000 dive made the dot-com phenomenon lose its grip and even larger companies, especially in the financial sector, have been doing cutbacks and are in turn subletting their own rented space. There are, nevertheless, several up-and-coming high-rise office projects around the city and also the job growth prospects in NYC are still rather good.

August 2001 saw the office space vacancies increased to 6,5% in Midtown and to 9% in Downtown. Although the overall rents also decreased with the fall of demand, the prices of the premium office spaces increased from the early 2001, with the Midtown Class A space rents still at the level of $60 per square foot.

See also: 9/11 and the Downtown (re)occupation

Luxury hotels are emerging strongly as the new notable branch of commercial building. In the large US cities with large amounts of both business and vacation visitors, luxury hotels have a steady client base to draw the income from. As travelling and the amount of visitors to cities like NYC are constantly increasing, there is again a call for this type of hotel construction. Although the development time for luxury accommodations is longer than for lower-rate hotels, they offer lower risks due to the branch being not yet overbuilt and the higher per-unit income. It has been estimated that the branch will not become overbuilt until the mid-2000s (decade, not century!). New York City is an especially promising place for luxury development due to the traditionally high standard and price level of its luxury market, resulting in an average per-unit income that is well over four times the national average!

The constantly building and booming city is in many other ways also a good destination for both luxury hotel developers and travellers to meet. The earlier trend of acquiring old hotel property for renovation will be supplemented by new construction with financing being easier and less costly. Also the high occupancy rates (up to 80%) lead to pressures to expand operations in travel destinations. An indication of the vast expansion undergoing in the NYC luxury market is the fact that closer to thirty new hotels are under construction or in consideration in Downtown Manhattan and the Times Square area.

22 Feb 2001:
The hotel occupancy rate in NYC hit new records of 84.6% in the year 2000, and although the rate started to decline in the last months, the average rate per night ($220.86 for whole year) in fact climbed as the year drew to close. There is expected to be still enough demand to keep the business going, especially as the rates are still well above the national average of $84.99. Even though the hotel building and renovation boom led to 11 new hotels with a total of 3,387 rooms in 2000 (with five more hotels with 1,434 rooms expected in 2001) they added only 2.5% to the accommodation total while demand increased 5.7%.

28 Aug 2001:
As the construction boom of new hotels in Manhattan increases the number of rooms by 2,000 (to a total of 60,000) by the end of 2002, the demand for luxury accommodation by business travellers has dwindled. In the wake of the massive building programs and less stable economic situation of the corporations, the occupancy rate has decreased to 75% during 2001, a development that is however expected to reverse during 2002.

9/20 Dec 2001:
The terrorist attacks in the NYC just two weeks after the update above of course have led to a further decline in hotel occupancy and the economy of the tourist industry in general, with layoffs as a direct consequence. Although the occupancy was briefly revitalized, with the business and especially international travellers staying put, the tourism-related industries in NYC are expected to lose revenue and jobs at least through 2003. It may take years for the industry in the city to reach the price level of year 2000 (a sigh of relief from travellers...). Also, in January, a total of 1,166 rooms are due to be completed in four hotels (including the Ritz Carlton Downtown at Battery Park, which was used as an emergency center after the terrorist attacks); in the fall 2002, the Westin hotel at Times Square will add further 850 rooms.

6 Apr 2002:
In January 2002, the number of occupied hotel rooms was the lowest in seven years despite all the completed volume, although the 74% occupancy rate is about at odds with the figure a year ago. The filled rooms have, however, come with the price of notable price discounts and perks to go with attracting customers -- on the other hand, the increased activity created by the lower room rates have allowed the rehiring of personnel laid off after 9/11. The lower revenues have led to $8 million losses to the city's hotels in February 2002 alone. The big chain hotels have weathered the recession better than the smaller ones, largely due to the combined marketing, booking, service etc. assets, but the key to return to normalcy is the reattracting of overseas customers back to the city which will lead to better occupancy and eventually to the normal, outrageous prices...

28 Aug 2002:
The hotels continue to suffer from a lack of demand, with such Midtown landmarks as the
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and the Ritz-Carlton expecting Sept.11 occupancy levels of 80 and 50 percent, respectively. The Downtown hotels Ritz-Carlton Downtown and Marriott Financial Center, however, have finally benefited from their location -- so precarious on the day of the disaster -- with their rooms being fully booked for the week of remembrance. With the industry in doldrums, the average NYC hotel room rate of $206 in 2001 is expected to fall further 9 percent.

11 August 2003:
Albeit the situation is better than a year ago, with a June occupancy rate at 79.8 percent, as compared to 77.3 in 2002, the industry continues to suffer. (The figure from a year earlier, in June 2001, was 79 percent, which shows that the year was going to be a relatively quiet even without the 9/11, with a fall of 10 percent from the summer 2000.) The lower hotel room prices paid, moreover, balance down the gains in occupancy; the average rate has fallen from $218 in 2001 to $196 in 2002 and to $182 in 2003. Moreover, there will be an increase in the number of rooms in 2003, with nine hotels expected to open during 2003, bringing another 1,750 rooms to the market. (NYC & Company)

20 November 2005:
The city's 70,723 hotel rooms are expected to grow by 5,000 -- one fifth of which will be located outside Manhattan. Average room rate in Manhattan was $225 in September. Occupancy rate for 2005 is expected to turn out to be all-time high at 87 percent, 22 million room nights vs. 21 million in 2004. (NYC & Company)

Info from articles by The New York Times, The Financial Times,
Metropolismag, BD&C, CMD Group, Crain's New York Business
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* THE "MAJOR LEAGUE" TAKES OVER
Already from its inception, the nature of the skyscraper construction had required not only a coordinated effort of several differing branches of the "industry", like architects and engineers, but also of business, finance and management professionals. All in all, the combined effort began to resemble more the branches of the corporate activity that the buildings housed than the traditional concept of design originating solely from the architects.

The increase in the amount of new projects given to the large architectural studios -- such as Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Harrison and Abramovitz and Emery Roth & Sons -- during the 1950s' great influx of new International Style office skyscrapers, had eventually led to changing these design bureaus into assembly lines of glass-walled standard designs.

An important factor leading to the simplification of the designing process was the fact that while the plaza bonuses led to larger buildings in terms of total floor area, as well as more storeys, the volume also dictated an increase in the amount of elevators. While an office skyscraper of the 1950s had 30 to 40 storeys, in the next decade the figure had risen to 40 to 50 -- the extra elevators needed to service these storeys, in turn, took much of the space within the smaller floors of the non-setback towers (something that the spirelike 70 Pine Street of 1932 had tried to solve by the use of double-decker elevators). This not only reduced the rentable space within each floor, but also added to the building's overall cost, leading to designs that maximized the usage of floorspace (mastered by Roths' bureau, see below) and use of cheaper materials and standardized designs.

During the period of 1950 to 1970, Emery Roth & Sons was involved as an architectural consult in several office skyscraper projects, with a combined floor space of nearly 3 million m². In these assignments the primary architectural firms created the envelopes and architectural "language" of the buildings, whereas Roths used their expertise to make most out of the spaces within, optimizing the spaces and services on the floorplates, exemplified by the 1 million m² of the World Trade Center (1973) with Yamasaki's architectural designs.

To meet the demand, designing time of individual buildings was reduced and repeated standard methods used in designs, made by non-personalized teams within the large architect bureaus. Despite such approaches as SOM's idea competitions between in-bureau teams, or the new structural innovations such as the "tube construction", many of the designs of the following decades were yet monotonous and monolithic. The "assembly line" approach was seldom fruitful in the sense of giving the designs individuality except maybe the slight change of material treatment or facade element composition in each project.

This also lead to the loss of work on intricate details that Mies van der Rohe had considered the most important aspect in creating his minimalist International Style buildings. Less wasn't anymore more -- it was lesser still... Or as Robert Venturi stated: "Less is a bore..."

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* NEW RULES FOR DEBATE
As if someone would really care, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitatat publicized in July 1997 the new rules to judge the height of a high-rise building.

Buildings' features were divided into four categories by

Cat. 1: height to structural or architectural top
Cat. 2: height to highest occupied floor
Cat. 3: height to top of roof
Cat. 4: height to tip of spire or antenna
When applying these rules to the "quest for the tallest", the twin Petronas Towers in Malaysia would take the 1st category, whereas the Sears Tower in Chicago would take the next two. Interestingly, the fourth category would give New York's 1 World Trade Center the title of the tallest because its antenna mast exceeds in height that of Sears's.

(If my opinion in this matter is asked, I feel that the Sears Tower is still the tallest, on the Cat. 3 count. However, if any kind of not-strictly-structural extensions -- like the Petronases' spires -- are to be "accepted", either on Cat. 1 or Cat. 4 count, then the title should remain with the 1 World Trade Center, as its antenna is just as "unstructural" an addition as any other spire(s) on top of the accessible spaces of a building.
(That was of course prior to 11 Sept. 2001...)

19 October 2003: The abovementioned may be outdated by now, with the Taiwanese tower taking the new height record -- don't know about all the categories, though, can't frankly be a*sed to find out in detail...

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OFFICE BUILDING DESIGN
GENERAL VIEWS

Modern office building design has to combine different needs into a building that not only provides an enjoyable (well, as enjoyable as a job can be...) and efficient workspace, but also has a good location and can be operated as economically as possible.

As the realization of large building projects, like office skyscrapers, takes a long time, and considerably longer than a typical period of high-pace economy lasts (before the next phase of recession), the project has to be got underway already during the previous phase of recession. Only that way will the spaces be ready and available when the new period of activity and renting in real estate begins.

In a high-rise project the requirement for massive economical investments brings also considerable risks. To determine the profitability of a planned development, extensive risk-charting calculations are used. As Jerry Speyer of Tishman Speyer Properties said, that "conservative thinking is important when one designs futuristic structures." The tried and trusted methods form the basis of profit calculations.

The charting of tenants' needs and demands for their respective spaces forms an integral part of design process. Well made, these studies can considerably reduce the risk of mistakes and wrong decisions in design stage.

The lifespan of "defectively" designed skyscrapers is at the present 20 to 30 years, whereas well designed ones can last up to 100 years. The aging of a building is nowadays not so much dependent on the construction materials, rather the quality of the design and the acceptance of the real estate market and the tenants.

A good location is essential for the usability and accessibility of an office building. The building should be accessible by private car, as well as public transport. In downtown locations this may lead to considerable waiting in traffic, and therefore a suburban location can often offer better accessibility. Such a location helps also dealing with the requirements of parking space and also be advantageous if located near main roads and highways. Another consideration is the price of land; plots in downtown locations can (and mostly will) be much more expensive to purchase and will thus add to the cost of the development. As building the offices specifically to downtown locations is often not necessary, such location decisions are often taken.

The interior design can follow two basic lines: the "traditional" office room layout or the open office environment for larger workgroups. The working methods and corporate "culture" often dictate the choice of workplaces, although the internal layout should be changeable to fit the various needs. Another important approach related to the expected uses of the building is the size of the floors: the larger floorplates of 6,500 to 9,300 m² are sought out by financial firms such as banks or trading firms while the 4,600 m² or smaller are more suitable for entities like law firms. In any case it is important that the tenants can affect the interior design from the beginning. Inevitably, the better image achieved by the combination of a good location, good design and good technical "services" -- combined with effective marketing -- allows the developers to also ask for higher rents for the office spaces.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONTROL

A modern office building has to be carefully designed to contain the essential installations for HVAC (heat, ventilation, air-conditioning) and datacommunications. This requires the building to incorporate the necessary ducts and cable routings, and with sensible equipment and design choices considerable cost saves can also be achieved.

First of all, however, come the considerations of reducing the heat loads in the first place and, as a related issue, minimizing the need for heating. With the large window areas of modern skyscrapers, such design solutions as the alignment of facades to certain points of compass and the installation of protruding shades or double facades can provide notable differences to the need for mechanical cooling or warming. Aligning the glass-walled facades to the north and south will help reducing the heat load from the sun, especially in locations closer to the Equator, where most of the heat load falls from the east and west directions. Also such design choices as the placement of the core (or cores) on the outer wall, facing directions of direct sunlight, can offer protection from sunlight and reduce heat loads. While such installations as grated awnings or fins help to reduce the direct sunlight falling on the glass facade, double facades do the same (with special glass pane treatments also filtering out "unwanted" wavelengths of light) and the space between the glass walls can also used to warm the incoming ventilation air during the colder periods of year, the same way a greenhouse does.

The costs of heating the building can be reduced by as much as 60 per cent with right design choices. One is the improvement of the insulation of outer walls and windows -- the newest "breed" of energy-efficient glass panes is so effective that the temperature difference between the outside and inside surfaces of the glass can be over 40 centigrades. Moreover, the use of glass-walled double facades, separating the interior of the building from direct contact with colder outside air, can help to achieve even more effective insulation (although studies have since also shown that the savings are in fact rather negligible considering the small or non-existent improvement in energy consumption and the cost of the second, supported wall of glass and its maintenence.)

Also the heat collected by the air-conditioning systems can be re-used in heating the building to the extent that heating systems need to be switched on only after outside temperatures fall below -15 centigrade. Using the same machinery for heating, air-conditioning and cooling can reduce building investments notably. (On the other hand, the difficulties of air heating make it a less suitable way of heating a building.) Even most of the heat from computers can be used for re-heating by installing them into secial tables connected to the air-conditioning ductwork. Installation like this also reduces the noise from the computers.

The revolving door, used now so extensively in large office buildings and skyscrapers, was introduced in 1888 in Philadelphia by Theophilus Van Kannel as an effective way to reduce the effect of outside elements. They reduce the loss of cold, air-conditioned air that gathers to the lower floors of the building and could even make the opening of a regular door difficult; similarly, in wintertime, the wind tunnel effect caused by the rise of the warm air to the upper parts of the building would draw in air and cause gusts of cold air in the lobbies if normal doors were used. Always keen to regulate, the city even has a requirement for revolving doors that limits the allowed rotation speed to a maximum of 15 rotations per minute. The revolvers can often be somewhat annoying, but they have a clear function in reducing the loss of energy from within large buildings, as well as acting as a clear border of entrance between the street and the lobby.

All these improvements in construction can reduce the heating costs by as much as 25 per cent, a considerable amount in a large office building.

See also: Green considerations and Telecommunications and companies.

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BUILDING SECURITY
In the post-9/11 world, the landlords have been forced to increase the security within the buildings, to protect not only the entrances to the buildings, as traditionally, but also such locations as mailrooms, air intakes and even the immediate vicinity of the building.

But the lobbies remain the main focus of attention, with the entrances to the elevator banks protected with both security personnel and electronics. This has led to the proliferation of security and barrier installations, most notably turnstiles, familiar from the more mundane surroundings of the subway -- although the modern optical turnstiles in the lobbies can cost 15 times more. These require an ID card for an accepted entrance and can be fitted with or without the barrier arms, although usually these are fitted, largely to give a psychological measure of security. The ones without barriers have warning lights or sound alarms, some models even prohibiting the elevators to come down to the lobby floor until the alarm is resolved. Despite the costs, the turnstile protection, along with the older acquaintances like metal detectors and X-ray machines, are seen as a cost-effective and reliable way of dealing with the essential security needs. (For example, the installation in Chicago's Sears Tower, the tallest in the US, includes 34 optical "stiles" that open only to specific photo ID badges and are treated to blend into the existing lobby decor with stainless steel and etched glass casing.)

The security needs, however, vary according to the location and the perceived need for enhanced security. Whereas in NYC the added security and so-called closed buildings are common, even in other major cities like Washington DC and LA -- not to mention smaller ones -- the security is less strict and few buildings are closed. The perception of a lower risk to the building as well as the costs and inconveniences of added security usually keep the entrance more open; more so in multitenanted buildings than in ones with a single tenant because the added cost in security is easier to "sell" to a single financial company or law firm than a multitude of tenants which may have differing views on the actual threat. Even in Washington, some tenants have in fact protested suggested controls over free movement, partly because the buildings have generally less floors than in NYC and the risk is thus seen as lower.

The increased need for security has also increased its cost; a survey by BOMA (Building Owners and Managers Association International) of 1,959 buildings stated that there was a 14.3 percent increase in security costs from 2001 to 2002. As these costs are usually passed on to the tenant companies, the tenants have a say in whether the security in a building is increased or not. As the memory of 9/11 fades, many buildings' landlords have not deemed it necessary to continue maintaining a high-class security.

The protection against biological and chemical attacks became an issue during the Fall 2001 anthrax scare, just after the 9/11 attacks. The threat has led to a need to protect the HVAC (Heat Ventilation Air-conditioning) systems from biological and chemical attacks, leading to the mechanical filtration of the air taken in as well as the placement of air intakes to monitored or inaccessible locations on the building's facade or roof. Such locations as mailrooms, delivery areas and lobbies especially need security due to their role as public "interfaces". Against an outdoor release of agents, the use of special safe zones or rooms that fulfill the same safeguarding function is recommended, these locations within the building being as much as possible isolated from the flow of possibly contaminated outdoor air. An effective sealing of the outside perimeter of the building against air draft from the outside is a way of reducing the risk of an outdoor release affecting the interior -- this may also improve energy-efficiency as well as employee comfort near the perimeter.

The US federal government had to start taking the threat of terrorism seriously long before the commercial sector had its wake-up call on 9/11: the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 showed the vulnerabilty of certain structural types and the need for added security. It took, however, until 2003 for the General Services Administration, an agency that leases the federal office space in Washington, to propose a code that would impose security and structural protection requirements on federal office buildings in the city. If the Interagency Security Committee, formed after the Oklahoma bombing, approves the standards, all newly constructed federal office buildings would have to conform with their structural and protective regulations, the degree of protection varying according to the function of the agency and the amount of personnel within the building. Also all the entrances would have to be guarded.

The physical protection of buildings against bomb attacks, mainly truck bombs, can be carried out with the placement of physical barriers that form a "keep-out zone" outside the building's walls. However, to allow the emergency services an entry near the building -- especially in cases where the barriers are a long distance from the building -- there should either be a possibility to remove some of the protective screen or an alternative route to the building. In addition to the isolation from a possible blast, the form of structural and facade choices determine the building's ability to withstand an attack. In the Oklahoma City case, the use of wide transfer girders on the street level as well as the curtain wall perimeter both added to the blast effects. The use of monolithic materials, such as concrete, in the lower floor facades both protects the occupants and the structure from the blast, but can also help supporting a damaged portion of the frame.

Also the residential buildings have had their security increased after 9/11, although the development has had as much to do with dealing with general crime in the city as with a threat of terrorism.

In addition to the technical barriers of security cameras, guards are an essential part of the security. In addition to the traditional doorman/concierge functions, their tasks have been expanded; at the Trump Place buildings, for example, all deliveries to apartments are escorted all the way, while others, like the Hotel Pierre and Essex House have elevators staffed around the clock.

The elevators themselves are another part of the security that has been constantly improved. In case of elevators with direct access to the apartments, the entrance is verified with methods ranging from the traditional key access, through one-time-use-one-floor elevator passes for all building entrants, like at the Eldorado Apartments, to high-tech solutions like (as reported) fingerprint recognition at the new Time Warner Center.

In a city shaken by a perceived increase of threat on personal security, the improved security measures work also as a marketing tool to woo potential tenants to a building. On the other hand, extensive criminal background checks have joined the financial and reputation checks of tenant applicants, further complicating the process.

9 September 2004: The years of apparent lack of immediate domestic terrorist threat have, naturally, had their effect in security -- while some tenants continue to invest more than they normally do, in many cases, developments in security have been curtailed or even reversed.

Those tenants and landlords that have felt the need for continued vigilance are prepared to invest: CB Richard Ellis, the management firm for about 115 buildings in the metropolitan area, has seen $50 million used in fixed security installations since 2001, as, at the same time, the security-related operating costs of guards, dogs etc. have doubled. $50 million has been also used by the nation's largest trucking company, Yellow Roadway corporation, in security-related costs.

The clampdown of security after 9/11 has, inevitably, been eased, with cutbacks in guard employment and removal of many of the devices and procedures that controlled the entrances to the buildings. Many buildings that were to have approaches to their entrances blocked with fixed bollards or other barriers, have been left to await a more acute threat to materialize.

Even then, in the year since 9/11, a survey of 300+ larger companies showed that they had had only a median increase of 4 percent in their security spending. Many have, moreover, re-evaluated the risks to their particular locations and decided to cut back on security. Threat alerts, however, tend to increase spending at least temporarily: after the Aug. 2004 alert, Allied Security received orders for 6,000 hours of guard services, 5 percent more than normally.

But generally, even if the personnel flow into the individual buildings has been usually eased during the last two years, a culture of vigilance and routine screening of mail and deliveries has come to stay.

See also: Buildings and insurance

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* BUILDINGS AND INSURANCE
Taking a property insurance against potentially detrimental eventualities like fires, water damage or -- especially lately -- terrorism, is a basic, yet vital part of managing a building just like the physical maintenance, security or heat, water and electricity deals.

Depending on the included coverage, a building insurance policy could cover everything from fires, falling objects, natural disasters and vandalism to lost rental income, losses due to employee dishonesty or the costs related to rebuilding due to changes in building regulations.

In an insurance policy, a co-insurance clause is added as a tool to prevent underinsuring the property. As the insurance carriers expect that the building is covered for -- and paid likewise in premiums -- its full value, a co-insurance clause penalizes for insuring under a certain percentage of the full value, ie. underinsuring. The ratio of the actual insured value and the value required by the co-insurance clause is used to multiply the amount of losses occurred -- the more below the required value the actual insurance is, the less the carrier will pay as a compensation for any occurence's full damage value. The name of the clause comes from the fact that in order to complete the coverage of losses in an underinsurance case, the property owner has to fund a part of the rebuilding him/herself.

(With an approved stated amount co-insurance clause, the requirement for sufficient insurance can be met through building value appraisal which determines the value to be insured for, rather than a percentage of the actual value. It helps better to follow possible changing values of a property.)

The premium prices for a coverage have normally depended on factors like the location, fire prevention, type/frame of construction, age and condition of the building etc. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the whole industry was shaken at least as much as any other; features like "target value", possible symbolic value, height of the building, presence of "target occupants" within the building, and so on have risen to an equally important role in determining the insurance rates, especially in the case of covering terrorism-related occurrences.

Another factor to press the recent price increases, alongside the new insurance risks post-9/11, is the worsened stock market. With their market-dependent investments going sour, the insurance companies have been left with the premium payments as their primary income. The increase of rates had started even before 9/11, with rates beginning to rise, but after the attacks, the trend has accelerated. This has led to, in some cases, drastic increases in premiums, with the smaller buildings having increases ranging from 10 to 40 percent, while the larger ones have suffered increases from 100 to 400 percent. Nevertheless, the brokerage professionals maintain, insurance premiums are actually lower than they were in the late-1980s when money was abound, and that the rates are getting more to their "proper" level.

26 November 2002: A report by the city Comptroller William Thompson states that the insurance premiums for commercial properties have risen 73 percent in average since 9/11 -- one extreme case had an increase of no less than 700 percent, while another unfortunate property owner had shopped for coverage in 25 insurance companies, with no success. The construction liability policy premiums have risen 101.6 percent, with also a limited availability. Responding to the insurers' statement that the insurance companies have paid $19 billion in 9/11 damages, he noted that while some companies did pay claims, every one has risen their premiums, and nowhere as dramatically as in NYC, seriously hampering businesses and construction there. Developer Douglas Durst has sued his insurance company over the insurance premiums for the new One Bryant Park.

For example, in summer 2001, a "cover-all" insurance for an NYC Class-A building worth $500 million cost $150,000 in yearly premiums -- in 2002, the figure was $300,000 and excluding terrorism coverage. The terrorism coverage could be up to $3 million, covering perhaps a maximum of $300 million of the value and with the small print loaded with exclusions.
The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, always a prominent target, has had its insurance premium doubled to $1.1 million, with the coverage decreased from $125 million to $50 million (divided between physical damage and lost toll income), with no terrorism coverage included. The replacement cost of the bridge would be around $2 billion.
The First Mutual Transportation Assurance Co. premium for the property of the Metropolitan Transport Authority, operating within and in the surroundings of NYC and carrying 8 million people every weekday as well as owning several bridges, was trebled to $18.6 million, whereas the coverage fell to one third at $500 million (minus $30 million deductible); a separate terrorism coverage costs $7.5 million for $100 million (minus a $30 m deductible).

The increases are often effectively carried out by reducing the discounts given out to good customers or by reassessing the insured property to a higher value and thus charging more, in both cases requiring no state approval as is the case with direct price increases. For the owners, the difficulty is that with the real estate market still down (especially in Downtown), even collecting the money for more expensive insurance from increased rents is difficult. As new policies and deals are made and old ones renewed, the "shopping for policy" is even more laborous than normally, with the large management firms with large property portfolios sparing no effort in order to hunt for the best bargain.

If the reinsurers (smaller entities that, in turn, insure the large insurance companies' policies, effectively spreading the burden of claim payments) are reluctant to provide terrorism coverage, that means effectively that the primary carrier can then neither offer the service. As a result of the fear of losses, many companies no longer offer new policies (or renew current ones) that would cover terrorism-related occurrences. One instance could leave behind damage worth hundreds of millions of dollars; the 9/11 attacks led to losses worth of $35 to $75 billion for the insurance companies.

In addition to "admitted", state-approved insurers, there are several nonadmitted insurance companies, carriers that are not regulated by the state, that may provide terrorism coverage -- with appropriately high premium rates. The catch with these is that when an admitted insurance company goes bankrupt, the State Department of Insurance will continue to pay possible insurance claims from its guarantee fund. The nonadmitted ones have no such safety-net and are notably riskier partners for building managements.

Buildings valued at $50 million or more and those with over 50 floors are especially in the danger zone of being left without proper insurance -- at least at a reasonable price, not to mention the optional terrorism coverage, which could be prohibitive in price, if offered at all. In trying to obtain the adequate coverage, the owners may try to spread the risk for the insurers by getting the insurance piecemeal from several insurerance carriers, ie. "stacking the limits". That, in turn, leads to problems with the inevitably varying wording on the policies, especially in terms of terrorism coverage.

The present situation threatens to leave also much of the residential sector in the city, especially in Manhattan, on the dry due to the number of large apartment buildings that the insurance companies now eye suspiciously when providing coverage.

Also the financial securities market feels the effect of the insurance crisis; in NYC, the lack of affordable terrorism coverage in potential collateral properties has led to losses in mortgage deals worth a total of $8 billion. Banks that have mortgages on large properties are, for a good reason, afraid of being left without full insurance coverage on these buildings. In fact, the lack of adequate terrorism insurance has lead to downgrading of several commercial securities backed by mortgage payments and financing difficulties of the properties due to the lowered return from the related assets. Lenders want to retain the value of their investment (ie. the securities tied to the well-being of the property) which in turn would require obtaining of viable terrorism coverage. That also affects the banks' willingness to fund future projects, especially prominent ones.

The case of the WTC attacks and the subsequent legal feud between the leaseholder Larry Silverstein and the insurers, 20 in all, led by Swiss Re, about the number of terrorism "occurrences" involved has made the industry very cautious about the policy wording and the terminology. With the risks involved, in case of continuous disagreements about the insurance terms, insurance carriers are likely to play it safe by abandoning any unresolved deal talks altogether.

In several states, local legislation determines the limits of insurer liabilities as well as defines a terrorist act; a proposal that would provide federal support for losses exceeding $10 billion is hoped to make the insurance companies more willing to provide moderately-priced terrorism coverage, with Washington D.C. acting as a fall-back with a $100 billion terrorism fund to draw from. The proposition is currently [August 2002] stalled in the Senate.
8 December 2002: The law, called the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002, has been finally passed and signed, affecting all primary commercial properties and the insurers connected to their coverage. Effective until the end of 2005, the federal fund will cover 90 percent of the amount of damage claims, the rest being paid by the companies themselves. An insurer becomes eligible for the 90-percent federal aid after the claims exceed a certain portion of the company's gained premiums, the threshold rising from 7 percent of the income in 2003, to 10 in 2004, and 15 on 2005. At the annual industry-wide income of $150 billion, that would amount to a total of $10.5, $15 and $22.5 billion. Losses that exceed the fund's $100 billion limit are to be drawn from a source decided by Congress, if deemed necessary.

Although the passage of the bail-out legislation has been connected to the insurance industry's support for the ruling GOP -- with the companies having already raised their premiums -- the enactment makes terrorism coverage more available. (Also the issue of punitive damages, the extra payments ruled against companies/owners that are sentenced guilty of neglecting safety, was divided along party lines.) The terrorism exclusion clauses are not allowed anymore, and all such policyholders are to be offered terrorism coverage within three months after the law was passed. That, connected to the percentage limits in federal aid (ie. deductibles), is precarious for many companies, especially reinsurers, which are not eligible for the aid program. Many reinsurers are likely to bail out of the new policies that have no possibility for terrorism exclusion.

The legislation also establishes the system of federal courts, one for each state, operating under the state's laws, to handle all the lawsuits connected to each act of terrorism. This is to prevent multiple lawsuits from different legislations.

Awaiting the Congressional decision on the terrorism insurance, a court battle between the developer and the lenders of Times Square's Condé Nast Building continues [November 2002]. Douglas Durst will hope to reverse a lower court decision that allows Cigna, the loan administrator for La Salle National Bank to obtain terrorism coverage for the building, funded by the income from the building tenants. Durst opposes the annual premium of over $5 million and insists that the loan terms don't require a collateral insurance.
25 November 2005: In June 2003, the New York appellate court forbid the lenders from charging a sum of $14 million for insurance premiums and interests that they had been seeking. In effect, the win for Durst allowed, for the time being, building owners avoid obtaining the additional terrorism-related coverage that the lenders were seeking. In September the same year, the feud ended as Durst agreed to provide a level of terrorism coverage that the lenders could accept. Cigna, in turn stopped proceedings to put the $430 million mortgage in default.

Claim handling: the case of Lehman Brothers' post-9/11 claim.
In the first phase, the physical inventory (Nov. 2001 to Jan. 2002) determined the contents of the firm's assets within the buildings (Lehman occupied offices in more than one towers within the World Financial Center), their condition and replacement value. The work had to be done fast, so that the usable equipment and furniture within the WFC locations could be moved out to help establish operations elsewhere. The inventory was done by assigned groups of Lehman employees with representatives from the insurers in every group. The Lehman inventory differed from the vast majority of claims filed after 9/11 in that there was in fact a material "base" from which the value of actual claims payments could be determined, whereas other claims were based merely on written records of possessions (for very obvious reasons). The inventory revealed, for example, that the counted amount of possessions was smaller than that indicated by the asset ledger of the firm; asset records, however, verified the actual amount used in claims. Two months of counting produced 64,000 lines of inventory spreadsheet.
Damage assessment phase (Feb. 2002 on) determined the value for each piece of equipment and the cost to replace it. Insurers' computer experts, for example, worked with their Lehman counterparts and assessed the value and purpose of the various computer hardware equipment.
The work done together in ironing out the inventory allowed Lehman not only to get the advance insurance payments in time, but also the rest of the payment without major interference with the everyday operations of the company, something that claimants after large losses may eventually lose interest in as the company's normal activities pile up.
Immediate purchases after 9/11 included $150 million worth of computers, including 2,500 PCs for employees. Two part-payments were made while the claim was still being processed, $100 million in October 2001 and $200 million in April 2002.

Info by The New York Times, New York Post, Downtown Express, National Real Estate Investor, Puget Sound Business Journal, CFO Magazine, Risk & Insurance, MSNBC.com, apreid.com, ribo.com and housingcenter.com.

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CAR PARKING
Car parking is an Issue in New York City. A big one. Parking in the city is expensive, highly taxed (in carage fees) and illegal parking will be rewarded with a ticket or a tow-away, city activities that function perfectly however chaotic everything else is. (That must be partly because parking tickets are a considerable source of income for the city, worth millions of dollars annually. So, the city expects you to park incorrectly, and by doing it you can be an altruistic helper of the municipal economy. Now, that should help your conscience the next time you double-park...) Finding a vacant parking space in the first place is often difficult, vastly more so in the commercial center areas in business hours.

As historical background, in the inter-war years there were a few privately-financed carages like the Rockefeller Center garage to help accommodating the increasing amount of cars owned within or entering Manhattan. In 1951 the city proposed residential building parking, extended to commercial buildings in 1953. The developers embraced the idea. As the developer Robert H. Arnow stated: "since we cannot keep vehicles out of the city, it is only good business that we provide enough space for them to stay in while they are here." Although the 1946 legislation had allowed the construction of city-financed garages (like the Battery Garage in Downtown), all in all their amount remained rather small in downtown districts due to the emerging policy of reducing car traffic there. Similarly, the oft-revived idea of parking space under public parks (Madison Square Park as the main target) was, hum, buried in the 1960s. Instead, parking meters were installed to other parts of Manhattan except Midtown -- for charging of street-side parking -- and parking lots were built to the end of Manhattan-bound subway lines to make the commuters and visitors leave their cars there.

An indication of the state of affairs was the mock competition arranged by the Daily News in the 1960s, involving a pedestrian, a private a car, a bus and a taxi in a cross-Midtown race -- the pedestrian came out as the winner by a wide margin.

Long thought of, the 1982 zoning re-revision tried to further get the automobile congestion down in downtown areas by reducing off-street parking. As NYC did have a rather well-functioning, albeit at certain hours very crowded, public transit system that could take care of many of those who now drove in, it was decided to reduce car traffic in downtown areas by cutting parking space. Thus, the new buildings in commercial districts, very many of them skyscrapers employing a large amount of car-owners, weren't directly required to provide off-street parking. In much of Manhattan, the amount of provided parking in new residential developments is also severely reduced. This state of affairs is unique among US cities, or any world metropolis.

In residential building construction, the distance from the plot to the parking facility may be 180 to 300 meters, depending on the city-determined density of the district. In commercial, community and manufacturing building construction, parking facilities can be located anywhere in the same zoning district, or (in select cases) even in an adjoining district.

The maximum size of these parking facilities is 150 spaces (200 for residential use) but it's possible to get permit for a 50 per cent increase (or even more through an appeal) in spaces. The permitted number of spaces is determined in residential buildings by the number of apartments and the plot size and in non-residential buildings by the plot size alone. In high-density residential areas, up to 50 per cent of the required open space may be used for parking lots.

As for the required parking spaces, the degree of density, car-ownership and public transportation in the given district affect the amount of required car parking. In the high-density districts, parking must be for the most part in closed carages, on- or off-site. The residential buildings have parking requirements by the number of apartments; in high-density areas the requirements reduce from 70 to 40 per cent of the total number of apartments as the density increases. The smaller plots (up to 900 or 1,300 m² depending on district type) in these areas have reduced requirements, as do the public and publicly assisted housing. In new high-density area commercial construction, only very large developments have any parking requirements whatsoever. Thus, although residential high-rises have either parking facilities on-plot or provided in off-plot carages, with office buildings the requirements are so reduced that they usually have off-plot parking spaces, if even that. The 55 Water Street and the late World Trade Center are examples of developments with their own parking facilities, but then again, they are also the largest office buildings in NYC...

Although the idea of zoning authorities hasn't come out quite as successfully as envisaged -- small wonder, knowing the New Yorkers' resentment to City Hall directives that they see as a nuisance -- the zoning effort and the simple fact that parking poses its problems have still alone made many commuters to leave their cars outside Manhattan. Still, the high-density areas are often stuck and stacked with cars parked on street sides, undoubtedly many in a way that is against the law (alternate side of the street parking is a good trap), but hey, "it's New York"...

It is ironic that as the off-Manhattan highway system has improved and the bridges and tunnels still carry deckloads of traffic into Manhattan, the zoning discouraging off-street downtown parking spaces makes it even more difficult to find a parking space outside a commercial carage -- with their exorbitant rental fees. The same goes for car-owning residents in high-density areas. At the same time, new skyscraper construction in areas like Times Square (offices) and the rising Riverside South/Trump Place (luxury residential), creates even more pressure for parking space -- in addition to the feared congestion at the 72nd Street sub station in the latter case.

To encourage the out-of-towners and delicate drivers to drive in the delicate city, here's the web site Drive New York City like a New Yorker. Enuff said.

As a dry-witted sign puts it succintly:

NO PARKING, NO STANDING,
NO STOPPING, NO KIDDING
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