Bjarke Ingels Via 57
March 3, 2018

Hell’s Kitchen

Hell’s Kitchen is the neighborhood stretching alongside Hudson from West 42nd to West 57th Street, where a real estate investor today can earn a hell of a lot of money.

And that’s despite the fact that Hell’s Kitchen is under the so-called low-density zoning ordinance, which means that there can only be up to certain number of dwelling units per acre of land. In tightly packed Manhattan this mostly limits the height of the building. If in Midtown East a developer can theoretically erect a mile-height tower (and I’m sure sooner rather than later someone will) – here in Hell’s Kitchen you can’t build anything taller than 12 stories.

This relatively low height of buildings in Hell’s Kitchen greatly benefits areas of Manhattan located more to the East, because it allows a mass of taller buildings to have beautiful views of Hudson and New Jersey all the way to the horizon (and it return, from Hell’s Kitchen you can enjoy the view of Manhattan’s eastern skyline, including beautiful buildings of Times Square and Midtown).

The limit on building height may seem like a huge disadvantage, but you can rely on scrappy New Yorkers for making lemonade whenever life gives them lemons. These gnome buildings in Hell’s Kitchen often have beautiful roof decks and even roof gardens – not much wind on low roofs, so many developers take advantage of that. And guess what, you can sell a building with a rooftop garden for a lot more money than the building without one.

Another advantage is the relatively low cost of land, due to the same density restriction. A condominium built on lower-cost land in Manhattan is still a condominium in Manhattan, and reasonable property buyers wouldn’t care that their three-bedroom condo with the view of Hudson River and the park is not on the eightieth floor. That’s why developers and investors can earn very well here.

The northern area of Hell’s Kitchen along 11th Avenue for the last couple of decades had been invaded by numerous car dealership, so much that it quickly became known as Manhattan’s Car District. But lately these dealerships started leaving the area, and in some spots, where zoning regulations allowed, the automobiles “yielded the right of way” (see what I did here?) to new residential buildings and hotels.

One great example is a building called “Via 57 West”, located at 625 West 57th Street. Designed with usual devil-may-care audacity by the childlike Bjarke Ingels, this residential tetrahedron (I’d never guess I’d get to use this word in writing) is part of the current mayor Bill De Blasio’s Affordable Housing program. If you win a special lottery, you can get a three-bedroom here for $2,902 per month rent.

(But don’t play that lottery. Even if you win, it’s your three thousand bucks thrown to the gentle Hudson River breeze every month. Play a better kind of lottery instead, the one in which you win long-term. Become a Manhattan real estate investor.)

Right across the street from “Via 57 Street” there’s another beautiful building called The Max, to honor the memory of Max Elghanayan, the late Vice President of TF Cornerstone, who was only 30 at the time of his demise. That building, designed by Arquitectonica International Corporation, is located at 606 West 57th Street. It, too, is under Affordable Housing program, and the apartments in it are only for rent. My advice, as always, is: admire its beauty, but stay away. You’ve got bigger fish to fry.

What fish? Look up a few blocks north, and you’ll see it. The most promising place to buy residential property in Manhattan today is within walking distance, and it’s called Waterline Square.