Time Warner Center is New York's retail, office and residential mecca
BY JASON SHEFTELL
DAILY NEWS REAL ESTATE CORRESPONDENT
Friday, March 28th 2008, 4:00 AM
People scurry around with walkie-talkies while French teenagers bop their heads in the Jazz Center. Diners at the nation's most expensive restaurant shell out $400 for the "no-menu, whatever-the-chef-wants-to-cook" culinary experience.
An employee tends to the fresh orchids (on which $80,000 is spent annually) in the 51st-floor residents' lounge. A couple argue over carrots or zucchini in Whole Foods' produce section. Dogs on leashes hop on escalators. So goes 24 hours in the life of the Time Warner Center (TWC).
With 40,000 people pouring through its halls daily, and shoppers spending an average $78 per visit, the TWC has become more than a New York City icon. It has become a profit center for retailers and residents, a life-changing convenience for neighbors and a mecca for jazz fans and food lovers.
"The Time Warner Center is one of the best things that might have ever happened to me," says Sara Beth Shrager, a 25-year local walking through the center on her way to Equinox, the health club in the building's North Tower. "I'm here all the time because there is no place where I can get all of these things at once."
In addition to helping raise retail rents in the surrounding area 400% since 2004, the TWC spawned construction of at least eight residential retail condominium developments in a five-block radius, including 15 Central Park West, the building with the most expensive apartments per square foot ($6,000) in New York City.
More importantly, it silenced critics who said New Yorkers would never shop in a mall. In the four years since it opened, the $2.5 billion, 2.8-million-square-feet center has created a new neighborhood and interior-based culinary, retail and cultural destination.
"A lot of developers tried to do a mixed-use project in New York, but they never put the product mix together the right way," says Kenneth A. Himmel, president and CEO of Related Urban, the subsidiary of the Related Companies responsible for getting the Time Warner Center off the ground and managing it today. "In this case, it was filling the hole in the city's West Side, joining subway systems with pedestrian movement, and taking the entertainment industry to the north and south, the office workers and neighborhood residents, and building something that becomes the nucleus or portal for all of these things."
The Retail: Called the Great Room, the atrium lobby of the TWC is an 85-foot-wide, 120-foot- deep, 10,000-square-foot space with a 150-foot glass wall overlooking Columbus Circle. It invites people in off the street.
"It's no accident that the escalators going to the retail and restaurant floors are lined up directly with both sidewalks on 59th St.," says Himmel. He praises the architect, Howard Elkus, who worked to give shoppers architecturally inspiring views from all angles of the rising arcade. "We could have made a lot of money off that area. It's prime-time, sellable empty space that goes four stories high. But we had to create a sense of place. Once you do that, everything around it becomes more valuable."
For Borders bookstore, J. Crew, Esprit, Eileen Fisher and Williams-Sonoma, the TWC stores have the most sales per square foot in the country. Continuing to increase the depth and quality of the merchandise available, fine jeweler Swarovski and denim-maker True Religion will open stores within months. The True Religion branch will be its first New York location.
"We're designing the layout of the center similar to the top emporiums or department stores in big cities of the past," says Webber Hudson, who oversees the retail mix in the TWC. "Our first floor is geared toward the more affluent consumer, with our second floor more contemporary and younger. Borders and Whole Foods stay inviting for everyone."
The Residences: Homes in the building sell for $7 million to $60 million. Since the building opened, TWC four-bedrooms have increased in price by 127%. Some apartments have doubled in value. Ricky Martin, Kelly Ripa, Bob Costas, Jimmy Buffett and Jay-Z and Beyoncé have called the Residences at the Time Warner Center home.
Real estate marketing legend Louise Sunshine, who handled the marketing for the project, trademarked the phrase "Five-Star Living" to explain the feeling of owning an apartment in a TWC tower. One of the first projects to combine hotel amenities in a mixed-use facility, the 66 condominiums in the North Tower and 134 in the South Tower started the mass movement in real estate toward new high-end construction projects.
"We watched the movement of wealth transfer from the East Side to the West Side," says David Wine, president of Related Residential, who built, marketed and sold the condos. "This redefined the New York luxury apartment."
Currently, a resident is finishing a 14,000-square-foot duplex with a wading pool. The building continues to set New York City real estate records.
"This building still trades among the highest prices in the city," says Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group CEO Kelly Mack, who worked peripherally with Sunshine on the project and today runs the biggest new condo sales and marketing company in the world. "The resale values are extraordinary. There's no doubt it reestablished the entire West Side of Manhattan."
The Night Life: The Restaurant and Bar Collection on the fourth floor includes Per Se, one of America's top-rated restaurants, and Masa, the country's most expensive restaurant. Landmarc, a bistro, does $1 million per month in business. The Mandarin Oriental hotel, which starts at the 35th floor of the North Tower, has a lobby lounge with 16-foot windows overlooking Central Park.
Porter House New York, a steak restaurant, has a constant buzz, with big groups enjoying the large space between tables in the dining room.
"I like being in a big location that welcomes people," says Michael Lomonaco, the restaurant's chef/owner, who opened Windows of the World at the World Trade Center. "We share the constant hum of activity that runs through this place."
The Culture: Within the complex, Jazz at Lincoln Center holds a 1,233-seat concert hall with hydraulic seating boxes that can change the shape of the stage, a 427-seat theater with a wall of glass looking out toward Central Park South, daily classes for children, a jazz Hall of Fame and Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola — a jazz club open seven days a week from 7:30 p.m. till 2 a.m.
Norah Jones performed in Dizzy's last week at a 90th-birthday party for Marian McPartland. Basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was in the audience. Trumpet player Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center's director, stops in all the time. Shows cost $30, with discounts for students. Patrons from Japan, France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands are as common here as New Yorkers.
"This is a down-and-dirty jazz club in the sky," says club manager Roland Chassagne, who explained that, for acoustic purposes, the entire jazz facility was built as a separate building within the Time Warner Center towers. "Don't let the clean part or the pretty views fool you."
The Future: After the success of the TWC, the Related Companies is building similar projects for Los Angeles and Phoenix.
In Los Angeles, The Grand combines two residential towers (by renowned architect Frank Gehry) with an escalating podium of outdoor restaurants highlighted by terraces, courtyards, canopies and gardens, all with views of Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall across the street.
CityNorth, just northeast of Phoenix proper, is a 144-acre, grid-based project. In its center will be a boulevard of shops and restaurants that stem from pavilions. Mist will fall from bougainvillea flower beds to cool shoppers on hot desert days.
"There are not many people reaching to do the things we're doing," says Related's Himmel. "Cities will hopefully be better off because of it."