Extreme Makeover: FiDi Edition

Conversion has more than one meaning in the Financial District (FiDi).

As banks and other financial services firms like Nomura, Fidelity Investments and Deloitte find themselves relocating to Midtown or New Jersey, developers are buying downtown commercial buildings and converting them into high-end residential condominiums and rentals. Last year, The New York City Government reported a marked increase in population in this area, thanks in large part to the sheer volume of new residential units coming to market. The volume of newly available units in the FiDi is expected to climb to over 4,300 in 2017, alone.

Despite its Dutch roots and English architectural influence, the neighborhood is primarily associated with the global financial firms whose arrival in the 20th century earned the FiDi its name. Iconic period films of the 1980s, like “Wall Street”, for example, portray ruthless finance executives in sterile-looking boardrooms inside commercial skyscrapers that dot the downtown cityscape. Today, however, the look and feel of FiDi is evolving into something more residential and cultured, with large-scale real estate players leading the charge. The FiDi is, slowly but surely, is becoming a residential neighborhood. Through commercial-to-residential conversion projects, developers can utilize old structures while circumventing zoning laws and approval processes that often hinder New York City real estate development – thus allowing the historically business-heavy area to grow and transform.

For example, 180 Water Street, a tower located across the street from the South Street Seaport, was built in 1971 to serve commercial office needs. However, Metro Loft and Vanbarton Group recently converted the tower into luxury residential rental living, including 575 units – consisting of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units – and full amenities, including 24-hour concierge and a rooftop pool. The building is locally prominent because it features the first rooftop pool in a downtown rental and offers unparalleled Seaport, downtown, and river views. The tower’s higher-floor apartments also offer these expansive views, demonstrating one of the great benefits of converting a soaring commercial building into a residential tower.

Nearby 70 Pine Street, developed by Rose Associates and DTH Capital, was also recently converted from office space into luxury rental living. This building offers two full floors of amenities, including children’s playroom, screening room, bowling facility, and virtual golf. In this sense, the building offers luxury living with an array of unexpected amenities for the entire family. Additionally, One Wall Street, formerly the headquarters of financial conglomerate BNY Mellon, is set to become a mixed-use development with a ground-floor Whole Foods (the first in the area) and apartments that will become either rentals, condos or a mixture of both. Developed by Macklowe Properties and designed by Robert A.M. Stern, the converted development will offer luxury home-seekers the opportunity to inhabit this thriving and recently transformed neighborhood. The building was also just given landmark status, further cementing its importance in the neighborhood.

FiDi’s transformation also extends beyond the commercial-to-residential conversions. In August 2016, the mall at the Oculus debuted, infusing the neighborhood with a healthy dose of culture and international flair by means of upmarket shopping options including but not limited to Aesop, Breitling, Caudalie, Kiehl’s, Kate Spade New York, Links of London and John Varvatos. Most recently, Eataly opened at 4 World Trade Center, providing FiDi-dwellers with a sophisticated Italian food shopping and dining option within the downtown area. A few blocks east, the area along the Seaport has experienced a renaissance of sorts, with the opening of trendy bars: just last month, the area celebrated the opening of Clinton Hall, an upscale pub that will soon be joined by Mr. Cannon Speakeasy, a cocktail lounge slated to open in late June. Even legendary chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten announced plans to open a market at the Seaport. And no one can forget Brookfield Place’s legendary Le District, the Francophile New Yorker’s answer to Eataly that opened its doors in 2015.

Further, a surge in movie theater openings is also a sign of the changing times. The New York Postreported last month that the once culturally deprived Financial District “is poised to become Manhattan’s movie-theater mecca.” Alamo Drafthouse Cinema just leased 40,000-square feet at 28 Liberty Street, the skyscraper formerly known as Chase Manhattan Plaza, thus exemplifying a commercial office space-to-commercial retail conversion. Additionally, DNA Info reported in October 2016 that the iPic Theaters opened at the South Street Seaport, offering patrons plush seats, complete with cocktails, blankets and pillows.  The opening of educational institutions, like Léman Manhattan, along with nearby ferry and water taxi access in the area, complete the family-friendliness of FiDi.

The FiDi area is bustling and thriving. By intertwining past, present, luxury, culture and real estate, Manhattanites are in the midst of experiencing the rebirth of the city’s oldest (and arguably, its most historic) neighborhood.




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