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A whopping 35-plus residential projects are planned for Hell’s Kitchen over the next five years. Isaac Halpern gets the low-down so you can decide whether you can afford to move.

15 Hudson Yards view
The 70-story 15 Hudson Yards will have amazing views above the city.

New development in Hell’s Kitchen is booming, with more than 35 residential projects coming our way. Every week, it seems another gas station, popular diner, or former parking lot has a construction team demolishing and readying for a new purpose. Several old commercial buildings are also sheathed in scaffolding while they’re being converted to luxury loft housing.

The sheer amount of activity can be confusing — even overwhelming. So my goal here is to break it down for you and investigate what’s going up in the ‘hood, from rentals to condos, “affordable” to “super luxury”, and everything in between.

First, let’s look at the mix, rental vs. condo. Historically, midtown locations leaned decidedly towards rental as developers banked on the fact that, while people like to rent near work and entertainment, when it comes to purchasing, people want more traditionally residential neighborhoods away from the hustle and bustle. While new development in Hell’s Kitchen still tilts toward rentals, it’s not as pronounced as before and condo development is on the rise. The fabulous combination of world-class theater, hip wine bars and restaurants, along with new design-forward green spaces like the Hudson River Park and the High Line, makes the neighborhood a top choice for both renters and condo buyers. So how should you prepare to enter this market?

A common misconception is that affordable programs are only meant for the very poor. You may be surprised, in fact, at how much income you can have and still qualify.

If you’re looking at renting in a new development, you certainly won’t need a mortgage broker, and unless it’s a particularly complicated or very expensive lease, hiring an attorney is probably overkill. You can work with a real estate agent to help find the perfect rental or go it alone, that’s a personal preference. If, however, you’re interested in buying a condo in a new development, going solo is not advised. Working with a team of experts: a knowledgeable and experienced real estate agent, a trusted and skilled attorney, and a savvy mortgage broker will help you navigate the complicated process.

While the condo market is still hot, the increase in supply means that concessions to buyers from developers are more common now than before. There are, in fact, some great deals to be had, but you have to know what to ask for and how to structure the sale.

The question is: can you afford to rent or buy in a new development in Hell’s Kitchen? Of course, that depends on your situation, but there’s a mix of price points available, including “affordable housing.” What’s that? In short, developers get tax breaks and sometimes sought-after zoning variances by agreeing to include a percentage of units that are priced below the market and are income-restricted. While there are many types of affordable housing programs, virtually all of them have two things in common: it must be your primary residence, and the larger the number of people who will occupy, the more income you are allowed.

3 Hudson Boulevard
A rendering for the skyscraper at 3 Hudson Boulevard.

A common misconception is that affordable programs are only meant for the very poor. You may be surprised, in fact, at how much income you can have and still qualify. If you want to pursue affordable housing, being organized and diligent is a must as thousands often apply for just a few units. This is a helpful website for all things NYC affordable.

Now on to the new developments. I’ll touch on just a few interesting ones here. I’ve segmented the neighborhood into three sections: Hudson Yards, West 40s and West 50s. All are from 8th Avenue west to the Hudson River. Below is a graph showing key elements of all the new developments. Please keep in mind that development plans often change over time, so the following list and graph may not remain accurate.

Hudson Yards

The Hudson Yards mega development will (if all goes according to plan) eventually contain 12,700,000 square feet of new office, residential, and retail space, including 16 skyscrapers. There will be about 10 new residential buildings by 2025. The following two are expected to be completed in the next couple years.

15 Hudson Yards, a Related project designed by Diller Scofidio Renfro, will top out at 70 stories with 385 units, a mix of both rental and condo. The skyscraper will be along the High Line and include an Equinox fitness club.

555 W34th St, AKA 3 Hudson Boulevard, is a huge, 70-story Moinian Group project designed by FXFowle Architects. Half the building will be office space, the other half condos. Besides pools and a fitness center, the building will also feature restaurants and terraces. It will face the new park in front of the subway station and will twist as it rises, creating a very modern effect.

West 40s

605 W42nd St, known as Sky, also developed by Moinian, is the newest tower to rise along the W42nd St corridor. It’s a 60-story luxury rental with a 70,000 square foot club, which will also be open to the public for membership. Sky has lots of buzz because it has both an indoor and two outdoor infinity pools. As you might have guessed, Sky is all about the amenities. It will be interesting to see what goes into the equally large 70,000 square foot retail space rumored to include a Wholefoods.

460 W42nd St – MIMA. The top 12 floors of this super-luxury tower (floors 51-63) between Dyer Ave and 10th Avenue with pool, playroom, and gym plus skyline views are converting from rental to condo. The condo floors are reached from a separate entrance and lobby. The end result is a boutique condo with forever-views and killer amenities.

520 W45th St is the new Gotham West condo. Many know Gotham West at 550 W45th Street along 11th Avenue for the rental tower and high-end food court, which was truly a game-changer for the neighborhood. Down the block, the former Public School 51, is being converted to high-end condo lofts, just 18 units in all. The buyers will get to use the amenities from the rental building at 550, just like at MIMA. Hmm, a trend?

555 10th Ave – 41st St. Extell Development obtained the air rights from St Raphael Church, the beautiful Croatian Church next to the Lincoln Tunnel entrance, to create a 52-story luxury rental. Interestingly, floors 2-7 will be a 300-bed dorm (this enabled the developers to satisfy the required Community Facility component). Of the remaining 600 units, 120 will be “affordable.” Amenities will include a bowling alley, two pools, and a dog run. For the record, the lucky (understatement?) dorm students have a separate entrance and don’t get to use the amenities (if anyone’s checking, that is)!

572 11th Ave – 43rd St is yet another Moinian development. This is where the famous 24-hour Market Diner and Chelsea Garden Center were located. Both will be sorely missed. But, alas, out with the old and in with the new! A 13-story mixed-use luxury condo is coming, including 10,800 square feet of ground floor retail.

615 10th Ave – 45th St, the former Speedway gas station, which was a Hess for many years before that, was recently bought by the Chinese investment firm Xinyuan Real Estate, which successfully developed The Oosten, a Williamsburg Brooklyn condo. The new development on 10th Avenue will also be a condo and total 100,000 square feet with about 10-12 stories.

The pool at 555 10th Avenue.

West 50s

548 W53rd St -10th/11th Ave. Finally a totally “affordable” new development. Clinton Housing Development group is creating a 13-story building with 103 units below market prices.

318 W52nd St, known as the Sorting House, is a 30-unit condo conversion that takes part of an existing and functioning US post office where mail is still sorted (hence the name) and adds two new floors. The post office, with less square footage, will remain with a separate entrance. The result is a boutique condo with trendy loft-spaces and high ceilings. Most of the units come with private roof decks.

625 W57th St – 11th/12th Ave, the Durst Organization’s hotly anticipated massive new rental building was designed by Denmark’s Bjarke Ingels and features a very modern pyramid shape where most of the units will have terraces and many of those have views of the river. There will be 709 units in all, with a portion of those “affordable.” The amenities will include everything you would expect and some unusual features like a chef’s kitchen and a giant interior courtyard with river views.

This story originally appeared in W42ST magazine issue 14 in February 2016.

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