A Century of New York City’s Evolving Skyline
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Over New York City’s storied history, the skyline has evolved constantly.
Smoke stacks and cathedral spires were gradually eclipsed by the stately office towers of “Newspaper Row”, and iconic skyscrapers like the Chrysler Building soon shared the skyline with monolithic towers in the international style.
Today’s infographic comes to us from Liberty Cruise NYC and it charts this evolution over the last century, while highlighting just how dramatically the cityscape is set to change by 2020.
The Early History of Skyscrapers
For decades, the ornate spire of Trinity Church towered over Lower Manhattan. It wasn’t until the late-1800s when technology and economic might converged to produce the first modern towers.
The city’s first cluster of tall buildings appeared around City Hall, as newspapers competed to see who could build the most grand headquarters. One of the more ambitious projects in this wave of development was the New York World Building (1890), which held the title as the tallest skyscraper in the world.
In 1908, the ante was upped further after the completion of the 47-storey headquarters of the Singer Sewing Machine Company and the 50-storey Metropolitan Life Tower. NYC was slower than its rival, Chicago, in adopting skeleton-frame construction techniques, but once that door was open, height records were eclipsed every few years.
From ’20s to zero
The roaring ’20s ushered in a new age of skyscrapers in New York City that only picked up steam heading into the 1930s. Not only was the economy booming, but the United States had recently became one of the first countries in the world to have a majority-urban population. Manhattan was a magnet for growth, and its extreme population density left only one direction to grow: skyward.
A number of iconic landmarks were constructed in this era, including the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings.
As the chart above clearly illustrates, the onset of the Great Depression had a pronounced cooling effect on construction in New York City. For more than a decade, no new 150m+ towers were added to the city’s skyline.
New York Today
The world has changed a lot since the ribbon was cut in front of the Empire State Building. Flagship skyscrapers have grown taller than we ever could’ve imagined, and relentless development has completely transformed places like Dubai and Shenzhen. Even so, New York City is still home to more 100m+ buildings than any other city on Earth.
It’s also worth mentioning that New York City found itself back in the top 10 tallest buildings list after the completion of One World Trade Center in 2014.
What the Future Holds
New York City’s skyline is packed with recognizable towers, but for a long time, few new projects challenged the vertical supremacy of buildings like MetLife or Empire State. Today – thanks to engineering innovations and acquisition of “air rights” on neighboring plots – the skyline is undergoing a dramatic transformation.
Powered by a healthy ultra-high-end real estate market, slender skyscrapers are rising above the skyline.
This style of building uses a small land footprint so effectively, that projects are springing up around the city. According to Skyscraper Center, there are 86 skyscrapers under construction or planned, with 10 projects set to surpass the height of the Chrysler Building.
While this level of construction is dwarfed by activity in fast-growing metropolises in China, this new generation of high-visibility towers is a sign that the Big Apple is still a strong draw for the world’s ultra-wealthy.
Ranked: The Cities With the Most Bubble Risk in Their Property Markets
Despite higher mortgages and sharply correcting prices, some cities’ property markets are still in bubble-risk territory.
Which Cities Have Bubble Risk in Their Property Markets?
Buoyed by low interest rates for the last decade, many property markets have seen substantial price growth since 2010. Experts warned that real estate bubbles—in which the price of assets moved up far beyond their intrinsic value—were forming.
The UBS Global Real Estate Bubble Index analyzes the real estate market of 25 major cities across the globe and assigns them a score between -0.5 to 2.0 to convey bubble risk. The higher the score, the more imbalanced the market is, with those above 1.5 in “bubble-risk” territory.
We visualize the data in the above map, along with charting the real property price changes in the last year.
Ranking Bubble Risk by City
At the top of UBS’ findings is Switzerland’s financial capital Zurich, with a 1.71 score, putting the city firmly in the bubble-risk zone. With its high-income earners and the country’s low interest rates, the city has been steadily climbing the real estate bubble-risk rankings, 5th in 2021, to 3rd in 2022, to the top spot this year.
Unlike many of its former peers in the risky territory, local prices adapted to increased mortgage rates this year, and have stayed elevated.
Here’s the full rankings for bubble risk in all 25 property markets:
|6||🇭🇰 Hong Kong||1.24||Overvalued|
|9||🇺🇸 Los Angeles||1.03||Overvalued|
|11||🇮🇱 Tel Aviv||0.93||Overvalued|
|18||🇺🇸 New York||0.47||Fair-Valued|
|22||🇺🇸 San Francisco||0.27||Fair-Valued|
|24||🇧🇷 São Paulo||0.09||Fair-Valued|
Tokyo (1.65) is the second and final entry in the real estate markets with immediate bubble risk. This is a decrease from nine total cities in that category last year.
In fact the other seven real estate markets which scored above 1.5 in 2022 have all seen significant real property price drops, many of them in the double-digits, which has moved them into “overvalued territory.”
These include: Frankfurt (-15.9%), Toronto (-14.7%), Amsterdam (-14.0%), Munich (-13.8%), Vancouver (-10.6%), Hong Kong (-7.1%), and Tel Aviv (-0.7%).
The key driver of these price drops across the board are the aggressive interest rate hikes to counter rising inflation, which pushed many housing markets into unaffordability, forcing sellers to lower their prices.
However, a few cities have seen real property price increases, including the aforementioned Tokyo and Zurich.
Here’s UBS’ full ranking of real property price changes between 2022–2023.
Price Growth (YoY)
|4||🇺🇸 New York||+3.2%|
|8||🇧🇷 São Paulo||+1.4%|
|10||🇮🇱 Tel Aviv||-0.7%|
|13||🇺🇸 Los Angeles||-3.7%|
|14||🇭🇰 Hong Kong||-7.1%|
|19||🇺🇸 San Francisco||-10.6%|
A significant outlier within this group, Dubai, has registered double-digit growth property price growth. This was fueled by expanding household incomes—thanks to an economic boom from oil prices—as well as increased immigration by wealthy individuals.
Ranked: Cities With Rising Rental Prices
However, even as property prices have cooled in the majority of the analyzed real estate market, the rental market for many cities, like Vancouver (+10.7%) and Toronto (+6.0%) has moved swiftly in the opposite direction.
In this case, inflation is a key reason as well—pushing up incomes, in turn leading to rising rents. Furthermore, owners-occupants with tenants seek to pass on higher mortgage costs in an effort to reduce their financial burden.
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