Infographic: A Century of New York City's Evolving Skyline
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A Century of New York City’s Evolving Skyline

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new york city evolving skyline

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.

nyc skyscraper construction

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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.

slender skyscrapers nyc

Source

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.

planned nyc skyscrapers construction

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.

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Personal Finance

Mapped: The Salary You Need to Buy a Home in 50 U.S. Cities

Is owning a home still realistic? This map lays out the salary you’d need to buy a home in 50 different U.S. metro areas.

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This is the Salary You Need to Buy a Home in 50 U.S. Cities

Depending on where you live, owning a home may seem like a far off dream or it could be fairly realistic. In New York City, for example, a person needs to be making at least six figures to buy a home, but in Cleveland you could do it with just over $45,000 a year.

This visual, using data from Home Sweet Home, maps out the annual salary you’d need for home ownership in 50 different U.S. cities.

Note: The map above refers to entire metro areas and uses Q1 2022 data on median home prices. The necessary salary was calculated by the source, looking at the base cost of principal, interest, property tax, and homeowner’s insurance.

Home Ownership Across the U.S.

San Jose is by far the most expensive city when it comes to purchasing a home. A person would need to earn over $330,000 annually to pay off the mortgage at a monthly rate of $7,718.

Here’s a closer look at the numbers:

RankMetro AreaMedian Home PriceSalary Needed
#1San Jose$1,875,000$330,758
#2San Francisco$1,380,000$249,685
#3San Diego$905,000$166,828
#4Los Angeles$792,500$149,127
#5Seattle$746,200$140,768
#6Boston$639,000$130,203
#7New York City$578,100$129,459
#8Denver$662,200$121,888
#9Austin$540,700$114,679
#10Washington, D.C.$553,000$110,327
#11Portland$570,500$109,267
#12Riverside/San Bernardino$560,000$106,192
#13Sacramento$545,000$105,934
#14Miami$530,000$103,744
#15Salt Lake City$556,900$100,970
#16Providence$406,700$88,477
#17Phoenix$474,500$86,295
#18Las Vegas$461,100$84,116
#19Raleigh$439,100$83,561
#20Dallas$365,400$81,165
#21Orlando$399,900$79,573
#22Chicago$325,400$76,463
#23Tampa$379,900$75,416
#24Houston$330,800$74,673
#25Minneapolis$355,800$74,145
#26Baltimore$350,900$73,803
#27Nashville$387,200$73,502
#28Jacksonville$365,900$73,465
#29Hartford$291,000$73,165
#30Charlotte$379,900$72,348
#31San Antonio$321,100$70,901
#32Atlanta$350,300$69,619
#33Philadelphia$297,900$69,569
#34Richmond$354,500$68,629
#35Milwaukee$298,800$65,922
#36Kansas City$287,400$60,507
#37Columbus$274,300$59,321
#38Virginia Beach$289,900$59,245
#39New Orleans$281,100$57,853
#40Birmingham$289,500$55,662
#41Indianapolis$271,600$53,586
#42Memphis$259,300$52,691
#43Cincinnati$244,300$51,840
#44Buffalo$202,300$51,525
#45Detroit$224,300$50,302
#46St Louis$216,700$48,988
#47Louisville$235,400$48,121
#48Cleveland$192,700$45,448
#49Oklahoma City$198,200$45,299
#50Pittsburgh$185,700$42,858

Perhaps surprisingly, Boston residents need slightly higher earnings than New Yorkers to buy a home. The same is also true in Seattle and Los Angeles. Meanwhile, some of the cheapest cities to start buying up real estate in are Oklahoma City and Cleveland.

As of April, the rate of home ownership in the U.S. is 65%. This number represents the share of homes that are occupied by the owner, rather than rented out or vacant.

The American Dream Home

As of the time of this data (Q1 2022), the national yearly fixed mortgage rate sat at 4% and median home price at $368,200. This put the salary needed to buy a home at almost $76,000⁠—the median national household income falls almost $9,000 below that.

But what kind of homes are people looking to purchase? Depending on where you live the type of home and square footage you can get will be very different.

In New York City, for example, there are fairly few stand-alone, single-family houses in the traditional sense⁠—only around 4,000 are ever on the market. People in the Big Apple tend to buy condominiums or multi-family units.

Additionally, if you’re looking for luxury, not even seven figures will get you much in the big cities. In Miami, a million dollars will only buy you 833 square feet of prime real estate.

One thing is for sure: the typical American dream home of the big house with a yard and white picket fence is more attainable in smaller metro areas with ample suburbs.

Buying vs. Renting

The U.S. median household income is $67,500, meaning that today the typical family could only afford a home in about 15 of the 50 metro areas highlighted above, including New Orleans, Buffalo, and Indianapolis.

With the income gap widening in the U.S., the rental market remains a more attractive option for many, especially as prices are finally tapering off. The national median rent price was down nearly 3% from June to July for two-bedroom apartments.

At the end of the day, buying a home can be an important investment and may provide a sense of security, but it will be much easier to do in certain types of cities.

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Business

The World’s Largest Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

Real estate investment trusts (REITS) are a simple alternative for investors looking to gain exposure to real estate.

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The World’s Largest Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

Real estate is widely regarded as an attractive asset class for investors.

This is because it offers several benefits like diversification (due to less correlation with stocks), monthly income, and protection from inflation. The latter is known as “inflation hedging”, and stems from real estate’s tendency to appreciate during periods of rising prices.

Affordability, of course, is a major barrier to investing in most real estate. Property markets around the world have reached bubble territory, making it incredibly difficult for people to get their foot in the door.

Thankfully, there are easier ways of gaining exposure. One of these is purchasing shares in a real estate investment trust (REIT), a type of company that owns and operates income-producing real estate, and is most often publicly-traded.

What Qualifies as REIT?

To qualify as a REIT in the U.S., a company must meet several criteria:

  • Invest at least 75% of assets in real estate, cash , or U.S. Treasuries
  • Derive at least 75% of gross income from rents, interest on mortgages, or real estate sales
  • Pay at least 90% of taxable income in the form of shareholder dividends
  • Be a taxable corporation
  • Be managed by a board of directors or trustees
  • Have at least 100 shareholders after one year of operations
  • Have no more than half its shares held by five or fewer people

Investing in a REIT is similar to purchasing shares of any other publicly-traded company. There are also exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds which may hold a basket of REITs. Lastly, note that some REITs are private, meaning they aren’t traded on stock exchanges.

The Top 10 by Market Cap

Here are the world’s 10 largest publicly-traded REITs, as of March 25, 2022.

REITMarket CapDividend YieldProperty Type
Prologis (NYSE: PLD)$116.4B2.03%Industrial
American Tower (NYSE: AMT)$109.8B2.38%Communications
Crown Castle (NYSE: CCI$76.8B3.35%Communications
Public Storage (NYSE: PSA)$65.9B2.14%Self-storage
Equinix (NYSE: EQIX)$64.4B1.74%Data centers 
Simon Property Group (NYSE: SPG)$48.9B5.07%Malls
Welltower (NYSE: WELL)$43.0B2.58%Healthcare
Digital Realty (NYSE: DLR)$40.1B3.55%Data centers
Realty Income (NYSE: O)$40.1B4.44%Commercial
AvalonBay Communities (NYSE: AVB)$34.6B2.62%Residential

As shown above, REITs focus on different sectors of the market. Understanding their differences is an important step to consider before making an investment.

For example, Prologis manages the world’s largest portfolio of logistics real estate. This includes warehouses, distribution centers, and other supply chain facilities around the globe. It’s reasonable to assume that this REIT would benefit from further growth in ecommerce—more on this near the end.

Realty Income, on the other hand, owns a portfolio of over 11,100 commercial real estate properties in the U.S. and Europe. It rents these properties out to major brands like Walgreens and 7-Eleven, which together account for 8.1% of the REIT’s annual income.

More Than Just Buildings

Cell towers and data centers may not seem like “real estate”, but they are both critical pieces of modern infrastructure that take up land.

REITs that focus on these sectors include American Tower and Crown Castle, which own wireless communications assets in the U.S. and abroad. They are likely to benefit from the increased adoption of 5G networks and the Internet of Things (IoT).

On the other hand, Equinix and Digital Realty are focused on data centers, a fast growing industry that is benefitting from digitalization. Both of these REITs work with major tech firms such as Amazon and Google.

Trends to Watch

The demand for real estate can be heavily influenced by overarching trends found around the world. One of these is population growth and urbanization, which has drastically pushed up the cost of housing in many cities around the world.

There’s also the rising prevalence of ecommerce, which has triggered a boom in demand for warehouse space. This is best captured by Amazon’s massive growth during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which the company doubled the number of its warehouse facilities.

Globally, ecommerce accounts for just 19.6% of total retail sales. Should that figure continue to rise, industrial real estate prices could be in store for robust, long-term growth.

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