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

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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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Markets

Mapped: The Top 30 Most Valuable Real Estate Cities in the U.S.

U.S. real estate value is concentrated in a handful of urban centers. Here’s a look at the top 30 most valuable cities.

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The Most Valuable Real Estate Cities in America

According to real estate tycoon Harold Samuel, there are three things that matter when it comes to real estate value—location, location, and location.

America’s property market is no exception to this rule. Depending on the city and its—you guessed it—location, there are vast discrepancies in real estate value across the country.

Using the latest data from LendingTree, this graphic ranks the top 30 most valuable real estate cities in America. We’ll also evaluate the top cities based on median value of homes, and how COVID-19 has impacted the market.

The Most Valuable Real Estate Cities

Out of the $32.6 trillion of total real estate value included in LendingTree’s database, the top 30 cities account for almost 57%:

RankCityStateTotal Value
(in billions)
1New YorkNew York$2,838
2Los AngelesCalifornia$2,289
3San FranciscoCalifornia$1,320
4ChicagoIllinois$906
5Washington, D.C.--$826
6BostonMassachusetts$815
7MiamiFlorida$774
8SeattleWashington$700
9DallasTexas$628
10PhiladelphiaPennsylvania$577
11San Jose, Calif.California$568
12San DiegoCalifornia$564
13HoustonTexas$535
14AtlantaGeorgia$531
15Riverside, Calif.California$485
16PhoenixArizona$484
17DenverColorado$439
18MinneapolisMinnesota$383
19DetroitMichigan$348
20Portland, Ore.Oregon$319
21Sacramento, Calif.California$318
22BaltimoreMaryland$301
23Tampa, Fla.Florida$286
24Austin, TexasTexas$248
25Charlotte, N.CNorth Carolina$248
26Orlando, Fla.Florida$233
27HonoluluHawaii$219
28Nashville, Tenn.Tennessee$209
29St. LouisMissouri$202
30Las VegasNevada$191

New York has the highest real estate value in the country at $2.8 trillion—that’s around the size of the UK’s GDP in 2019. Close behind is Los Angeles at $2.3 trillion, while San Francisco ranks third at $1.3 trillion.

This may not come as a surprise, considering the popularity of these areas. New York and Los Angeles have the two highest city populations in the U.S., and San Francisco is the second most densely populated city in America (after New York). Historically, these areas have been notorious for their red-hot real estate markets, limited housing supply, and high costs of living.

However, while these cities take the top three spots when it comes to total real estate value, the ranking looks a bit different when comparing the median value of each city.

Most Valuable Cities, by Median Home Value

When it comes to median home value, San Jose claims the top spot at $1.1 million, while San Francisco places second at $959K:

RankCityStateMedian Value of a Home
1San JoseCalifornia$1,100,000
2San FranciscoCalifornia$959,000
3HonoluluHawaii$705,000
4Los AngelesCalifornia$668,000
5San DiegoCalifornia$594,000
6OxnardCalifornia$586,000
7New YorkNew York$501,000
8BostonMassachusetts$498,000
9SeattleWashington$498,000
10Washington, D.C.--$455,000
11DenverColorado$430,000
12SacramentoCalifornia$410,000
13BridgeportConnecticut$410,000
14PortlandOregon$401,000
15RiversideCalifornia$365,000
16NaplesFlorida$329,000
17AustinTexas$323,000
18Salt Lake CityUtah$312,000
19ProvidenceRhode Island$300,000
20MiamiFlorida$297,000
21MinneapolisMinnesota$294,000
22BaltimoreMaryland$284,000
23Las VegasNevada$278,000
24PhoenixArizona$276,000
25RaleighNorth Carolina$271,000
26NashvilleTennessee$265,000
27PhiladelphiaPennsylvania$246,000
28ChicagoIllinois$245,000
29OrlandoFlorida$245,000
30North PortFlorida$244,000

The Bay Area leads the pack in terms of median value, but San Francisco and San Jose aren’t the only Californian cities to make the list. In fact, half of the top 10 cities are in the Golden State.

Suburban Shuffle

It’s important to note that these numbers are from January 2020, before the global pandemic triggered numerous societal and economic changes, including an accelerated migration to the suburbs from key urban centers like New York and San Francisco.

This mass exodus has negatively impacted sales activity. In fall 2020, or example, home sales in New York dropped by 50% compared to last year.

In contrast, places like Honolulu have seen significant growth in home sales—in September 2020, single-family home sales rose by 12.7% compared to last year. Some experts believe COVID has been a key factor driving this growth, as more people are able to work from anywhere, thanks to remote work.

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Investor Education

Ranking Asset Classes by Historical Returns (1985-2020)

What are the best-performing investments in 2020, and how do previous years compare? This graphic shows historical returns by asset class.

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Historical Returns by Asset Class

Historical Returns by Asset Class (1985-2020)

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, is there one asset class to rule them all?

From stocks to bonds to alternatives, investors can choose from a wide variety of investment types. The choices can be overwhelming—leaving people to wonder if there’s one investment that consistently outperforms, or if there’s a predictable pattern of performance.

This graphic, which is inspired by and uses data from The Measure of a Plan, shows historical returns by asset class for the last 36 years.

Asset Class Returns by Year

This analysis includes assets of various types, geographies, and risk levels. It uses real total returns, meaning that they account for inflation and the reinvestment of dividends.

Here’s how the data breaks down, this time organized by asset class rather than year:

 U.S. Large Cap StocksU.S. Small Cap StocksInt'l Dev StocksEmerging StocksAll U.S. BondsHigh-Yield U.S. BondsInt'l BondsCash (T-Bill)REITGold
TickerVFIAXVSMAXVTMGXVEMAXVBTLXVWEAXVTABXVUSXXVGSLXIAU
2020*1.5%-5.5%-10.3%-0.7%4.9%-0.5%2.6%-0.7%-16.4%21.9%
201928.5%24.5%19.3%17.6%6.3%13.3%5.5%-0.1%26.1%15.9%
2018-6.2%-11.0%-16.1%-16.2%-1.9%-4.7%1.0%-0.1%-7.7%-3.2%
201719.3%13.8%23.8%28.7%1.4%4.9%0.3%-1.3%2.8%9.3%
20169.7%15.9%0.4%9.5%0.5%9.0%2.5%-1.8%6.3%6.6%
20150.6%-4.3%-0.9%-16.0%-0.3%-2.0%0.3%-0.7%1.6%-12.3%
201412.8%6.7%-6.4%-0.2%5.1%3.9%8.0%-0.7%29.3%-1.2%
201330.4%35.8%20.3%-6.4%-3.6%3.1%-0.4%-1.5%0.9%-29.0%
201214.0%16.2%16.5%16.8%2.4%12.5%4.5%-1.7%15.7%6.5%
2011-0.9%-5.5%-15.0%-21.0%4.6%4.2%0.8%-2.9%5.5%5.5%
201013.4%26.0%6.8%17.2%5.0%10.9%1.7%-1.5%26.6%26.0%
200923.3%32.7%24.9%71.5%3.2%35.6%1.6%-2.4%26.3%20.2%
2008-37.0%-36.1%-41.3%-52.8%5.1%-21.3%5.5%2.0%-37.0%5.4%
20071.3%-2.7%6.8%33.6%2.8%-1.8%0.1%0.7%-19.7%25.8%
200612.9%12.9%23.1%26.3%1.8%5.7%0.5%2.1%31.8%19.3%
20051.4%3.9%9.8%27.7%-0.9%-0.5%1.8%-0.5%8.3%13.0%
20047.3%16.2%16.5%22.1%1.0%5.2%1.8%-2.0%26.7%1.4%
200326.2%43.1%36.1%54.7%2.1%15.1%0.4%-0.9%33.3%19.2%
2002-23.9%-21.8%-17.6%-9.6%5.8%-0.6%4.2%-0.7%1.3%20.8%
2001-13.3%1.6%-23.1%-4.4%6.8%1.3%4.6%2.6%10.7%-0.4%
2000-12.0%-5.8%-17.1%-29.9%7.7%-4.1%5.4%2.5%22.2%-9.6%
199917.9%19.9%23.6%57.3%-3.4%-0.2%-0.6%2.0%-6.5%-1.7%
199826.6%-4.2%18.0%-19.4%6.9%3.9%10.2%3.5%-17.7%-2.4%
199731.0%22.5%0.0%-18.2%7.6%10.0%8.9%3.5%16.8%-23.2%
199618.9%14.3%2.6%12.1%0.3%6.0%8.3%1.9%31.4%-7.7%
199534.0%25.6%8.4%-1.9%15.3%16.2%14.3%3.1%10.0%-1.7%
1994-1.5%-3.1%4.9%-10.1%-5.2%-4.3%-7.3%1.3%0.4%-4.9%
19937.0%15.5%28.9%69.4%6.7%15.1%10.7%0.2%16.3%13.9%
19924.4%14.9%-14.7%7.8%4.1%11.0%3.3%0.6%11.2%-8.7%
199126.3%40.9%8.7%54.5%11.8%25.2%7.5%2.5%31.5%-12.5%
1990-8.9%-22.8%-27.9%-16.1%2.4%-11.3%-2.7%1.6%-20.3%-8.3%
198925.5%11.0%5.6%56.9%8.6%-2.6%-0.6%3.7%3.9%-6.8%
198811.3%19.7%22.8%33.9%2.8%8.8%4.4%2.1%8.6%-19.6%
19870.3%-12.7%19.3%9.3%-2.8%-1.7%4.5%1.3%-7.8%19.0%
198616.8%4.5%67.5%10.4%13.9%15.6%10.1%5.0%17.7%17.9%
198526.4%26.2%50.3%22.9%17.6%17.5%7.0%3.8%14.6%1.7%

*Data for 2020 is as of October 31

The top-performing asset class so far in 2020 is gold, with a return more than four times that of second-place U.S. bonds. On the other hand, real estate investment trusts (REITs) have been the worst-performing investments. Needless to say, economic shutdowns due to COVID-19 have had a devastating effect on commercial real estate.

Over time, the order is fairly random with asset classes moving up and down the ranks. For example, emerging market stocks plummeted to last place amid the global financial crisis in 2008, only to rise to the top the following year. International bonds were near the bottom of the barrel in 2017, but rose to the top during the 2018 market selloff.

There are also large swings in the returns investors can expect in any given year. While the best-performing asset class returned just 1% in 2018, it returned a whopping 71.5% in 2009.

Variation Within Asset Classes

Within individual asset classes, the range in returns can also be quite large. Here’s the minimum, maximum, and average returns for each asset class. We’ve also shown each investment’s standard deviation, which is a measure of volatility or risk.

Return Variation Within Asset Classes Over History

Although emerging market stocks have seen the highest average return, they have also seen the highest standard deviation. On the flip side, T-bills have seen returns lower than inflation since 2009, but have come with the lowest risk.

Investors should factor in risk when they are looking at the return potential of an asset class.

Variety is the Spice of Portfolios

Upon reviewing the historical returns by asset class, there’s no particular investment that has consistently outperformed. Rankings have changed over time depending on a number of economic variables.

However, having a variety of asset classes can ensure you are best positioned to take advantage of tailwinds in any particular year. For instance, bonds have a low correlation with stocks and can cushion against losses during market downturns.

If your mirror could talk, it would tell you there’s no one asset class to rule them all—but a mix of asset classes may be your best chance at success.

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