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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

View the high resolution version of today’s graphic by clicking here.

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

Source

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

Commercial Mortgage Delinquencies Near Record Levels

After the 2009 crisis, it took nearly 3 years for commercial mortgage delinquencies to hit record levels. In 2020, it took just 3 months.

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Commercial Mortgage Delinquencies Near Record Levels

Delinquency rates across commercial properties have shot up faster than at any other time.

As thousands of restaurants, hotels, and local businesses in the U.S. struggle to stay open, delinquency rates across commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS)—fixed income investments backed by a pool of commercial mortgages— have tripled in three months to 10.32%.

In just a few months, delinquency rates have already effectively reached their 2012 peaks. To put this in perspective, consider that it took well over two years for mortgage delinquency rates to reach the same historic levels in the aftermath of the housing crisis of 2009.

The above chart draws data from Trepp and illustrates the recent shocks to the CMBS market, broken down by property type.

Storm Rumblings

While there is optimism in some areas of the market, accommodation mortgages have witnessed delinquency rates soar over 24%.

Amid strict containment efforts in April, average revenues per room plummeted all the way to $16 per night—an 84% drop.

Property TypeJanuary 2020June 2020
Accomodation1.5%24.3%
Retail3.8%18.1%
Multifamily2.0%3.3%
Office1.9%2.7%
Industrial1.6%1.6%
Overall2.1%10.3%

Similarly, retail properties have been rattled. Almost one-fifth are in delinquencies. From January-June 2020, at least 15 major retailers have filed for bankruptcy and over $20 billion in CMBS loans have exposure to flailing chains such as JCPenney, Neiman Marcus, and Macy’s.

On the other hand, industrial property types have remained stable, hovering close to their January levels. This is likely attributable in part to the fact that the rise in e-commerce sales have helped support warehouse operations.

For multifamily and office buildings, Washington’s stimulus packages have helped renters to continue making payments thus far. Still, as the government considers ending stimulus packages in the near future, a lack of relief funding could spell trouble.

Weighing the Impact on U.S. Cities

How do delinquency rates vary across the top metropolitan areas in America?

Below, we can see that the delinquent balance and delinquency rates vary widely by city. Note that this data is for private-labeled CMBS, which are issued by investment banks and private entities rather than government agencies.

U.S. Cities CMBS Delinquency Rates

Despite the New York city metropolitan area having a delinquent balance of $7 billion, its delinquency rates fall on the lower end of the spectrum, at 7%. New York alone accounts for 18% of the total balance of private-label CMBS.

By comparison, the Syracuse metropolitan area has an eye-opening delinquency rate of 69%. Syracuse is home to the shopping complex, Destiny USA, which is facing tenant uncertainties due to COVID-19. The six-story mall attracts 26 million visitors annually.

Like the overall market, delinquencies are being driven by accommodation and retail properties across many of these U.S. metropolitan areas.

What Comes Next

What happens when delinquency rates get too high?

Often, when borrowers do not make payment after a reasonable amount of time, they enter into default. While time ranges can vary, defaults typically take place after at least 60 days of nonpayment. Between May and June, defaults in the CMBS market surged 792% to $5.5 billion.

As effects reverberate, properties could eventually fall into foreclosure. At the same time, institutional investors who own these types of securities, which include pensions, could begin seeing steep losses.

That said, the Federal Reserve has set up mechanisms to purchase CMBS loans with the highest credit quality. This is designed to inject liquidity into the mortgage market, while also financing small and mid-sized properties that house small businesses. In turn, this can enable the employment of millions of Americans.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether the mortgage market will face a sustained downturn akin to the financial crisis, or if the temporary decline will soon subside.

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From Novelty to Necessity: The Growing Tiny Home Movement

Tiny homes have grown into a multi-billion dollar industry—but is it just a millennial novelty, or a necessity for every generation?

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Visualizing the Rise of Tiny Homes

Born out of the desire for a simpler, more affordable way of life, the tiny home movement has spread at a furious pace—with the global market estimated to grow by a CAGR of almost 7%, adding nearly $5.2 billion in market size by 2022.

Given the economic pressures of today’s world, these alternative housing solutions have become not only a viable option for many people, but a vital one.

Today’s infographic from Calculator.me illustrates how the tiny home market got so big, and how it fares against traditional housing when it comes to providing environmentally friendly and affordable options.

How Did Tiny Homes Get So Big?

It was not until the 2009 recession hit the U.S. that tiny homes became more of a realistic option, as the benefits of downscaling became more apparent.

From then on, three things propelled the popularity of tiny homes: rising house costs, shrinking incomes, and a greater consideration for the environment.

Today, 63% of U.S. millennials would consider living in a tiny home. However, the need to go tiny is not only confined to millennials, as 40% of tiny home owners are over fifty years old.

Tiny Vs. Traditional

According to the infographic, a home is considered tiny (or micro) when it is between 80-400ft², and is at least 8ft in height.

Tiny homes also come with a tiny pricetag, costing just $23,000 on average to build—meaning tiny homes are almost ⅒ the price of traditional homes.

MetricTiny HomesTraditional Homes
U.S. Median Cost$59,884$312,800
Average Cost To Build$23,000$206,132
Home Ownership78% own their home65% own their home
Mortgage32% have a mortgage64.1% have a mortgage
Credit Card Debt40% have credit card debt37% have credit card debt

Other benefits of tiny home living include:

  • Avoiding mortgage debt
  • Less maintenance required
  • Allows for a more flexible lifestyle

Further, tiny homes are providing people with alternative solutions for more sustainable living.

An Environmentally Friendly Way of Living

Certain models of tiny homes use energy from solar panels—presenting ample opportunities for an independent off-grid lifestyle. Moreover, research from Virginia Tech shows that living in tiny homes reduces energy consumption by up to 45%.

Using less energy can also be attributed to tiny homeowners using the space outside as an extension of their home. In fact, when there is usable space available outdoors, tiny home living may not seem as drastic in comparison to living in a traditional home.

Room For Improvement

There are however, some challenges for those who are considering this way of life. Zoning laws and building codes in the U.S. can be restrictive, with some states more supportive of the idea than others.

Despite these barriers, there are numerous organizations and initiatives that have been created in order to eliminate the pain points that come with tiny homes, and legitimize the industry.

Not Just a Passing Trend

With the promising trajectory of tiny homes, it is inevitable that the interest from global retailers continues to grow.

Japanese minimalist company, Muji, released their own tiny homes in 2017, costing $26,000 on average. At just under 107.6 ft², these tiny homes are prefabricated, meaning they are constructed in a factory off-site.

Amazon also recently announced their foray into the tiny home space, with dozens of models available on their website—delivering new homes right to their customers’ front doors.

The Future Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

Beyond the typical tiny home formats we see entering the market en masse, there are other alternatives which will become more readily available to consumers, including:

  • Traditional modular homes
  • Shipping containers
  • 3D printed houses
  • Recreational vehicles

It is also worth pointing out that tiny homes and these alternative models don’t have to be restricted to under 400ft². Flat packs and do-it-yourself tiny homes can be as big as 1,000ft², with some of the largest models housing up to 24 people.

It is clear that the tiny home movement is not just about going back to basics, but rather, about making home ownership a reality for everyone—potentially disrupting the current housing market in the process.

The question is not if tiny homes will become the new normal, but when.

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