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Real estate record and builders' guide: v. 22, no. 552: October 12, 1878

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Real Estate Record AND BUILDERS' GUIDE. Vol. XXII. NEW YORK, SATUBDAY, OCTOBER 12,1878. No. 552. Published Weekly by ^Ijc Seal öBsiatc UecarlJ llssonatton. TER."*IS. O.VE YK.VU. in advance.. ..SlO.OO. Communications should he to V. W. SWKKT, Nos. Sit) AND 347 Broadway , VACANT LOTS OX TUE WKST HIDM An}' thoughtful ob.server of the material devel¬ opment of this cit}- cannot fail to be itupressed with the significance of the conditions which nuirk its pre.sout stage. Uulike all crises which have heretofore overtaken the city, the pre.sent ono has been chanicterized by the prompt absorp- tion of building productions in the face of aud coUaterullj' with an unparullcled decline in values. To-dny the current deuuind for houses i.s enough to keep builders busily employed, and barely permits the maiuteuanco of a sullicient stock to make selections from. After the crises of 1S57 and ISlU, whole blocks of buildings were left uufiuished and other blocks of üuished build¬ ings were left uutenanted, parth- because of legal coraplications connected with their titles and partly because of sheer excess of production and the inaccessibility of their locations. Btreet car enterprise eveutually rendered the cxtremi- ties of the island accessible by their slow paced uiotors. Steam trausit, so far as perfected, now presents the most available means known to human ingenuity for overcoming time aud space. This element of rapid inter-communication is destined to pl ly au importaufc and impressive part in all real estate enterprises and calculations of the near future. There are other considera¬ tions, too, whicli enteras strong elements iuto the present Situation. For instance, what is knowu as the old fashionable quarter, extending in a northerlj' direction from Fortj'-second street as far as Fifty-ninth, between the limits of Fourth and Sixth avenues, is now quite solidly built up, and vacant lots there have ceased to be readily attain¬ able. The few remaining, with some exceptions, will probably await the tardy movements of their owuei-s before uudergoing ultimate and perma¬ nent improvement. Already the new building (juarter, extending north of Fifty-ninth street and east of Fifth avenue, is musical with sounds of trowel and hammer. The building movement there is so pereistent and apparentlj' so successful that we may expect, before many j-ears, to find this quarter as solidly and compactlj' built up as the old one. This suggests the need of new build¬ ing localities, of exploring new worlds for the builder to conquer. The great auomaly, the perplexing problem of New York real estate, is the inertia and apathy which have settled dow^n like an iraraovable and impenetrable vapor upou the westerly side of the city, really the most picturesque, charming aud attractive that the islaud preseuts. With the construction of two lines of rapid transit already begun, the fate of this section must presently develop itself. What that fate is to be many have undertaken to divine, though without belog permitted, so far, to realize their jjropbetic vis- ious. Whether it is to be a localitj' of palaces or of idaiu cottages, whether of brown stoue man¬ sions in stereotj'ped grandeur, or of simpler structures suitable for the greut middle class are the ab.sorbing real estate couuudrums. The natui'al advantages of tbis section having failed to attract building improvements, the law of necessitj', of supply and demand at length will come iu to compel their inception. Undoubtedlj', the fate of this section might have beon vastlj' ehanged if Sevcntj'-second street had beeu originallj" e-itablished as the southerlj- bouudaiy of the Park. The lack of vital union between the present growing trank of the citj-, rendered now phj-sicallj' impossible bj- the construction of the rapid trausit frame work, as it wsis before precluded bj' the Central Park interception, has not onlj' retarded the develop¬ ment of the West side, but m.aj- iu the end give it a far dilTeront character from that whicli was ouco comuioulj- supposed to be in reserve for it. Without u-ssuming the role of a prophet, we think we aro justilied in forecasting its future under the suggestions of the following lino of reasoning: With 400 lots left unimproved in the old fashionable quarter, it has at length become a difficult if not impo.ssible task for builders to pur¬ chase anj- of them except at ruinous and forbid- ding prices. These lots are either reserved bj- their owners for special improvement, or held iu anticipation of a coming demand froru private individuals of wealth who will be able to paj' the prices demanded. Bj- the Operation of cause and effect, speculative builders will be rigidlj- aud permaneutly excluded from this section; and these choice lots are likelj- to be laid upon the shelf to await the demand of aristocratic buj-ers. Naturally, speculative builders are seeking a field for their iudustry in the uew building quarter, where lots are more abundant and are offered more freely and cheaply. This section will continue to absorb the building activitj- of the citj' uutil so mauy lots are takeu up as to prompt the owners of the remaining ones to Imitate the example of present owners in the old fashionable quarter. A certain proportion, perhaps larger iu number than those reserved in the old quarter, will be held aloof from sale and improvement under tbe dominance of similar ideas. From sheer lack of material to work upon, builders will then be driven to seek locations on the westerly side of the city. Meanwhile the critical (juestion to be determined is what stj'le of improvement w-ill that section of the city hereafter safely aud profitably take^ The heavj' incubus that bangs upon this west side property is the total of un levied assessments entered, but not confirmed, held back by the mu¬ nicipal authorities for some unexplained reason. Notwithstanding bonds were long ago issued for the payment of the improvemeuts which are the subject matter of these assessments, and notwith¬ standing the taxpayers at large have been called upon year after year to pay the interest on these assessment bonds, yet the eollection of assessments contimies to be deferred, out of the proceeds of which these bonds should be liquidated. In com¬ mon with the real estate of the whole city, vacant lots on the West side have suffered severely from excessive taxation. The wild speeulation that was once rampaut then? carried v.ahies to au ab¬ surd and almost iucoucei val »le altitude, aml j-et so aetive w;ts tho spwniiatiou, and so huovant and conlident were the hope.s of the si^t-culators, that theso highlj--iullated values cauii- !o l»; regarded iu the tax ollice as stiindards of valuation for tax¬ ation. Between taxes aud assM>siii"nts the own¬ ers of this propertj- have beon very rpiMty, albeit in advance of present valuations. Wiien tbe street improvements, which have ah-t-ady beeu com¬ pleted in that section, are taken iuto considera¬ tion the pre.sent nominal quotations for land there repre.^ent relativelj- t!ie lowest that have been known for lots iu regulated streeis dm-ing the twentj- \-ears. No great or lieeided move¬ ment can be anticipated Until this euornious Ioad of assessments luis been canceled b\" pa\-ment va- cateil bj' legal proceedings or remo\(nl bj- legisla¬ tion. Reduction of curreut taxation niaj' be looked upon as au iuevitable though long delaj-ed boon. Abuses iu this citj' are loug and pati.ntlj- toler¬ ated, but when reforni comes it is apt to be .swift and decisive. There is no question but that the expenses of the citj- could be reduced immediately to twentj--five million.s, aud niaj- ultimatelj- and iu a verj-short time be reduced totweiuj" millions. . The costs of street improvements, such as sewer- age, regulating aud grading, curbing, guttering and paving have heen greatlj- reduced withiu the past few year.s, aud are uow aluKjst upou the low- scale of prices that prevaiied tweutj- years ago when these street improvements cost so little that thej- w-ere scarcelj- feit or regarded bj- the prop¬ ertj' owner. With the reduction oi taxation aud the removal of pending assessments, we will look for a startling burst of buildiug activitj- on the We-st side. It is premature to attemj)t to define the character of improvement.s, aud needless now to point out the localities of sui)erior merit. The laws which govern the evolution of building improvemeuts will prevail iu this section just as thej- have in other parts of the citj-. The consummation which we earnestlj-long for and hope to soon see realized i.s the conimonce- meiit of extensive and meritorious building im¬ provements on the vacaut lots of the West side. LOT OWNERS, BUILDERS AND HOUSE BUYERS. The three potential factoi-s in building improve¬ ments—those threo without whose co-operate ac¬ tion all in this direction would languisfa and become truitless?—are the lot owner, tho builder and the house bujer. These are the three crowned heads of building enterprise. Without available lands attainable at reasonable rates, the builder would be unable to plj' his industry. Without mechanical geiiius and the laborious in¬ dustry of the craft, there could be no building construction. And proper incentive would be lacking for the furtherance of building schemes without the prompt appreciation of the house buyer or house lessee.