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Real estate record and builders' guide: [v. 89, no. 2291]: February 10, 1912

Real Estate Record page image for page ldpd_7031148_049_00000381

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A STREET OF EXCEPTIONAL VALUES. Thiity-fourth Street Has Outdone All Other Crosstown Thoroughfares in Reputation and Value—Price and Rental Records Frequently Broken. THE recent opening of the Vanderbilt Hotel at Park avenue and o4th street, representing the latest achievement of the structural engineer, brings forcibly to mind the remarkable changes which the lapse of a decade has wrought in 34th street. The street ten years ago was the seat of many flne residences; the avenue corners alone were used for business pur¬ poses and few geal estate men would have been bold enough to predict that a short lapse of time would bring to 34th street the best retail shops of the city or that values on certain blocks would exceed those on any crosstown thoroughfare in the metropolis. The mercantile develop¬ ment of Fifth avenue has extended over a long period of years; 14th and 2.3d streets were long in obtaining a nation-wide com¬ mercial repute, tiut 34th street in a few years has doubled and trebled many of its values, and to-day has acQuired a reputation as a retail shopping thorough¬ fare equalled by none, save only Fifth avenue. Trade expansion in this city has been ever in a northerly direction and the high¬ est class of business development has taken place in the center of the island, on or adjacent to Broadway and Fifth ave¬ nue. The retail center,, always seeking the most convenient location, bas moved successively from Grand, 14th and 23d streets in the last half century uritil to¬ day the best of the business is located on S4th street and on Fifth avenue. The question is often asked "Where will this northward movement end?" and there are many who think that 34th street will have its period of prosperity and pass like the other cross streets to a greater or less degree of oblivion. The student of con¬ ditions surrounding retail trade must realize, however, that this street has ad¬ vantages never possessed by 14th or 23d streets, and that these advantages are rather permanent in their nature. Good transportation is a determining factor in all business, but more especially is it essential to a retail center, and 34th street has that which 14th and 23d streets lacked. The latter thoroughfares pos¬ sess a fair amount of facilities for travel, but excepting the ferries to New Jersey and Brooklyn, the transportation lines are purely local. The ferries being re¬ mote from the center of the island are useful only to a limited extent and can¬ not be depended upon for any enormous volume of travel. On the other hand, 34th street has the same local lines as the others and in addition practically posses¬ ses the eastern tei-minal of one of the largest railroad systems of the country, while a second terminal of even greater magnitude is located but eight blocks dis¬ tant. Millions of dollars are invested in these terminals, the companies own not only the ground on which they stand but adjacent land, and they have both been planned and constructed with a view to permanency. Year by year the .travel on each roaft is increasing; more and more people are coming from far away to pur¬ chase in New York and the greater part of these buyers travel either by the Penn¬ sylvania or New York Central, and event¬ ually find their way to 34th street. It is true that the majority of the most ex¬ clusive shops have moved above 42d street either on or close to Fifth avenue, but the limit of their northwarji move¬ ment will imdoubtedly be 59th street, for geographical reasons if none other, and the area which they are absorbing is within easy reaching distance of both ter¬ minals. The class of business now lo¬ cated on 34th street, particularly between Broadway and Park avenue, is in the main very substantial and in all probability any further business development will be along the same line. Ultra-fashionable shops, which cater only to a small but select trade, will hardly locate here, but the high class stores seeking a large vol¬ ume of business and carrying first grade goods at popular prices will probably con¬ tinue to occupy this street for many gen¬ erations to come. Broadway and Fifth avenue have both had a material effect on developing 34th street and it has now become the most used line of travel between the two ave¬ nues. An illustration of the effect of these two thoroughfares may 'be drawn from the fact that the first really strong impulse to 34th street property was fur¬ nished by the location of Macy's store on one of the Broadway corners and Alt- man's at a Fifth avenue corner. Macy's moved uptown about ten years ago and shortly before the fact that the Pennsyl¬ vania was buying property in the neigh¬ borhood had leaked out. Altman follow¬ ed within a few years and thereafter trad¬ ing, especially between Broadway and Fifth avenue, became active and has con¬ tinued so to the present time. This block is, of course, by far the most valuable on the street and furnishes one striking peculiarity not to be found else¬ where on any crosstown street except 42d street. For years merchants of the better class have sought the south side of cross streets and the west side of avenues and values have always been greater on the shady sides. On 34th street the north side has been the one most desired and expert appraisers consider the south side worth only about 60 per cent, of the north. The presence of the Waldorf Astoria, occupying considerably more than one- third of the entire block, is primarily re¬ sponsible for this. This immense hotel with its marquees and carriage and bag¬ gage entrances, together with Astor Court, a small street used only for cabs and hotel deliveries, has always had a strong tendency to discourage travel on this side of the street except for those going to or from the hotel. On this account the first merchants to locate on 34th street chose the north side and the others, with a few exceptions, have been obliged to follow. The relative value of the two sides has been the source of considerable discus¬ sion between land owners, expert apprais¬ ers and tax officials, and some very in¬ teresting testimony has been made pub¬ lic at various times. Those most com¬ petent to judge, place a value of about |2o0,00O a lot on property on the south side, notwithstanding the fact that one or two leases have been made which would indicate a much higher value. These exceptions have been governed by other than purely market conditions and should, therefore, not be taken as typical. The value of a lot on the north side ap¬ pears to be about $400,000 near Fifth avenue, although in one case !f 415,000 was paid for a full lot near the mid.dle of the block by an adjoining owner wishing to fill out his plot. A comparison of these figures with the selling pi-icGS prevailing a few years ago will nicely illustrate how property on this street has increased in value. In 1901 Nos. 5 and 7 "West were bought for .?315.0d0. The same land to-day would bring nearly $1,000,000. In 18S7 Henry Clews acquired No. 9 for $250,000; in 1905 it brought $750,000, and has au- vanced considerably since. No. 41 brought $155,000 nine years ago; the adjoining similar lot at No. 3!^ is the one that re¬ cently sold for .?41o.000. Almost the en¬ tire north side of the street has changed ownership within the last ten years and many other cases showing equal gains could be cited. In 1904 an operator. J. G. Goldsmith, leased the six-story ^luilding at 22 to 26 West 34th street from the John Jacob Astor estate at a rental averaging about $38,000 net per annum. As a specula¬ tive proposition the lease was ridiculed by most real estate men familiar with the then existing situation. Mr, Gold¬ smith bad faith enough, however, to be content to wait until the values he an¬ ticipated should arrive. In the first three or four years he lost a small for¬ tune on the lease. Then tenants begai) to arrive and the ground floor of the building produced nearly enough to pay the entire rental. Last year, John For¬ sythe selected this building as the one best adapted for an uptown location for his business and subleased the entire structure, paying Mr. Goldsmith a profit of over $20,000 a year. East of Fifth avenue the increase in values has not been quite so pronounced of late, but the rise has been steady and improvements have been gradually made. Practically the entire block between Fifth and Madison avenues is in the hands of two people, Benjamin Altman owning all of the north side and William Waldorf Astor all of the south side ex¬ cept the Fifth avenue corner. Not a sin¬ gle parcel is for sale at any price, but a fair estimate of value for a lot would probably be about $200,000. Mr. Astor has leased several parcels on long terms and improvements have been made. The balance is ready for improvement and will be leased, no doubt, when the proper tenant appears. When Altman pur¬ chased his site he was obliged to pay very high prices for several 34th street parcels which established more or less fictitious values for the block at that time. This accounts in large measure for the fact that price advances in this block have not been so pronounced in the last few years. The block to the east of Madison ave¬ nue is now beginning to feel a strong up- wai'd movement. The Cameron building at the northeast corner of Madison ave¬ nue is well filled with good paying ten¬ ants and is one of the best examples of modern mercantile construction in the, uptown district. Other business houses are moving into the block and in a few years both sides of the street are likely to be pretty solidly occupied for business. The Vanderbilt Hotel should prove a drawing card and if the proposed re¬ grading of Park avenue at 34th street is carried out this portion of the street will be materially benefited. Property on the south side of the block is worth' about $150,000 a lot, while the north side would bring a trifle less. From Park avenue to the East River, property is decidedly inactive, except near Lexington avenue, which portion is beginning to feel the effect of the sub¬ way now under construction. The east- ' ern end of the street may in time be some¬ what improved with factory buildings, but at present there are few indications of any early activity. The block near the Long Island ferry "was formerly quite prosperous, but to-day the ferry travel is very limited and retail stores there have ceased to be profltable. Before the completion of the Pennsyl¬ vania terminal great things were ex¬ pected from the two blocks between , Broadway and Eighth avenue and specu¬ lation there was rife for several years. The amount of business brought to these blocks by the railroad has been extremely disapl^ointing in volume and but few good stores have located there. Prices were discounted for many years in ad¬ vance and at present most of the parcels will not sell for as much as they would have before the station opened. Lots on the south side between Seventh avenue and Broadway are held at $200,000, bui it is unlikely to-day that one could be sold for over $150,000. Between Seventh avenue and the 34th street entran'ee to the Long Island Railroad a similar con¬ dition exists. Before tie station opened the owners of the parcel at No. 222 re¬ fused an offer of $60,000. A few months ago it sold for $45,000. West of the Long Island entrance re¬ sults have been still more disappointing and it is difficult to discover how the terminal will ever be of much value to this portion. The building of a Seventh avenue subway may afTect the blocks im¬ mediately adjoining to some degree, but if such a line is established, the station is almost sure to be near the main en¬ trance to the Pennsylvania on Seventh