New York’s Lower Manhattan is a microcosm of the global trend in urban regeneration, having been recast in waves from strapped and troubled streets to some of the most valuable real estate on Earth (about 10 per cent of homes in the West Village, SoHo and TriBeCa come in at $5m or more, according to New York City’s Independent Budget Office and Knight Frank).

The art and cultural movement was the key to the priming of some areas. New York’s High Line Park, which has propagated a swathe of luxury developments designed by the likes of Renzo Piano and Frank Gehry along its route through Chelsea into the Meatpacking District, was catalyzed by a photography project and championed by a fashion designer. Joel Sternfeld’s photographs of the derelict railroad tracks of the West Side Line were instrumental in the success of the Friends of the High Line’s campaign to create an urban park, while Diane von Furstenburg (who moved her fashion empire’s HQ to the meatpacking district in 1997) contributed both publicity and financial clout to the project. The High Line Park, which now has its own artistic curator, eventually opened in 2009 with an art installation by Peter Finch.

Conversely, nearby Battery Park City (BPC), home to the Conrad New York, is a showcase for ‘managed gentrification’—an economically amped subset of town planning—that has delivered a local social and economic revolution in just a few decades. The BPC neighborhood only came into being in the 1970s when landfill from the construction of the World Trade Center was used to reclaim land from the Hudson.

i03-reinventing-cities-fw6High Line.

Under the management of the Battery Park City Authority, the newly formed 92-acre landmass enjoyed a building boom through the 1980s and 1990s, winning plaudits around the world to become, in the words of the Urban Land Institute, “a model for successful large-scale planning efforts and marking a positive shift away from the urban renewal mindset of the time.”

One of the triumphs of this ‘managed’ approach is that it has public spaces, as well as private homes and commercial properties, at its heart. About a third of Battery Park City is devoted to parkland and open spaces.

Meanwhile, Brookfield Place is newly becoming a hub for high-end shopping, food and fitness as smart gym brands such as Equinox set up shop there. Arts Brookfield is a cultural initiative devised to invite world-class theater, film, music and visual art events to take place in the center and is already showing open-air film screenings by dusk. Many design-led and new media businesses have moved to the area and these trend-obsessed, style-loving workers are no doubt raiding the Hermès, Burberry and DVF stores located at Brookfield on their lunch hour.

Where such a fashionable and forward-thinking crowd ventures, the rest of New York’s locals—and the rest of the world—will no doubt follow.

High Line
From derelict train tracks to urban greenway.
Brookfield Place
Once surrounded by landfill, the site has undergone an elegant redesign.
Westfield World Trade
Center Soon to become Manhattan’s biggest mall (under construction).
TriBeCa, SoHo, Greenwich Village and the Meatpacking District—diverse, fun and enticing—the Conrad New York puts you at the center of it all.

Conrad New York.


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