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A blog from CityRealty (Links below will take you to the 6sqft site)
 
 

Features

The Rink at Bryant Park (Photo Credit: CityRealty)
As with almost every park in Manhattan, Bryant Park was once a burial ground. Today, there is still an afterlife under the park but it’s no longer tombs but tomes. After all, Bryant Park sits on top of 37 miles of New York Public Library books (that's 1.5 million books!).
The 9.6 acre privately managed Bryant Park is located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and between 40th and 42nd Streets. The main branch of the New York Public Library is located on the eastern border of the park along Fifth Avenue where an above-ground reservoir, the Croton Distributing Reservoir, used to sit (it supplied the city’s drinking water in the 19th century). Since then, Bryant Park has transitioned from a reservoir to a park to a no-go zone and back to one of the more vibrant parks in the city.
The Bryant-03 Google Earth aerial showing Bryant Park and its surrounds (CityRealty)
Today, Bryant Park is filled with office workers during the week, tourists on the weekends, ice skaters and holiday gift fairs in the winter and events all summer long. The park has restaurants and food kiosks within it and surrounding it, as well as hotels and restaurants across the street and a brand new Whole Foods. Only a few short blocks from Grand Central and Times Square, Bryant Park appeals to many.
Bryant Park in the summer
“There are many old garment buildings in this area that are converting to residential and there are conversions in the making coming into fruition as new office buildings (Bryant Park tower, Bank of China) – many of these old office buildings will turn to residential; it is an exciting time to be in Bryant Park. Also, we are seeing new growth with exciting companies moving in (e.g. WeWork moving into the Lord & Taylor building) – as a result, there is exciting new energy in the neighborhood.”

Orin Wilf, president of Skyline Developers who developed the rental building ML House.

Brief History

In 1686, New York Governor Thomas Dongan officially designated Bryant Park a public space. In 1777, George Washington and his troops marched across Bryant Park while retreating from the Battle of Long Island. In 1823, the park became a graveyard for the poor but the bodies were exhumed less than 20 years later and moved to Wards Island in 1840.
In 1884, it was renamed Bryant Park, previously known as Reservoir Square, to honor the New York Evening Post editor William Cullen Bryant.

Robert Moses redesigned the park in 1933 as part of the Great Depression public works project. Moses added the great lawn, hedges and an iron fence. But, in the 1970s, the park was taken over by prostitutes, drug dealers and many homeless but by 1980, a group of concerned residents, including the Rockefeller family, formed the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation to improve the park conditions.

The park was redesigned once again, in 1988, by Hanna/Olin in conjunction with urban sociologist William H. Whyte, to increase visibility from the street and house the library collection below and look similar as we know it today. A mentor to Jane Jacobs, Whyte rightly believed that opening the park to the city, rather than closing it off, would make it a safer and more pleasant place to be.
William Cullen Bryant statue

New York Public Library

In the second half of the 19th century, New York was growing at a frantic pace. The city had already passed Paris’ population and was quickly catching up to the world’s largest city, London. The residents of New York understood they were a great center for urban culture and wanted a grand library to match their status. Governor Samuel J. Tilden left $2.4 million to "establish and maintain a free library and reading room in the city of New York."

Dr. John Shaw Billings, described as “one of the most brilliant librarians of his day”, was named director. Billings sketched his idea of what an ideal library would look like and his sketch, which included a huge reading room with floors of stacks above, became the basis for the building plans.

The then relatively unknown design duo, Carrère and Hastings, were selected in an open competition. Their Beaux-Arts library, which was the largest marble structure ever built in the United States and took 10 years to complete. Before they could even start construction they spent two years with 500 workers to dismantle the reservoir. Carrère and Hastings’ three-story building design anchored around a central circulation core was both practical and beautiful.
Early sketch of the library
What it looks like today at 476 Fifth Avenue
There have been recent rumors of the possibility of moving the stacks under the park moving. Nora Lyons, Assistant Director, Media Relations for the NYPL disputes those rumors by saying, “There are indeed stacks under Bryant Park and they certainly aren't going anywhere. In fact, we expanded them in 2016 and installed a state-of-the-art delivery system, which we affectionately call the 'book train.' ”

Local Hotels

Situated in the heart of midtown with offices galore, abutting Times Square to the south and sitting on top of almost every subway line in Manhattan, Bryant Park’s central location makes it a popular place for tourists.
Bryant Park Hotel - Opened in 2001 at 40 W. 40th Street, the Bryant Park Hotel is a “designer luxury hotel” that caters to “the fashion culturati, Hollywood and Film Industry, as well as cosmopolitans, both native and transient.”

Andaz Fifth Avenue - A Hyatt hotel located at 485 5th Avenue at 41st Street, the Andaz offers 184 loft-like guest rooms designed by Tony Chi. The rooms, with 12’ floor-to-ceiling windows and views of 5th Avenue and the New York Public Library, are described as “serene suites inspired by the neighborhood and feature pre-war subway lantern light fixtures. Steel-blue wall decor and black shutter doors feel like the ultimate loft apartment.”

Knickerbocker Hotel - Created by John Jacob Astor in 1906, “The Knickerbocker once played host to legendary political bigwigs, actresses, oil tycoons and sports figures—and it’s rumored the martini was invented here in the hotel.” The Beaux-Arts facade remains unchanged but the interior has been designed to “a soothing new luxury aesthetic” for their 330 guest rooms.
Bryant Park Hotel
Library Hotel's reading room
Library Hotel - The Library Hotel promises “thought-provoking experiences” in their wood furnished, library-inspired guest rooms. “Each of the sixty exquisitely appointed rooms has been individually adorned with a collection of art and books relevant to one distinctive topic within the Dewey Decimal category of the floor it belongs to.” Their “Love” Room has books hand selected by the sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Most of their rooms are equipped with only one bed so you better like whoever you are traveling with.

Restaurants inside the park

The food in the park ranges from fine to fast food. No matter how much you spend, everyone gets a beautiful park view.

Bryant Park Cafe and Grill - The Bryant Park Grill is new American-style dining with seasonal patio and rooftop dining with great views of the park. The Grill is located behind the New York Public Library on the park’s Upper Terrace between 40th and 42nd Streets. The outdoor Café features a more informal menu and bar an is open from mid-April to November, depending on the weather.

The Southwest Porch - Southwest Porch, located near the Fountain Terrace, has swings and lounge furniture and a full bar featuring an extensive, hard to find and locally distilled whiskey list as well as craft beer and adult hot coffee and hot chocolate cocktails. The menu offers burgers, salads, and more.

Wafels & Dinges - Wafels & Dinges is a kiosk on the northwest corner of the park that serves Belgian waffles with a variety of toppings, also known as “dinges”. According to their website, “learn your first Belgian slang word - “dinges” means “whatchammacallit”, and we used it for our toppings”

Restaurants directly opposite the park

Koi Bryant Park - Located in the Bryant Park Hotel (as well as in Bangkok and Las Vegas), Koi serves upscale Japanese eats including “imaginative sushi.”
And, of course, there is always a Sweet Green, two Chipotles on opposite sides of the park, Hale and Hearty, Maison Kayser, Le Pain Quotidien, and Blue Bottle Coffee if all of those food offerings were not enough.
Koi Bryant Park main dining area
Photos via Koi Restaurant

Residential Developments

Bryant Park does not have a strong history of residential buildings but that is changing. Recent new developments demonstrate how the neighborhood has been slowly getting more residential buildings. And it looks like buyers who invested early are already profiting.
Rendering courtesy of GKA, Photo taken November 9, 2017 (CityRealty)
Skyline Developers developed ML House (ML= the building’s address in Roman numerals) at 1050 Sixth Avenue, a new rental located across the street from Bryant Park. The 63,000-square-foot project is a 24-floor, 62-unit building was designed by Gene Kaufman Architects (GKA).
“Bryant Park has become a destination with family-friendly activities (ice skating rink at Bryant Park), as well as important restaurant names that are steadily moving in and grocery stores like Whole Foods, not to mention the close proximity to multiple subway lines - it is a central location and easy to get uptown or downtown. We built a luxury rental building, ML House, to satisfy the demand for the influx of people moving to this vibrant location - it is attracting New Yorkers and people from across the globe. Not everyone realizes how centrally located Bryant Park is and its proximity to the best theater (theater district), it is the heart and pulse of New York.”

Orin Wilf, president of Skyline Developers
520 Fifth Avenue (Coming Soon)
Renderings of 520 Fifth Avenue via Ceruzzi Holdings / SMI USA
Set to be on of the tallest skyscrapers in Manhattan, this long-awaited mixed-use development at 520 Fifth Avenue will rise 71 floors and include 145 condos, retail, and a five-star luxury hotel. Handel Architects is designing and it looks like the tower might finally be ready for construction.
More Residential Developments
50 West 40th Street
16 West 40th Street
100 West 39th Street
Little is known about the proposed 40-story block-through tower for 50 West 40th Street but most likely, it won't happen anytime soon. Reports first surfaced in 2010, speculating that Foster + Partners would be designing a 300,000-square-foot office/hotel/condo project of some sort, but for now, the existing building is currently 100% leased to CUNY.
The Bryant at 16 West 40th Street is the first ever full residential condo built on Bryant Park and the first ground-up residential tower in the U.S. designed by architect David Chipperfield. Amenities include a lounge, conference and dining rooms, full bar, and a terrace overlooking the park. Because it sits on top of a boutique hotel, residents will also enjoy a range of hotel services.
At 100 West 39th, Bryant Park Tower is a 45-story, full-service condo building. Built in 2006, the average closing price per square foot rose from $1,252 in 2006 to $1,534 in 2017. Although a 23% increase doesn’t keep pace with the average price per square foot of Manhattan properties of a similar time period, which have risen 51% (from $1,237 to $1,864), it does beat the 15% increase of Trumps’ properties.
425 Fifth Avenue
400 Fifth Avenue
66 West 38th Street
425 Fifth is a 56-story mixed-use building built in 2004 and designed by Michael Graves. The top 27 floors have 81 residences. Amenities include a gym, a lap pool, steam and sauna rooms, outdoor terrace, children's playroom, private cinema room, business center and 24hr concierge & doorman service.
400 Fifth Avenue contains both a five-star hotel (The Langham Hotel) and residences. The apartments are located on the upper floors and the hotel is below. Building amenities include a residents’ lounge with outdoor seating, a plunge pool and an “Auriga Spa and Aqua Grotto.”
Atlas New York at 66 West 38th Street is a 47-story mixed-use tower built in 2001 by the Gotham Organization and M&J Trimming. There are 374 rental apartments on floors 5-47 (with studios starting at $2,800 to three bedrooms from $5,300).

Offices

WeWork - Location at 54 W. 40th Street, WeWork bought the old landmarked Lord & Taylor building. WeWork has 11 floors that “attract a wide range of businesses, from fashion and design to finance and investment banking.”

Bank of America - A New York Post article broke the news that Bank of America is moving across the park. “Bank of America is bullish on New York - and on Sixth Avenue.” In 2019, Bank of America will move across the street, from One Bryant Park Manhattan to 1100 Sixth Ave., HBO’s current home.
WeWork offices at 54 West 40th Street / Common area photo via WeWork
Salesforce Tower - Salesforce was so excited about their move to 3 Bryant Park last year, they created this video of a large, brown-puff person walking in and around Bryant Park and their new tower (which you cannot miss).

In a very un-corporate-like announcement, Salesforce’s enthusiasm is palpable, with an exclamation mark in its headline, stating, “The new Salesforce Tower New York building will feature a state-of-the-art lobby showcasing the latest technology innovations, as well as a world-class executive briefing center and a stunning, two-story-high Atrium space where we plan to host events for our employees, guests and the community. And to top it off, our logo will be on the roof of 3 Bryant Park, adding Salesforce to the Manhattan skyline.” Oh yes, it is!
Salesforce Tower (Formerly Metlife Building) via Salesforce

Retail

According to James Lansill, Senior Managing Director at Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group, “Bryant Park and surrounding areas have the perfect mix of New York institutions (New York Public Library, hotels, regal shopping, etc.) and the most charming pockets of cultural diversity, making it the true hub of this international city. And delicacies! Bespoke chocolatiers, Japanese layer cakes, French bakeries, and other purveyors of delectable abound — the region has an inexplicably deep concentration of culinary splendors.”

A Whole Foods just opened recently on the west side of the park – at the base of the Salesforce Tower.
Whole Foods Bryant Park
There really is something for everyone in Bryant Park, from fine and fast food, offices and events, luxury residences and hotels and even juggling.
Mike, developer by day and juggling instructor during lunch.
Michelle Colman, author
Contributing Writer Michelle Sinclair Colman Michelle writes children's books and also writes articles about architecture, design and real estate. Those two passions came together in Michelle's first children's book, "Urban Babies Wear Black." Michelle has a Master's degree in Sociology from the University of Minnesota and a Master's degree in the Cities Program from the London School of Economics.
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