It’s getting harder not to notice the signs that New York City’s real estate market is returning to robust health. For people looking for rental apartments or condos in NYC, of course, New York City real estate is like a heroine in a Russian novel — never more beautiful than when it’s ailing. A strong real estate market means higher rents and fewer concessions on rentals; it means condos actually going for the prices at which they’re listed; it means loud real estate dudes turning otherwise peaceful bars into Jagerbomb free-fire zones. But while the exact size and shape of New York City’s real estate comeback is still coming into focus, it’s worth mentioning that it’s a little late to the party relative to what is currently the surging-est sector in New York City residential properties — NYC hotels have been booming for months, and Crain’s reports that hotel room occupancy rates are at 93% in July despite the opening of 37 new hotels over the last 18 months. (Room rates, like rental prices and condo ask prices, sunk significantly over the past two years, and are recovering gradually) Another 21 hotels are due to open in New York City in the next two years. In some ways, Monday’s opening of the InterContinental Hotel Times Square is just another part of this bigger trend. In another, more specific, way, though it’s bigger and better news — the InterContinental, whcih we first covered during its construction, is on track to become the greenest hotel in New York City, and could become a very welcome trendsetter in a mighty healthy building sector.
The hotel boom is good news for Manhattan’s economy, of course — someone has to buy those I (Heart) New York t-shirts, and it’s not going to be dyspeptic green building bloggers — but it is not necessarily be good news for the city’s sustainability. Hotels are spectacularly wasteful both because humans are humans — and might be more inclined to crank the AC while on vacation than at home, for instance — and because the industry’s practices are hilariously inefficient. (The Urban Green Council recommended some changes to such practices as leaving lights on in unoccupied rooms) But there’s no reason why hotels have to be massive carbon-sucks, and while the InterContinental has all the (admittedly wasteful) things luxury hotels have — a new Todd English restaurant is the tip of a big, expensive iceberg — it also offers a suite of green design elements that’s pretty eye-opening. These include not one but two green roofs — pandering to gbNYC, sure, but always nice — as well as low-VOC finishes, low-flow plumbing, recycling and off-site composting. And of course the points that LEED hands out for location near mass transit are pretty well sewed up — even the most out-of-it tourist could figure out how to get to the subway at Times Square from the InterContinental’s location at 44th and 8th Avenue.
While the InterContinental isn’t necessarily an extraordinary looking building — it’s a Big Glassy Rectangle, if you were wondering — the presence of a trendsetting green building in a prime location is worth applauding, especially with the scales recently seeming to tip in the direction of identikit mega-developments. Those of us who already live in New York City won’t have much use for the InterContinental, unless we need directions en route to Sake Bar Hagi or something, but it’s sustainability — and the easily projected possible impact of that on a booming hotel marketplace — makes it a welcome addition to our skyline all the same.