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Stampede of the Super-Talls

Don’t adjust your dial, we know this is our DC publication. But maybe because we’re a city with height limits, we’ve become obsessed with the current frenzy in Manhattan to put up pencil-thin condo towers known as the “super-talls.” We don’t know whether they're good or bad for civilization, but it’s certainly changing the skyline.

We snapped this from Central Park the other day of 432 Park Ave, which just topped out and now technically possesses the highest roofline in the US at 1,396 feet. (1 World Trade Center is 1,776 feet high, but much of that is its spire, and its roofline comes in at 1,336 feet.) 432 Park has become the most noticeable building in NYC as visitors drive in from JFK and Queens.

Designed by starchitect Rafael Vinoly, it’s covered with 10x10 foot windows, has 89 floors with only 104 units and a 33k SF footprint, and has been developed by Harry Macklowe and CIM Group for $1.3B. A penthouse with six bedrooms and seven baths has fetched $95M. The site’s always been famous—it used to be the Drake Hotel, favored back in the '60s by Led Zeppelin and The Who.

About three blocks away, here's Extell’s One57 at 157 W 57th St, which is the only super-tall that’s delivered. Designed by French architect Christian de Portzamparc, it weighs in at 1,004 feet. Although many of the units have been purchased, one of the controversies of the super-talls is that they are today favored by Russian oligarchs and other ultra-rich as seventh homes and only rarely occupied. (Recent stats show that even older products like Trump Tower are over two-thirds part-time residents.) At least there's a luxurious Park Hyatt on the first 25 floors of One57 that keeps the lights on.

One block further, we snapped the site last week where a new heavyweight champion will arise: 225 W 57th, another Extell development to be known as Nordstrom Tower, named for the Seattle-based retailer that will put its first store in NYC here, occupying seven floors. Nordstrom Tower will be 1,775 feet tall, and its roofline a record-breaking 1,490. (Extell also is on pace to win The Race to Be Brooklyn's Tallest.)

Should it concern us that the sign at the site seems to misspell "Broadway"? We assume no numbers integral to the structural engineering are also transposed.

Nearby at 111 W 57th, JDS Development and Property Markets Group are putting up a SHoP-designed, 1,398-foot tower and converting historic Steinway Hall. Talk about pencil thin: This one will be only 60 feet wide. What is that, dental-floss thin?

The rendering posted at 111 W 57th's work site shows it towering over One57, currently thought to be pretty high. Another debate is whether all these new buildings will stress 57th Street's traffic and infrastructure, with owners paying only comparative low property taxes and little in income tax; or whether it's a boon for NYC because they're pouring money into the economy yet won't be around enough to require additional services.

A couple blocks north, at 220 Central Park S, another site is being readied for a Robert A.M. Stern design from Vornado. It will be “only” 950 feet tall.

We took this from a hotel room on the 23rd floor of the old 46-story Park Lane Hotel, which is rumored to be a site for another super-tall—which might be a fair inference from the fact that Harry Macklowe is among the investors who bought it. Preservationists have declared the Park Lane not worth preserving, and therefore you can get great rates on these amazing views before the building becomes history.

Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle opened in 2003 and, previously considered a goliath, is practically puny now at 750 feet.

Even the granddaddy Empire State seems quaint at a 1,250-foot roofline. Other towers on the horizon include Hines’ 53 W 53rd, also called Tower Verre next to MoMA, designed by Jean Nouvel to be 1,050 feet, and Zeckendorf’s 520 Park, another design by Robert A.M. Stern, which, though only 51 stories, is scheduled to feature a penthouse offered at $130M. So at least it can claim a height record for prices.