Putting a Price Tag on Privately Owned Public Spaces

April 13, 2012 at 8:32 pm

The Occupy Wall Street battle for Zuccotti Park brought unprecedented attention to privately owned public spaces, property whose developers committed to making them open to the public, in exchange for a boost in the scale of the building they could construct. But it also overshadowed a basic question. Who is getting the better end of the deal for these spaces, property owners or the public?

We decided to find out. The New York World filed a freedom of information request with the Department of City Planning to obtain records detailing the public space promises made and extra square footage received by each property developer, compiled in 2000 by the urban planner Jerold Kayden in collaboration with the department and the Municipal Art Society. In total, says Kayden, now a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, such spaces have enabled the development of 20 million square feet of New York City real estate that zoning would not have otherwise permitted.

Then we looked to put a price tag on the spaces. How much did the extra square footage add to the total value of each piece of real estate? That’s easier said than done. Office lease prices are a closely guarded secret, and since market conditions change, the price a building sold for five years ago doesn’t say much about its value now.

Click on the Images for Slideshow of 10 Public Spaces and Their Value

So we turned to a list, compiled by Crain’s New York Business based on data from Real Capital Analytics, detailing New York City’s 25 biggest commercial real estate sales of 2011. Ten of those properties included privately owned public spaces. Based on the price per square foot of those deals and the amount of extra space generated through the public space bonus, we calculated that privately owned public spaces contributed anywhere between $19 million and $353 million to the value of each property.

Read the full post at The New York World.


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