While the Durst Organization cannot take full credit for establishing Manhattan stretches like the Third Avenue in the 1950s, the Avenue of the Americas in the 1970s and Times Square in the 1990s, its vision helped revive them. By erecting office towers in those districts, it stretched the bounds of what was a respectable Midtown address.
One boundary that Seymour Durst, the second-generation patriarch of the business, always longed to push was the south. "My father felt Sixth Avenue had more room to grow," Douglas Durst, his second son, said in an interview. It fell to Douglas Durst and his own daughter, Helena, to realise this vision, as they have just completed work on a 47-story tower on the corner of West 31st Street.
The building, Eos, at 855 Avenue of the Americas, is expanding New York's most central business district while employing an increasingly common practice throughout New York, and the world. As land grows scarcer and more expensive, and the population booms, more developers are combining commercial and residential space.
"It's getting harder and harder to do office construction," Durst said during a recent tour of the tower. "Housing is so much more valuable now, even in Midtown, it's taking over."
Joining the divergent strands of the family's business - offices and housing - is a first for the Dursts.
Not that they had much choice. The company, which historically focused on office development, shifted toward housing in the last two decades. Surging land prices, a lack of large sites and an influx of wealthy out-of-town house hunters has meant those Fortune 500 addresses along the avenues and especially 57th Street have given way to slender apartment towers. Meanwhile, the job market has improved, creating demand for new office space, though it cannot quite keep up with housing.
With space running out in sought-after areas, what better solution than to stack one atop the other? In the case of Eos, this means about 375 rental apartments over 122,000 square feet of office space and 49,000 square feet of retail space.
Mixed-use development has long been a dream of city planners, who see it as a way to promote density, a crucial need as cities worldwide continue to swell.
Crowding is what first dispersed these uses in New York, just as it is now bringing them back together. In the early part of the 20th century, the growth of dirty garment factories around the expensive shops and fine residences of Fifth Avenue spurred the creation of the zoning code, and commercial and residential spaces became more segregated.
Decades later, officials and developers across the five boroughs see multiuse projects as a way to strengthen neighbourhoods and reduce strains on infrastructure. Whether finding space for manufacturing among the apartments sprouting on an old industrial waterfront or turning the derelict upper floors of the Fulton Mall into tech hubs, builders are scouring the city for ways to do more with less.
Asia has been a leader in building such complexes, some of which are effectively cities within cities. Three of Tokyo's tallest towers - each exceeding 780 feet - house offices, shops and restaurants, and are topped by condominiums and hotels. The world's tallest building, 2,717-foot Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, has a similarly eclectic mix of apartments, offices, hotel rooms and attractions.