Food for Thought Star Chefs on the Relationship Between Restaurants and Real Estate

Food for Thought
'Restaurateurs Meet Real Estate Panel' at 92Y, March 16, 2019 (l-r: Kerry Diamond, Missy Robbins, Thomas Keller, Jose Andres) Photo by 92Y

If you've followed New York real estate news in the last few days, you have certainly heard about Hudson Yards, the much-hyped, largest private development on Manhattan's West Side that boasts 18 million square feet of commercial and residential space (including luxury condominiums); the soon-to-open Shed performing arts center; and over 100 restaurants and shops. While the $25 billion project spearheaded by Related Companies chairman Stephen Ross is not completely finished (several of the towers remain under construction), parts of it opened to the public last Friday, most notably the Vessel, the 150-foot-tall Thomas Heatherwick-designed sculpture with its 2,500 steps and 80 landings.

Because of its splashy inaugural debut, Hudson Yards figured into the conversation at a panel discussion for the third annual City of Tomorrow Real Estate, Architecture & Design Summit, held at the 92nd Street Y on Manhattan's Upper East Side this past Saturday. Two of the panelists, star chefs Thomas Keller and Jose Andres, both have new eateries opening at the Yards. Titled “Restaurateurs Meet Real Estate,” the panel also included fellow popular chef Missy Robbins, and explored the intersection between restaurants and real estate development.

These days, restaurants have unseated retail as the anchor tenants for new real estate projects. “It's wonderful to see chefs leading development,” said Keller, who debuted his new restaurant, TAK Room, located at 20 Hudson Yards. He added that developers want to make sure that they have the right mix of dining options to attract visitors to their high-profile projects.

Meanwhile, Andres (who was nominated last November for the Nobel Peace Prize for his disaster relief work in Haiti, California, and Puerto Rico, among others) is launching his new food hall, Mercado Little Spain, at 10 Hudson Yards. On the subject of setting up a restaurant in a neighborhood that doesn't exist yet, Andres recalled his time in Washington, D.C. at the beginning of his career in the early 90s. When he first opened his now wildly popular tapas restaurant Jaleo, “That's when I realized the power of a restaurant to lift up an neighborhood,” he said.

When panel moderator Kelly Diamond of the women and food publication Cherry Bombe brought up the perception of Hudson Yards as being something like a 'Billionaires Row', Andres addressed the criticism, pointing out the number of jobs the project has created, as well as the portion of it set aside for affordable housing.

Asked about where she would open her 'dream restaurant,' Robbins, who best known for her popular Italian establishment Lilia in Williamsburg, Brooklyn suggested a ski town as one thought. But she maintained that her heart will always stay in Brooklyn. “I really enjoy being in Williamsburg and being part of that community,” Robbins said. “We have people on long waiting lists for our restaurant. If we keep [going] in Brooklyn, we can keep serving those people.”

If there was one takeaway from the panel, it was that restaurants today are more vital than ever in real estate development. “Restaurants are places that continue into the evening, after the retail stores are closed,” said Keller.

In addition to the restaurant panel, the summit, co-produced by 92Y and Hundred Stories, also featured panel discussions ranging from city neighborhoods and new developments, to kitchen and baths and urban planning. 

David Chiu is an associate editor at The Cooperator.

Related Articles

An 'Un-Gentrification' Project in Harlem

An 'Un-Gentrification' Project in Harlem

Construction Underway at Marcus Garvey Village

Mayor de Blasio Extends Outdoor Dining Season Year-Round

Mayor de Blasio Extends Outdoor Dining Season Year-Round

Popular “Open Restaurants” program to be made permanent

Report: NYC's Housing Market Ranks 48th of 52 Largest US Cities'

Report: NYC's Housing Market Ranks 48th of 52 Largest US Cities'

Wisconsin, Virginia, & NJ All Beat the Big Apple