The new nomadic lifestyle: Luxury real estate and restaurants take over Nomad
A nomad is defined as “a member of a community of people who live in different locations, moving from one place to another in search of grasslands for their animals.” But it would be hard to imagine any Nomad resident ever straying for grasslands beyond Madison Square Park. After a series of incarnations over the years, Nomad is now a super hip, bustling neighborhood from morning through night with residents, technology businesses (it’s now being referred to as “Silicon Alley”), loads of retail (leaning heavily toward design), great architecture, hot hotels, and tons and tons of food.
Named for its location north of Madison Square Park, Nomad’s borders are a bit fuzzy but generally, they run east-west from Lexington Avenue to Sixth Avenue and north-south from 23rd to 33rd Streets. Douglas Elliman’s Bruce Ehrmann says, “Nomad is the great link between Madison Square Park, Midtown South, Murray Hill and 5th Avenue.”
Nomad’s many lives
In the early 19th century, Nomad was known as “Satan’s Circus” for the proliferation of bars, prostitutes and gambling. It wasn’t all unsavory activity, though, because on Christmas Eve, all the brothels’ proceeds went to charity. In its next incarnation, stately brownstones and social lunches at Delmonico’s dominated the neighborhood. Later, Nomad became known for the cluster of wholesale stores along Broadway. Today, it’s a hotbed of cool architecture, luxury condo buildings, high-end hotels, and world class restaurants.
Nomad is also inextricably tied to Madison Square Park. Formerly a military parade ground, the park, like the entire neighborhood, has undergone a number of changes since pre-Revolutionary War days. Early on, it was a burial ground and has also been an army arsenal and the site of a facility for juvenile delinquents. After it was destroyed by fire in 1839, Madison Square Park, as we know it today, was redesigned in 1847 and looked very similar to today with criss crossing paths and a wrought iron fence surrounding it.
Photo via CityRealty
According to Compass’ website, “Nomad is a favorite of residents who welcome the non-stop, vibrant pace. This neighborhood tends to attract the more professional crowd… and is also a popular choice for those who can often find larger apartments in many of the luxury doorman buildings around the neighborhood.”
Compass Agent Sean McPeak says, “Nomad is a neighborhood known for commercial innovation and historic architecture. People working and living in the neighborhood are accustomed to high-ceilings, ornate building details and loft architecture, which is now being mimicked by new developments in the area.”
In the mid-19th century, Nomad was filled with luxurious private brownstones and mansions with lawns, some of which still stand today. The area is defined by a range of architectural styles, from the Second Empire to French Renaissance Revival to Modern mid-rises.
Some notable newcomers and new renovations are the Morris Adjmi-designed 30 East 31st Street, 88 and 90 Lexington, and 212 Fifth Avenue.
30 East 31st Street
30 E. 31’s fluted terracotta piers rise up the 40-story tower and interlacing to form an “lattice crown.” Renderings courtesy of of Ekstein Development Group/MA Architects
As is always the case with Morris Adjmi’s buildings, his first skyscraper is a highly respectful and modern nod to the surrounding architecture.
The Madison Belmont Building on the corner of Madison Avenue and East 34th Street was a NoMad inspiration for Morris Adjmi Architects. Photo via Wiki Commons.
Admji comments, “the predominance of gothic-like inspired buildings on Park Avenue South and Madison Avenue inspired me to use those as cues for how we would design this building. Specifically, I wanted to do something that resonated in the skyline and coupled with the Empire State Building and the Chrysler building in the distance. I created the special top but did so in a way that was relevant and appropriate.”
A bathroom rendering shows custom tiles designed by Adjmi.
Bruce Ehrmann says, “People are coming to the building because of the wonderful architecture.” He also explained that the interior aesthetic and finishes match the gorgeous exterior of the building, “they’re consistent because Morris designed both.” 30 East 31st is the only building in the world that will have Adjmi’s new line of bathroom fixtures, spouts and custom tile.
The penthouse has large triangular windows that evoke the crown of the Chrysler building.
Ehrmann states that the building has “an appropriate unit mix to match the needs of the neighborhood.” There are two different size one-bedrooms, full-floor two-bedrooms (one of which has a large outdoor terrace), a duplex penthouse with three bedrooms, and a 10-year 421a tax abatement.
30 East 31st is a perfect representation of present day NoMad – a harmonious blend of the Empire State building and Chrysler building reinterpreted in the present and reflecting the future.
88 & 90 Lexington
Renderings via 88 & 90 Lex
The two adjacent buildings on Lexington merge pre- and post-war design: a 1927 renovated Art Deco featuring pre-war details and a 1958 modernist building showcasing mid-century simplicity. 88 & 90 Lex offers 118 one- to four-bedroom condominiums with interiors by design firm Workshop/APD.
88 Lexington features high ceilings and “gallery-inspired walls.” Together, the two buildings share over 8,000 square feet of amenities ranging from a pool and cinema to a gym and residents’ lounge.
Beth Stern, a broker at Corcoran, says, “the neighborhood immediately surrounding 88 & 90 feels more residential but as soon as you take a few steps away from the buildings, the whole neighborhood changes. Gramercy Park is to the south. A few steps to the west and you get to Madison Square Park with a little more going on and excitement. Then if you head up the street, it’s always crowded with lunch and brunch goers. It’s a very convenient neighborhood.”
172 Madison Avenue
Renderings via 172 Madison Avenue
This 33-story building offers 69 homes, including four penthouses, one mansion, and a SkyHouse. Eran Chen of ODA designed the Penthouses and SkyHouse while Karl Fischer Architects were responsible for the overall building design.
Renderings of the SkyHouse via 172 Madison Avenue
The SkyHouse is a three-story home with living room ceiling heights of nearly 23 feet, a mezzanine level, a private glass-walled elevator, a private staircase, over 5,500 interior square feet with another 3,000 square feet of exterior balconies and terraces including a full private roof deck, a swimming pool and a glass-walled Jacuzzi, looking out onto the Manhattan skyline.
The building incorporates loft-like attributes, such as 11-foot ceilings, into a new building with a full complement of amenities not available in conversions. These include a pool, steam room, health club, pet spa and playroom.
The Whitman, via CityRealty
The Whitman is a six-story building at 21 East 26th Street across from Madison Square Park. It was converted to four large condominium apartments in 2013 by David Mitchell of Mitchell Holdings. The building has four full-floor units, and at one point, they were owned by Chelsea Clinton, J. Lo (her penthouse is on the market), NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon, and hedge fund manager John Silvetz.
212 Fifth Avenue
Via 212 Fifth
Built in 1912, the neo-medieval 212 Fifth Avenue was originally a commercial building. Influenced by the Woolworth building, its steel skeleton was innovative for being one of the first skyscrapers of the time.
Rendering by Visualhouse for Helpern Architects
Helpern Architects restored and converted 212 5th Avenue into a 24-story luxury condominium with 48 apartments and two penthouses with their own terraces. The architects moved the main entrance to be centered on West 26th Street, and the crenellated parapet at the top of the building was restored to its historic elegance.
Renderings of NOMA, courtesy of FX Collaborative
Designed by FX Collaborative, the NOMA is a 24-story tower with 55 condominiums. The building’s amenities include a fifth-floor landscaped terrace, library, lounge, and fitness area.
Rendering of NOMA’s penthouse, courtesy of FX Collaborative
Timothy McCarthy, Senior Sales Director at Alchemy Properties, states, “The NOMA at 50 W 30th Street pays homage to the neighborhood with its striking hand-laid brick facade and industrial neo-Bauhaus-inspired design. It’s distinctive aesthetic compliments NoMad, the most thriving section of Manhattan that continues to attract the best names in cuisine, retail, fitness and culture.”
277 Fifth Avenue
Courtesy of 277 Fifth Avenue
The Rafael Viñoly-designed 277 Fifth Avenue is a 55-story building with 133 condominiums. Viñoly placed columns at the building’s base to keep the inside free from structural elements. This feature allows for alternating floor-to-ceiling windows, which frame the view, and solid walls, to display art. Viñoly says, “This building belongs to Fifth Avenue.”
Ran Korolik, Executive Vice President of Victor Group says, “Nomad has rapidly transformed into the cultural epicenter of Manhattan and recently blossomed into a thriving luxury residential community. 277 Fifth elevates the caliber of condo product in NoMad, an already posh destination.”
Interior rendering of 277 Fifth courtesy of Jeffrey Beers
Interior architect Jeffrey Beers designed the interiors to have a relaxed sophistication to juxtapose with the modern exterior. Beers used a warm palette of natural materials, including richly grained white oak, walnut, and Italian marble to complement the tower’s robust modern architecture.
The building amenities include a library, entertaining suite, a gym with his and her steams and saunas, game room, kids club and more.
Scott Walsh, Senior Development Manager at Lendlease says, “There is truly something for everyone in NoMad – from boutique fitness studios to fashionable retail to the new Scarpetta location which just moved from Meatpacking. We knew that discerning buyers for the exquisite residences at 277 Fifth would want to be just steps away from some of the chicest restaurants, hotels and retail destinations in New York City and choose this location accordingly.”
262 Fifth Avenue
Rendering via DBOX for Meganom
Pushing Nomad into NYC’s supertall scene is 262 Fifth Avenue, a super-skinny, 1,009-foot skyscraper that will boast an aluminum and glass facade, along with a “striking arched observation deck.” The first U.S. project of Moscow-based firm Meganom, it will be the tallest building between the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center, taking the title from the 777-foot 45 East 22nd Street.
Rendering via DBOX for Meganom
626 Fifth Avenue will have 41 condos at an average of 3,000+ square feet each. According to the architects, “The form of the skyscraper is inspired by a unique structural system that separates the building’s functioning core from its living spaces, creating expansive, unobstructed, column-free and [customizable] full-floor residences – an inventive design solution unprecedented in a New York high-rise.”
Nomad’s Food Scene
Delmonico’s original midtown location in the late 1800s, via NYPL
From 1876 through 1899, the infamous Delmonico’s restaurant, a multi-story facility with a large sidewalk café located at Fifth Avenue and 26th Street, was the place where anybody who was anybody would go to dine and be seen. That tradition of fine dining in Nomad continues today.
Eleven Madison Park via djjewelz/Flickr
The dining options in Nomad are too many to note, but here are some highlights.
Union Square Hospitality Group, founded by world-renowned chef Danny Meyer, began with the opening of Union Square Cafe in 1985, when Meyer was only 27 years old. In 1998, he opened Eleven Madison Park (on the east side of Madison Square Park) but has since sold it to chef Daniel Humm. The restaurant has been voted among the world’s top 50 restaurants eight times; last year it was ranked number one. Humm, along with his restaurateur partner Will Guidara, subsequently opened the Nomad restaurant in the gorgeous Nomad Hotel.
To continue the fine dining in hotel trend, there’s the Ace Hotel’s gastropub The Breslin with, unsurprisingly from the owners of the Spotted pig, meat-heavy dishes like milk-braised pork, pork-fried pancetta toast, and whole roasted suckling pig.
In 2010, Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich and Joe Bastianich partnered to open the 50,000-square-foot Turin-born Eataly across the west side of Madison Square Park. Eataly offers a variety of Italian restaurants, food and beverage counters, bakery, retail items, and a cooking school.
Via Made Nice
NoMad’s fast casual scene is hopping.
With art commissioned by Shepard Fairey and “social music” composed by Stephen Colbert’s Jon Batiste, Humm and Will Guidara opened Made Nice at 8 West 28th Street. Their menu items are rooted in the fine dining of Eleven Madison Park but served in compostable bowls. According to Humm, “‘Made’ stands for the craft and execution and ‘Nice’ stands for the hospitality.”
On behalf of Made Nice, Sarah Rosenberg said, “just a short walk from Eleven Madison Park is where Will and the Chef decided to open the NoMad Hotel in 2012 and they fell in love with the neighborhood. They then opened the NoMad Bar in 2014 right next door at 10 west 28th street. It made absolute sense to open made nice next to the NoMad bar on 8 west 28th. Their community of restaurants within these few blocks proves pride and commitment to the neighborhood.”
There is also uber-popular Sweetgreen for salad on Broadway (though you may have to wait on a line around the block), build-your-own Mediterranean bowl restaurant Cava on 24th and Park, Inday, for “your daily good karma,” and The Little Beet, for cold press juices and veggie, gluten-free options.
Nomad has come a long way from Satan’s Circus. The neighborhood has gone from a proliferation of unsavory to the most savory real estate, retail and restaurants in the world.