“No Gas” by David Falconer, the U.S. National Archives.
Where do you go to get gas? In Manhattan, your options are diminishing. According to the Fire Department of New York, there are now only fifty gas stations in all of Manhattan. Below 96th Street, there are less than twelve. Below 23rd Street, there is only one. As the ever-growing wave of development spreads across the city, gas stations are being bought by high-end developers and turned into luxury residences and office buildings.
The potential value of gas station property has long been recognized in the real estate community. Gas stations are relatively inexpensive to buy, there is not much to demolish, and there is often little community pushback. Additionally, gas stations are generally situated in central locations for the sake of accessibility.
So which companies are buying gas stations, and what are they planning to do with them? On 145th Street in Harlem, three gas stations were recently shuttered. The first, a Getty, was bought by Platinum Realty Associates for $4.62 million in July 2015. A plan for the space has not yet been filed with the city, but preliminary sketches depict retail outlets and possible condos. The second gas station on that same street, a Speedway, was bought by Coltown Properties for $6.75 million in December 2016. Coltown also bought the third station, a Mobil, for $10.1 million in February 2017.
The prices paid by Platinum and Coltown pale in comparison to those paid by developers buying gas stations further south. In 2014, a BP on the northern edge of Central Park was sold to Artimus Construction for $25.5 million. This site has since been redeveloped into Circa Central Park, which is currently selling condos starting at $1 million. Remember that one remaining gas station below 23rd Street? A journalist from Curbed recently interviewed the owner of that station – a Mobil on 8th Avenue and East 13th Street – who claimed he had been offered over $50 million dollars to sell. Critics of the article have challenged that claim, but high offers like that one are not out of place. In 2008, a Mobil just down the block sold for $60 million.
The gas stations mentioned above are by far not the only ones recently purchased by developers. Residents of Manhattan are finding it increasingly more burdensome to fill up their tank, and many are frustrated. Fewer gas stations means longer lines and heavier street traffic. However, small business owners near the converted gas station properties have been relatively optimistic about the change. An influx of new residents and workers would likely increase their customer base, and gas station traffic would no longer discourage travelers. This is not to mention the current owners of gas stations, who get to choose between increased patronage and selling for millions. In the end, the value of gas stations can mean different things to different groups of people, and despite the nuance of this issue, it deserves more attention from locals and real estate moguls alike.
For your convenience, a list of currently-operational Manhattan gas stations can be found here.