HIGH RISE by Jerry Adler


Email this review


 Times Square was slated for ambitious redevelopment in the mid-1980's when real-estate developer Bruce Eichner set out to build a skyscraper at 1540 Broadway. In planning, the concept changed from a hotel-and-residential tower to a residential-and- office tower, then to an office tower over a four-floor vertical shopping mall. Other such malls had bombed in Manhattan, but the architect had a vision: Shoppers coming for their brand-name sneakers or mass-produced donuts would enter a blindingly lit electronic environment of flashing neon, multiple giant video- screens, exposed internal ``clockwork,'' and laser-light displays. The building itself--a Skidmore, Owings & Merrill design distinguished by a ``prow'' that pointed at the street and a tall mast that would be the building's mark--was topped out by the decade's end but never leased. In 1992, the developers filed for bankruptcy and Citibank sold the building to Bertelsmann for less than its construction cost. Adler, a proficient though not facile Newsweek writer who was on the scene throughout the project's evolution, details the process of development in all its grandiose, blind, missionless complexity: acquiring the property and buying off the variously tenacious tenants; scrambling for partners and bank financing for a game in which the only way to make money is to use other peoples'; dealing with N.Y.C.'s bureaucratic regulatory agencies and labyrinthine, ever-changing zoning code (in Adler's hands you'll breeze through a sentence like ``If the foundation failed to vest on May 13, the zoning would revert to 15 FAR''); arguing colors, materials, and elevator panels among architects with visions and value engineers with construction-cost numbers; fly- swatting nuisance lawsuits; and frenetically pursuing and negotiating deals in an attempt to keep the bubble from bursting. What Adler might have hoped would be a high-rolling success story stands now as a cautionary but no less entertaining tale of the Eighties' cockamamie hubris. (Photographs) (First serial to New York)

Pub Date: April 28th, 1993
ISBN: 0-06-016701-7
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1993