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Wall smart

USA

When JP Morgan’s former global headquarters was converted into luxury residences called Downtown by Philippe Starck, it was an audacious bet that Wall Street would be revitalised as a residential area. It turned out to be a wager that kicked off a bull run of high-design luxury flats on finance’s most famous street.

Developer Shaya Boymelgreen hired Starck in 2003 to remake the House of Morgan and the adjoining Equitable Trust building across from the New York Stock Exchange. The building has a roof garden, a pool and a huge chandelier in the foyer. Two years later, Boymelgreen outdid himself with 20 Pine The Collection, adding cabinetry and ebony wood flooring from Armani/Casa and turning Chase Manhattan’s vault into a pool for residents.

What was the world’s first cocoa futures market is now smart apartments. Around the corner from this development, restaurateur Giuseppe Cipriani converted the old Merchant Exchange into luxury furnished apartments where residents can enjoy a nightly cocktail hour.

The inspiration for all these renovations is the atmosphere surrounding Wall Street. The area’s narrow, winding streets set it apart from the numbered grid of Midtown, where many financial firms have relocated. The mix of giant Beaux-Arts buildings and darkened streets creates an environment you cannot find anywhere else. Indeed, according to André Balazs, the neighbourhood “is like it’s from another era.” Balazs’s William Beaver House will be the first new residences in Manhattan’s oldest neighbourhood. While other developers have struggled to turn bank vaults and underground passages into cinemas and bowling alleys, his development “will be an intelligently designed machine to live in.”

Unlike some NYC areas, Wall Street is not likely to lose its traditional identity. The NYSE remains, and firms such as Deutsche Bank are staying. Luxury retail has also moved in, with a new Hermès blazing the trail for others to follow.

Green wing

Greenland

Air Greenland, the official carrier to the most sparsely populated place on earth had a bumper year in 2006: revenues reached a record €136m and net profits were nearly double the previous year’s. In May the little airline took a big risk, inaugurating only its second international route, from the Greenlandic town of Kangerlussuaq (population 500) to Baltimore in the US.

Michael Binzer, the newly appointed CEO, says the move is part of the airline’s long-term strategy to promote Greenland as an adventure and ecological tourist destination. “Greenland is seen as somewhat exotic,” he says. “We don’t have the infrastructure for mass tourism. It’s more of a niche product.”

To that end, Air Greenland has redesigned its entire fleet, replacing a staid, 1970s-era look with bright-red jets and helicopters that feature pixelated snowflakes on their tails. Binzer, a 38-year-old native Greenlander and former director of leisure sales at SAS Danmark, was brought in to transform the airline from a sleepy domestic carrier to an upmarket, international brand. Part of the eventual strategy is to emulate Icelandair’s success –which offes free stopovers in Reykjavik to capture a portion of the transatlantic business – albeit on a much smaller scale.

Air Greenland has no plans as yet to add new European routes (the airline flies several times a week to Copenhagen) or expand in North America, however, until it assesses the financial impact of its decision to fly to Baltimore.

“This is a huge investment for a company this size,” says Binzer.

Q&A

Bill Granger

Chef and founder of Bills

Sydney, Australia

Which city offers the best quality of life?
I may be biased, but my hometown Sydney offers a great combination of big-city thrills and resort-style living.

Is this also your favourite city?
To live in, yes, but London or Tokyo would have to be my favourite cities to visit.

What makes a perfect city?
Its people, its climate, the ability to walk to good food stores and a natural environment for exercise all feature highly on my list. A place for good coffee is also essential.

If you could make one change to the urban fabric, what would it be?
The reintroduction and the nurturing of local urban villages.

On a more personal level, what is essential to quality of life?
Being able to exercise from your own doorstep. I have one of the best walks in the world on mine – Bondi to Bronte.

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