Stock exchanges aren’t what they used to be. You can tell just by stepping onto the floor of the most powerful one in the world, on Wall Street in New York.
At the start of the century, the New York Stock Exchange employed about 5,000 traders to execute all orders. Today, the only finance professionals who work in the landmarked space also do double duty as extras for bell-ringing ceremonies and programming on CNBC, which leases some of the space. In reality, most of the action of the NYSE, by far the world’s largest exchange measured by market value, happens at its data center across the Hudson River, in Mahwah, N.J. Data centers in New Jersey house the majority of U.S. stock trading activity today.
“The physical spaces are just television studios as almost all trading happens in data centers,” says Brad Katsuyama, CEO of The Investors Exchange (IEX), which processes trades at the CenturyLink data center in Weehawken, New Jersey.
New York isn’t the only city to decommission its trading floors; cities such as Manchester, Paris, and Vancouver have, too. After Nasdaq pioneered electronic trading in the 1970s, the so-called open outcry on most exchanges gave way to nanosecond, electronic flash trading, leaving professionals to rely on cables and speed rather than shouting within haloed neoclassical or Edwardian edifices.
Hoteliers and developers around the world have begun using these architectural showstoppers to draw in the masses to new hotels, museums, and gyms. Owners aren’t just adding a crown jewel to their portfolio, but expecting healthy returns for going through the trouble of updating the historic structures, which typically come with outdated plumbing and heating.
“From an investment perspective, introducing a new use to the exchange is a bold move but a wise one,” says Winston Zahra, chief executive officer of GG Hospitality, which opened the Stock Exchange Hotel this month in Manchester, UK. “Trophy asset? I hate the term, but the reality is these buildings are seen as part of a city’s legacy. There is a feeling of pride.” Its penthouse has a bank vault for a closet. Gold bars serve as part of the décor and the ghosts of traders past appear in sepia-toned photographs along the walls.
Call it creative destruction. Though miles apart, each of these exchanges share a common thread. The designers and developers recasting them are abiding by capitalism’s core tenant: leaving behind the vestiges of earlier eras to welcome something new.
Here are six exchanges that are having second lives either as high-end hotels, soaring museums, or, in San Francisco, as an Equinox.
Stock Exchange Hotel, Manchester
Former Manchester United footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs teamed up with Maltese hotelier Winston Zahra to restore this Edwardian edifice at a cost of £18 million ($23 million). After five years of planning and renovation work, it opened as the Stock Exchange Hotel in November — feted with a modern-day dinner party that hardly resembled the building’s inauguration in 1906 as a gentleman’s-only, top-hats-and-tails establishment.
Its 40 rooms are elegantly outfitted by the Turkish studio Autoban and feature writing desks topped with Italian marble, leather headboards, handcrafted sofas, and freestanding Victoria & Albert bathtubs set on heated tile flooring. English chef Tom Kerridge and executive chef Dan Scott have signed on to run the main restaurant and bar, The Bull & Bear, housed beneath the original dome ceiling of the former trading floor. On the menu are throwback martinis, pints on tap, and British classics such as scotch eggs, Yorkshire Pudding, and crispy pig’s head. Rooms from £200 ($258 USD)
Bourse de Commerce, Paris
The French are turning their 130-year-old commodities exchange, long forgotten by Parisians, into a contemporary art museum. After multiple delays, Paris will finally open the Bourse de Commerce in June, unveiling a completely transformed interior designed by Japanese Pritzker Prize laureate Tadao Ando. Ando was commissioned by French billionaire François Pinault to create the space in part to house Pinault’s extensive private art collection. “By nesting new spaces within it, while respecting the memories of the city engraved in its walls, I will transform the building’s entire interior into a space for contemporary art,” says Ando on the project’s website.
Until a few years ago, the site was occupied by a handful of fonctionnaires from the Chamber of Commerce, who’ve since relocated to a less grandiose office as part of Pinault’s deal with Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo to rehabilitate the space. Expanding the museum cost $170 million — more than Pinault, a French art legend, spent on either the Palazzo Grassi or the Punta della Dogana in Venice — with much of the budget going to a restoration of the facade. While details of the inaugural exhibition have yet to be announced, the showstoppers will surely be inside. Pinault’s collection comprises some 5,000 works by artists including Cindy Sherman, Albert Oehlen, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, and Louise Bourgeois.
Exchange Hotel, Vancouver
The $240 million makeover of the neo-Gothic Vancouver Stock Exchange (VSE) building at 475 Howe Street took three years — a short time to shake its reputation as the “scam capital of the world,” as the exchange was dubbed by Forbes in 1989. The onetime market, which traded in barely regulated small-cap mining and oil and gas exploration stocks, is now home to the Exchange Hotel.
The classic renovation added 20 glass-walled stories with aluminum louvers to create a pinstripe effect, and 202 contemporary rooms with herringbone hardwood floors and bull and bear bronze desk sculptures. In the lobby you’ll find the original hexagon marble flooring and hand-painted ceilings. As for the infamous trading floor — it’s now a brassy, classic cocktail bar called Open Outcry, which slings sidecars and Sazeracs from tableside trolleys. Rooms from CAD 178 ($134 USD)
Bergen Børs Hotel, Norway
Opened in 2017, the Bergen Børs Hotel is by all accounts the most fashionable hotel in Bergen, attracting a cosmopolitan crowd to the second-largest city in Norway. Housed in a Renaissance Revival building from 1862, the 127-room hotel occupies the upper floors of the old stock exchange building and has its own take on Scandinavian design, with minimalist furnishings and neutral color palettes. The feel is unquestionably modern, with smart TVs and Nespresso coffee machines. But back in the day, this was a place for merchants to trade shares in each other’s fishery, shipping, and oil companies.
After the building became obsolete in the 1990s, it took 250 million Norwegian kroner ($27 million) of private investment from a family-owned hotel group, De Bergenske, to bring it back to life. “You have to develop these properties into more relevant businesses — and in Bergen, we have strong tourism,” says CEO Kjetil Smørås. Rooms from NOK 1,540 ($169 USD)
Equinox, San Francisco
You may not be able to sleep there, but you can certainly break a sweat at the San Francisco Stock Exchange building at 301 Pine Street — it’s now an Equinox gym. The fitness outpost was among the earliest of these conversions, dating to 2004. The renovation maintained the 1930s-era Moderne style exterior and Yule marble facade, while swapping the brokers’ old workstations for sleek ellipticals, tech-friendly spin bikes, a yoga studio, pilates studio, juice bar, and spa.
For Equinox, the building’s prime location in San Francisco’s Financial District, known as North FiDi, is more important than its 124-year history of trading through the California gold rush and the Great Depression. Today the gym offers “convenient access for corporate clientele,” a company representative said. Once a capitalist’s temple, always a capitalist’s temple.
123 Greenwich Street, New York City
The former American Stock Exchange building — aka the Amex, once a rival of the NYSE — is now a real estate project titled 123 Greenwich Street. Headed by GHC Development, the $65 million plan to repurpose the building was announced in January 2018 as a joint venture with Clarion Partners that comprises offices, retail space, and by 2021, a high-end boutique hotel. “This is a crown jewel property with a wow factor that cannot be replicated,” says GHC’s real estate developer Allan Fried. He’s seeking office tenants and a boutique hotel that’s the right fit, offering about 174 rooms and an aesthetic “along the lines of The Beekman,” he says. “We want to retain as much of a historic perspective as possible, keeping intact the landmarked limestone exterior. For instance, the trading floor has a 60-foot ceiling height. We’re not bastardizing that. The beauty of such a space is not re-created today.”
Regardless of which brand signs on, the future hotel will be near all manner of attractions in Manhattan’s financial district, including the One World Observatory at the World Trade Center, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Nobu Downtown, and the shops at Brookfield Place. Developers also plan to host more retail events at 123 Greenwich Street similar to last January’s Volez, Voguez, Voyagez exhibition for Louis Vuitton. In the future, the trading most likely to happen at this exchange will be of fashion swag at luxury product parties.
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.