Death of the PTACs: TF Cornerstone To Give Luxury Rentals Gift of Central Air

PTACs marring the 'poor door' side of Extell's 40 Riverside Boulevard; note PTAC-free condo component at right

New York City’s architectural legacy is in peril. The threat does not come from the 57th Street towers, nor the destruction of historic buildings, but something most would consider mundane: air conditioning.

Money can buy you a lot of things in New York, but a new rental building with central air is not among them. Unique among North America’s cities, builders in New York have forsaken generations-old technology used in every city from Los Angeles to Toronto, in favor of the lowly packaged terminal air conditioning (or PTAC) unit.

Punched through the wall below a building’s windows, PTAC units mar the façades of new rental buildings from the Financial District to Flushing, Boerum Hill to the Bronx. They are found in affordable housing developments and low-end rentals, as well as skyscraping towers in Midtown that charge $3,500 a month for a studio apartment.

“They have terrible energy performance, terrible acoustical characteristics and terrible aesthetics,” wrote one architect from a major New York City firm that’s built projects using the units.

Why they’re used in the first place is somewhat of a mystery. Simple inertia and the high cost of development in America’s largest city, forcing builders to scrimp and save wherever they can, are the most oft-cited reasons. But there are also regulatory hurdles, from special Department of Buildings permits needed for central air, to height limits that make ducted systems more difficult.

And then there’s a contingent within the city’s insular construction industry that doesn’t even realize how unique our reliance on PTACs really is. (In reality, while they’re fairly common in urban hotels and can occasionally be found in cheap rental projects and older buildings outside of New York, they’re almost never used for new luxury projects.)

But one of the city’s largest developers is starting to buck the trend. In two of their rental buildings under development – 33 Bond Street in Downtown Brooklyn, and 606 West 57th Street on the Far West Side – TF Cornerstone will be forgoing the standard below-window units in favor of more civilized forms of air conditioning.

“We raised the question [of air conditioning] anew at the 57th Street project,” TF Cornerstone’s director of planning, Jon McMillan, told YIMBY.

606 West 57th Street

606 West 57th Street, image from TF Cornerstone

On 57th Street, he said, “we thought it would be nice from the interior to have floor-to-ceiling glass” – something that isn’t possible with a PTAC unit, which sits on the floor and takes up a significant amount of space. “We made the decision from the leasing point-of-view that it would make the unit seem more impressive and expansive.”

The second consideration that led to the decision to nix the PTACs, he said, was the city’s energy code.

“The PTAC unit is kind of a shoddy thing, because it’s a bunch of perforations in the façade. It’s not very efficient,” McMillan explained, “and it’s now increasingly hard to meet the energy code using PTACs.”

Karl Fischer's attempt at clean lines at the Nathaniel in the East Village was admirable, but ruined by PTACs in the corners.

Karl Fischer’s clean lines at the Nathaniel in the East Village are interrupted by PTAC units in the window corners, via EV Grieve

Finally, he said, the heat pump alternative to PTACs doesn’t count towards a building’s allowed square footage, since mechanical space is deducted from a building’s floor area for zoning purposes. A heat pump sits on the floor in a corner space, feeding cool air into both the living and bedrooms, whereas a PTAC must cantilever over the floor in every room with climate control and therefore cannot be deducted as mechanical space.

PTACs, McMillan said, “are almost as hideous from the inside” as they are on the outside. “They’re really fat and bulky, and they protrude. I kept saying, why can’t anybody improve on this design? The answer I got was that we only use them in New York, therefore the market is so small that nobody bothers to try to improve them.”

TF Cornerstone’s willingness to take another look at old ways of doing business is refreshing, and other developers will hopefully follow suit. But the city should also look for ways to encourage the use of more attractive, efficient and comfortable air conditioning systems.

The stick of the energy code is one way, but the Department of Buildings should also dangle the carrot of easier compliance with permitting rules for systems other than PTACs and through-wall units. One expediter we spoke to pegged the cost of getting a so-called “equipment use permit,” needed to install central air-scale condensers (but not PTACs), at $7,000 or $8,000. The permit then needs to be renewed annually, something he said rarely happens, with heavy fines levied on those who don’t comply. Another architect told YIMBY that the city’s noise regulations effectively forbid the use of mini-splits – a ductless system somewhere between PTACs and central air, commonly used in Europe and Asia, in which the condenser can be placed on the roof or otherwise out of sight.

Rental buildings will always have cheaper finishes and fewer amenities than condos, but skimping on quality air conditioning should not be necessary. If every other city in North America has managed to find a way to deliver rentals without PTACs – often at a fraction of our rents – New York City can too.

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Posted in 33 Bond Street | 606 West 57th Street | Architecture | Hotel | Midtown | New York | PTACs | Residential | TF Cornerstone

Permits Filed: 33 Bond Street

33 Bond Street, rendering courtesy of TF Cornerstone

Last month, YIMBY brought you exclusive news of a TF Cornerstone building going up in Downtown Brooklyn, at 33 Bond Street.

After filing demolition permits last month for the five-story parking garage (which they bought from Thor Equities for $70 million earlier this year), the developer has filed for building permits for the project. Gary Handel, who also designed TF Cornerstone’s two buildings on West 37th Street, is the architect of record.

The building has the bulk of an old pre-war, only rising 25 stories despite its sizable 734,232-square foot construction floor area. Zoning limits the project’s height to 250 feet, which is ahistorical given the nearby 512-foot Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower, and especially silly given the similarly-sized towers that will rise at Atlantic Yards. Net residential floorspace totals 564,480 square feet, which will be divided among 714 apartments, 20 percent of which will be let at below-market rates; 33 Bond will also include nearly 30,000 square feet of retail space.

33 Bond Street

33 Bond Street, overhead shot from Bing Maps

Anything would be an improvement on the hulking garage that’s blighted the site since the ’70s, but Handel’s design contains one extremely welcome feature: the absence of unsightly PTAC units for heating and air conditioning, whose ubiquitous below-window grills have marred the façades of New York City rental buildings for decades. It’s unclear why TF Cornerstone chose to forgo them, but the decision is appreciated, as PTACs are often the difference between a building that’s simple filler and one that’s actively grating on the eyes.

TF Cornerstone could not be reached for comment on exact timing, but last month the developer told YIMBY that construction would begin soon, so it shouldn’t be long before groundbreaking.

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Posted in 33 Bond Street | Brooklyn | DoBro | Downtown Brooklyn | Handel Architects | TF Cornerstone

Changing NYC Workforce Means Changing Office Needs

Related's Hudson Yards towers, image by Related/Oxford and Visualhouse

A slew of super-sized office buildings are set to rise in Manhattan over the next several years, punctuating the city’s skyline with new spires of glass. Towers with over 10 million square feet of class A space – at the World Trade Center, Hudson Yards and Midtown proper – are either under construction or looking for tenants and financing.

With tenants lined up at for the first two office buildings at Hudson Yards and nearly half of the space committed at One and Four World Trade Center, these glittering giants are going for the globe’s elite corporations. Marquee tenants desire marquee buildings. Ten million square feet of Class A office space is set to rise in New York in the next few years, most of it underwritten by billions of dollars of public investments and tax abatements.

But as much as the city’s future competitiveness rests with satisfying the office needs of Fortune 500 companies, it also depends on attracting and nurturing startups in high-growth industries like tech, media, and design. These firms require a different sort of office space, and they’re finding it in less traditional buildings outside of Midtown’s office district.

There is rising concern that the city will not have enough flexible office space that meets the needs of startups, tech firms and creative businesses. City officials hope that it is these types of businesses that will propel the city’s economy through the 21st century, just as finance did during the second half of the twentieth.

These firms tend to shun the corporate Class A tower for more flexible spaces in Class B and Class C buildings. They are seeking space in Chelsea, Midtown South, Downtown, and Brooklyn, most often in pre-war buildings that are often cheaper and better suited to layouts preferred by high-growth industries.

“Tech companies are finding characteristics in pre-war buildings that they’re not finding in new office buildings,” says Vishaan Chakrabarti of SHoP Architects and Columbia University’s Center for Urban Real Estate. He notes that 85 percent of new, young companies are in older, pre-war buildings rather than Class A office towers.

Part of the reason is based on economics, but the preference for pre-war also reflects deeper changes in workplace culture: an aversion of the corporate aesthetic, an emphasis on collaboration, and a blurring of the lines between one’s “work life” and “social life.”

Tech and creative firms value collaboration, something that does not happen in sequestered offices on separate floors. Collaboration takes place in shared spaces, co-working stations, and other spaces intended to maximize “casual collisions of the workforce.” Pre-war buildings provide the opportunity to accommodate these arrangements in a way that is often difficult or impossible in corporate towers.

The preference for more collaborative spaces reflects foundational and long-lasting changes in the way people delineate their work lives from their social lives. It also reflects how the boundaries of the “workspace” have expanded to include our homes, our commutes, the café, and the park. It is no longer necessary to stay at one’s desk in order to work.

The workspace is now spilling out of office buildings and into neighboring parks, cafés, and even beer halls. As a result, neighborhoods matter, and young firms want 24-hour neighborhoods where jobs and housing are mixed together with restaurants, bars, and nightlife.

This type of working arrangement started with tech companies, but as Chakrabarti notes, “The reality is that most new young companies are tech companies,” including those in architecture. “I’d consider SHoP a tech company.” The upshot is that these new workplaces will become the new normal.

The move towards shared spaces means that companies need fewer square feet per worker than traditional office layouts. It also means that the single-purpose office district will become increasingly unattractive to newer firms.


55 Hudson Yards

55 Hudson Yards, image by Related/Oxford and Visualhouse

Growth in creative and technology firms is outpacing that in finance, and developers of Class A space may be beginning to get the message. As the website for 55 Hudson Yards proclaims, the building will feature “efficient and flexible workspace” for “a work/life integration that enhances employee performance.” 10 Hudson Yards will bridge over the High Line Park with a 60-foot public passageway through the building. One can imagine employees at Coach or L’Oreal bringing their laptops down to the park to collaborate on a new project.

But this space will surely be too expensive for the smaller firms that make up another important pillar of the city’s economy. There is an emerging consensus that the city’s focus must shift to growing the supply of Class B and C office space. The city actually lost 6.2 million square feet of Class B and C space since 2000, even as demand has heated up. The city’s Economic Development Corporation estimates that all the remaining space will be full by 2018. If more space doesn’t become available, the city risks missing out on the next wave of high-growth firms.

Seth Pinsky, former president of the city’s Economic Develoment Corporation and now with RXR Realty, recently said, “There needs to be affordable space for the small companies and start-ups we talk so much about attracting to the city,” noting that up to 15 million square feet of affordable space may be lost in the coming years.

And while some of this growth will happen in Manhattan, policymakers and developers are increasingly focusing on the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront for new job growth. While a developer needs at least $67/square foot to break even on a new development in Midtown South, only $46/square foot is needed in Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City, according to the EDC.

Domino Redevelopment

Two Trees’ Domino Redevelopment, image by SHoP

Bellwethers include the Watchtower properties, with 1.3 million square feet of space, and the New Domino development’s 500,000 square feet of office space. Smaller conversions like 1000 Dean Street and 29 Ryerson Street, both in Brooklyn, will also be a critical component of any strategy to grow space for startups and creative firms.

The de Blasio administration is also rethinking the role of industrial zones along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront. Planning commission chair Carl Weisbrod recently talked of industrial zones in Long Island City, musing whether “the city can manufacture space by going vertical for industrial use, allowing businesses to expand.” His idea of vertical manufacturing spaces sounds a bit like the type of space favored by tech and creative startups.

The challenge is that Class B and C office space often doesn’t command the rents necessary to cover the cost of adaptive redevelopment, not to mention new construction. “We get the sense that the marketplace is struggling to build new office space for these newer kinds of companies,” says Chakrabarti.

He suggests that the city step in to provide assistance to property owners in older commercial buildings to upgrade their facilities and broadband access. “There needs to be a new type of building, a ‘Class T’ building that gets away from the A, B, C classification.”

Others warn about losing valuable commercial space to residential use. The EDC predicts that another 12 million square feet of Class B and C space will be lost to residential conversions in the next 12 years. There is also talk that the de Blasio administration is considering whether housing should be allowed in the city’s industrial zones.

Jonathan Bowles of the Center for an Urban Future commented on Long Island City’s industrial zones, “I think that we ought to be looking; should that be preserved, tech companies in the next few years may be able to go there—or creative businesses.”

While the city must ensure that construction, transportation, and warehousing firms have a space in the city, there are definitely places where housing and jobs can coexist. Chakrabarti explains, “This isn’t just about housing, it’s about the ecology of people’s lives. We want to start building these communities where people can walk to work or bike to work.”

This was central to the plan at New Domino, and “At Domino, there’s an intent to build the ecology of an entire neighborhood.” (The fact that local politicians would more readily accept a density boost if it came in the form of office space probably didn’t hurt either.)

The city should also consider the live/work approach when reevaluating its plans for Midtown East. Both commercial and residential space should be included in new buildings, with a higher allowable density to ensure that enough new office space is still built. Conversions should not necessarily be discouraged, as more residents and uses would breathe new life into the neighborhood, with the Financial District offering a prime example of resurgent vitality due to similar conditions.

Housing is also a vital component at Hudson Yards, as is the pedestrian environment. The more employees arriving by bike or via The High Line, the more successful the neighborhood will be.

As the nature of the office market changes—preferences, workplace culture, the blurred lines between the office and the surrounding neighborhood—developers and policymakers must react. By focusing on growing startup-friendly buildings—especially in Brooklyn and Queens—the city can work to replace the exodus of manufacturing employment. And by rethinking established office districts as opportunities for additional residential development, the city can meet the needs of tomorrow’s high-growth firms.

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Posted in Architecture | Downtown | Midtown | New York | Office | Residential | SHoP | Uncategorized | Vishaan Chakrabarti

Permits Filed: 61 Bond Street

61 Bond Street -- image via Google Maps

The first permits are up for a 13-story hotel at 61 Bond Street in Downtown Brooklyn, which will be chiefly located on Schermerhorn, with only a sliver fronting Bond Street.  GB Lodging is listed as the project’s developer, and the architect of record is Stonehill & Taylor.

The Commercial Observer reported that GFI and Spruce Capital have partnered to construct an Ace Hotel in Downtown Brooklyn, and while the LLC on the permits for 61 Bond is different, the filings correspond to the site listed in the article.

Permits indicate the tower will span 156,985 square feet, with a total of 285 rooms, making it one of the larger new hotels in the neighborhood. GB Lodging’s portfolio includes several higher-end developments including The Beekman, which will be topped by contemporary turrets, and if 61 Bond Street is home to the new Ace Hotel, an attractive final product would be likely. A PDF from last decade offers additional analysis and graphics depicting the site’s potential.

Other new hotels include the Kaufman-designed 300 Schermerhorn and 40 Nevins, one of which will be occupied by a Holiday Inn. 61 Bond Street will be higher-end than both, which should translate into architecture that is significantly more appealing.

61 Bond Street

61 Bond Street — image via Google Maps

No completion date has been announced, but construction continues to surge in Downtown Brooklyn, and 61 Bond Street comes on the heels of major new towers slated for 340 Flatbush Ave. Extension33 Bond Street, and the announcement that several more of Forest City’s Atlantic Yards towers will soon begin rising.

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Posted in 61 Bond Street | Ace Hotel | Architecture | DoBro | Downtown Brooklyn | GFI Development | Hotel | New York | Spruce Capital

New Look: BAM South, 286 Ashland Place

286 Ashland Place, image by Grain Collective

New renderings are up for the future BAM South tower at 286 Ashland Place, via Grain Collective; the site’s developer is Two Trees, and the design architect is Enrique Norten of TEN Arquitectos, while Ismael Leyva is the design architect.

286 Ashland Place

286 Ashland Place landscaping, image by Grain Collective

The new images give a better idea of the skyscraper’s impact on the Downtown Brooklyn skyline, and it will be significant, rivaling the nearby Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower. Luckily 286 Ashland Place will be quite attractive, complementing its future neighbors with TEN Arquitectos’ innovative and contemporary take on high-rise design.

286 Ashland Place

286 Ashland Place, image by Grain Collective

In terms of scope, BAM South will stand 32 stories tall, and the building will have 384 residences, 20% of which will be designated as ‘affordable’. 286 Ashland Place will also have a 21,928 square foot retail component, 45,148 square feet of cultural space, and an extensive outdoor component, illustrated in the renderings from Grain.

286 Ashland Place

286 Ashland Place, image by Grain Collective

While the building’s impact on the skyline will be relatively significant, the plans for the base of the tower are even more impressive, and promise to activate a slice of Downtown Brooklyn with elevated public space, providing an additional avenue for pedestrian traffic beyond the current plane. Grain’s first glimpse at the landscaping is also promising, with flowerbeds and grasses comparing to arrangements along The High Line.

286 Ashland Place

286 Ashland Place, image by Grain Collective

Completion of 286 Ashland Place is expected in August of 2016, and excavation for the tower is now underway.

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Posted in 286 Ashland Place | Architecture | BAM South | DoBro | Downtown Brooklyn | Enrique Norten | Grain Collective | New York | Renderings | Residential | Ten Arquitectos

Permits Filed: 120 Nassau Street

The former 199 Jay Street, now being demolished, via Google Maps

The first permits are up for a major mixed-use development in Downtown Brooklyn, located at the intersection of Nassau and Jay Streets. While the applications are filed under 120 Nassau Street, the site includes an office building at 199 Jay Street that is currently being demolished. Woods Bagot is the architect of record, and Thomas Aschmoneit of 203 Jay St. Assoc LLC is listed as the developer.

120 Nassau Street will total 290,420 square feet, and the project will be divided between residential, hotel, and ‘community facility’ components, split between two buildings. The hotel will rise eight floors and have 119 rooms, while the apartment tower will rise 32 stories, with 381 units; the Schedule A has additional floor-by-floor details.

Given the residential portion will stand 425 feet tall, 120 Nassau Street will make an impression on the greater skyline, as the lot is located close to the edge of Downtown Brooklyn. Woods Bagot has a forward-thinking and attractive slate of recent work, and the firm’s involvement would indicate an appealing end-product at 120 Nassau Street.

120 Nassau Street

120 Nassau Street aerial, via Google Maps

The old 199 Jay Street was also attractive, though the loss of the 7-story structure should yield an improvement that makes better use of the land underneath. 120 Nassau Street will stand next to an entrance for the Manhattan Bridge, and given potential visibility, the site merits an iconic design, which Woods Bagot will hopefully deliver. An abundance of parking lots in the surrounding neighborhood beg additional development, and as the Brooklyn boom accelerates, rapid changes appear likely for the entire area in the near-future.

No completion date for 120 Nassau Street has been announced, but with demolition already underway at 199 Jay Street, construction would appear imminent.

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Posted in 120 Nassau Street | 199 Jay Street | Architecture | DoBro | Downtown Brooklyn | Hotel | New York | Residential | Thomas Aschmoneit | Woods Bagot Architects

340 Flatbush Ave Extension to Become Brooklyn’s Tallest Building

340 Flatbush Ave Extension, image via Google Maps

The first permits are up for JDS Development‘s new building at 340 Flatbush Ave. Extension in Downtown Brooklyn, and the site will soon give rise to the borough’s tallest building. SHoP is the architect of record, and Katherine Clarke previously reported on the assemblage earlier this month, at the Daily News. The Chetrit Group is also involved with the project.

DOB filings indicate the tower will total 555,734 square feet, including a 108,799 square foot commercial component. The remaining 446,734 square feet will be split between 495 residences.

In terms of height, 340 Flatbush Ave. Extension will tower well above all competing developments in Downtown Brooklyn. The building will rise 70 stories and 775 feet tall, and if the high-rise includes structural components above the top floor — like any sort of spire — the skyscraper could be even taller.

The vicinity is seeing a major development boom, justified by excellent transit access; the site is a short walk from eight different subway lines. 340 Flatbush Ave. Extension is also across the street from the City Point development, which may also vie for the title of Brooklyn’s tallest, pending details on the site’s third phase.

340 Flatbush Ave Extension

340 Flatbush Ave Extension, aerial via Google Maps

With a plateau emerging at the 600-foot level, the filings for 340 Flatbush Ave. Extension represent a major step forward for the Brooklyn skyline. Given JDS and SHoP’s recent collaborations, an iconic and ground-breaking design is likely, and the tower should be worthy of its place at the top of DoBro.

No completion date has been formally announced — and renderings have not yet been released — but given the fresh permits, progress is likely imminent.

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Posted in 340 Flatbush Ave Extension | Architecture | DoBro | Downtown Brooklyn | JDS Development | New York | Residential | SHoP

Development Wrap: TF Cornerstone’s East Coast LIC

4610 Center Boulevard

YIMBY sat down with TF Cornerstone’s Sofia Estevez and Jon McMillan to discuss the firm’s recent work, including the Arquitectonica-designed East Coast Long Island City, which established an entirely new neighborhood. The development’s completion is a milestone for the Queens waterfront, which has quickly evolved from post-industrial to vibrant and walkable; with 4610 Center Boulevard now open — and already 50% leased — the company’s focus is about to shift to several other major sites across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.

Just below the East Coast site, TF Cornerstone is building the next phase of Hunter’s Point South, which will have 1,200 units. Other imminent developments include 33 Bond Street in Brooklyn — revealed below — and one of the largest buildings in Manhattan, at 606 West 57th Street.

YIMBY in bold.

What was the process behind TF Cornerstone’s acquisition of the East Coast site?

J: We bought it from Pepsi, gave it to the state, and then leased the land back from the state, because that gave us lots of development flexibility. It’s a 99-year lease. We also paid for the construction of all the infrastructure — the streets, the parks.

Aerial of 4610 Center Boulevard

Bird’s eye shot of 4610 Center Boulevard

And what was the most challenging aspect of building out such a large development?

S: It was really creating the neighborhood. That was the most difficult thing, because when we started, there was nothing here. The first building had 500 units, but it was the only building in the vicinity. In the next phase, we made sure to include amenities, as well as a Duane Reade, a market – all of that – but the waterfront was still quite raw. It’s difficult, but it’s what TF Cornerstone has always done. We did the same thing in Battery Park City and the West Village, where — once upon a time — there was also nothing.

What’s the neighborhood’s total retail square footage? 

J: I’d say about  40,000 square feet. The city didn’t want too much because it would compete with Vernon Boulevard, which is the more traditional main street. So we actually had to fight to get more.

Looking down at 4540 Center Blvd

Looking down at 4540 Center Boulevard from the roof of 4545

How many units are in 4610, and which building is the largest?

S: 4610 has 584 units, and 4545 is the largest — it has 820 apartments. We consolidated all of the amenities in two of the buildings — at the northern and southern ends of the site — and they sprawl out on top of the two parking garages.

4610 Center Boulevard

4610 Center Boulevard

When you were building East Coast, you had the Pepsi-Cola sign out in front; how did you decide to integrate it into the project?

S: When we bought site, part of the deal was that we had to keep the Pepsi sign up. It’s not landmarked, but it’s treated as such.

J: We eventually figured out where best to put it, and that’s right in front of 4610.

The Pepsi-Cola Sign

The Pepsi-Cola Sign, image from TF Cornerstone

So it was moved?

J: It was moved twice; it used to be on top of the Pepsi factory, so we took it off the factory and put it in front of 4720 for a while — and then when we completed 4610, we moved it over here.

And what did that process entail?

J: We actually used a little pickup truck to carry all the little letters back and forth. But each move cost over a million dollars. And some of the parts fell in the river — and we had divers go down to get it…

How did that happen?

J: They would lay the pieces along the waterway while we were working on the sign’s supports. They don’t know exactly what happened — it was either too windy, or vandals came along. But some of the little pieces — like the dot over the “i” — ended up in the East River. But obviously those bits have been rescued, and the sign is now in its final spot.

Midtown view from 4545's rooftop

Midtown view from 4545′s rooftop

Public and outdoor space are also major components of East Coast LIC – do the buildings have individual outdoor areas, too?

J: The buildings sit directly on the public park, but they also have their own backyards. Behind those areas is the actual public park, which measures about eight acres. The backyards also total about eight acres.

Do you have any other major projects on the near-horizon in the boroughs?

J: 33 Bond Street will soon begin construction near BAM. And, of course, Hunter’s Point South.

Hunter's Point South

Hunter’s Point South with the new TF Cornerstone buildings at right; image by ODA

What year do you expect to finish your buildings at Hunter’s Point South?

S: We should finish our Hunter’s Point South project in 2017. And that’s going to be very large, with 1,200 units.

How tall will 33 Bond be, and how far along is planning?

J: 25 floors. It’s not so much a tower, but it’s very large, and really enhances the street-wall. We’re actually done with planning, and that site is now moving into demolition and construction. That building will have 714 units, and 20% will be affordable.

33 Bond Street

33 Bond Street, image from TF Cornerstone

You also have a project at 606 West 57th Street – how many units is that going to have?

J: 1024.

606 West 57th Street

606 West 57th Street

I thought it was going to be the largest building in Manhattan — 1180 units, if I recall?

S: We dropped the total. And that just recently completed ULURP, so everything is a go for that project. Though we’re still about two years away from construction. Overall, we have a lot happening in the near future, and it’s truly an exciting time for us.

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Posted in 33 Bond Street | 606 West 57th Street | Architecture | Construction Update | East Coast LIC | Hunter's Point South | Interview | Long Island City | New York | Queens | Renderings | Residential | TF Cornerstone

Construction Update: Atlantic Yards B2 Tower

Atlantic Yards B2 Tower, photo by Colin Miller

After significant delays, reader-submitted photos show that construction appears to be picking up at the first Atlantic Yards residential tower, dubbed B2. The structure was designed by SHoP, and Forest City Ratner is developing.

The B2 Tower will total 32 floors and 363 units, becoming the first component of a much larger project that will completely transform the surrounding neighborhood. Barclays Center was a notable and significant first step in the revitalization of Atlantic Yards, and filling out the area with actual housing will further enhance an area that has long been dominated by open rail-yards.

Atlantic Yards B2 Tower

Atlantic Yards B2 Tower, photo by Colin Miller

While pre-fab housing has its challenges, Greenland Holding Company’s 70% stake in the project shows investors’ confidence in Forest City Ratner’s vision for the site, which will eventually have over fifteen buildings, possibly including office towers.

B2 is now at its seventh level, and the variegation of both form and facade is becoming evident; the tower will have several different colors, and bulk will be massed in several different components, stacked on top of one another. While progress has been fleeting, the structure finally appears to be rising at a slightly more regular rhythm.

Atlantic Yards B2 Tower

Atlantic Yards B2 Tower, photo by Colin Miller

Delays have been due to problems with on-site assembly, and per The New York Times, Forest City will be switching to traditional construction methods for three more towers set to rise later this year, which will add an additional 900 units to the site.

Atlantic Yards B2 Tower

Atlantic Yards B2 Tower, photo by Colin Miller

Completion of B2 is expected in 2015, and the entirety of Atlantic Yards should be built-out by the 2020s.

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Posted in Architecture | Atlantic Yards | Atlantic Yards B2 Tower | Brooklyn | Construction Update | Downtown Brooklyn | Forest City Ratner | New York | Residential | SHoP

Revealed: 321-325 Pacific Street

321-325 Pacific Street; on-site rendering

The first renderings are up for a townhouse development at 321-325 Pacific Street, in Boerum Hill, and a tipster sent along shots of construction progress; the site’s developer is Bluerock Real Estate, and the architect of record is Gary Kleisch.

Equipment is already on-site, and excavation is just getting underway. Permits show that 321-325 Pacific Street will total 16,019 square feet, and while the DOB filings indicate the site will be divided between two residences, it will actually have four homes; it appears that the development will consist of two buildings, each of which will then be ‘split’ in half. Zoning diagrams illustrate the intricacies of the plan.

321-325 Pacific Street

Equipment at 321-325 Pacific Street

The new townhomes will be very attractive, and Kleisch’s design for the project echoes the rest of the neighborhood. Red-brick facades will guarantee the development’s seamless integration into the surrounding environment, though curb-cuts for the four garages will slightly infringe on the pedestrian sphere.

321-325 Pacific Street

321-325 Pacific Street

Prices for the four homes are likely to be very high, and the surrounding neighborhood is seeing a development boom, though the type of new construction varies on a block by block basis. To the north and east, high-rises predominate, as they should; Boerum Hill’s transit capacity is enormous, and 321-325 Pacific Street is close to thirteen different subway lines, and also enjoys proximity to the LIRR at Atlantic Terminal.

While limited historic preservation is a good thing, the scope of 321-325 Pacific Street highlights and underlines the current problems with zoning in New York City, and given the surrounding infrastructure, new single-family homes make zero sense. Instead of allowing reasonable density in areas that have some of the best transit access in the entire world, limitations artificially constrain the market, further exacerbating the housing affordability crisis.

321-325 Pacific Street will certainly be attractive, but prices will be astronomical, the additional supply will be minimal, and prime land that could and should serve a higher and better purpose will ultimately go to waste, with an FAR of only 1.98. The problem once again comes back to decisions not up to developers, and high prices are ultimately a function of limited supply — which is a result of extremely prohibitive zoning.

Anywhere else on the planet, cities would zone, build, and plan around transit capacity, which is the ultimate limiting factor to density; New York City is in a world of its own, and its citizens will continue to bear the cost of insane planning policies until local politicians stop catering to short-sighted NIMBYs.

321-325 Pacific Street

321-325 Pacific Street

Per on-site signage, completion of 321-325 Pacific Street is expected by September of 2015.

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Posted in 321-325 Pacific Street | Architecture | Bluerock Real Estate | Boerum Hill | Brooklyn | Construction Update | Gary Kleisch | New York | Residential


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