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: Louis Vuitton Expanding at 743 5th Avenue

743 5th Avenue -- gap at center -- image via Google Maps

The first permits are up for Louis Vuitton’s horizontal expansion to 743 5th Avenue, which will apparently result in the temporary closure of portions of its retail flagship, at 1 East 57th Street. LVMH Moet Hennessey “Luis” Vuitton is listed as the developer.

743 5th Avenue’s floor area will be quite small, totaling 1,580 square feet, but the one-story building will stand 85 feet tall, offering soaring ceilings that would normally befit an eight-story structure.

The New York Observer reported on LVMH’s acquisition of the lot back in 2007, when it sold for $60 million. An original structure spanning 20,000 square feet has already been demolished, paving the way for work to begin on Louis Vuitton’s expansion.

743 5th Avenue

743 5th Avenue at center pre-demolition, image via Google Maps

Demolition of the original structure does beg the question of where the “missing” air rights are in the latest permits, given the large reduction in overall square footage. Nearby sites would be unlikely for a residential assemblage, and the value of Fifth Avenue retail in the proposed format will be astronomical, though 18,000 square feet would still fetch an extremely high sum given the site’s address and neighborhood.

No completion date for the expansion has been announced.

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Posted in 1 East 57th Street | 57th street | 743 5th Avenue | 743 Fifth Avenue | Architecture | Construction Update | Louis Vuitton | Midtown | Midtown East | New York

Construction Update: 160 Madison Avenue

160 Madison Avenue

160 Madison Avenue has now topped-out, and the 42-story building makes a slight impact on the neighborhood skyline. The project’s architect is SLCE, and the developer is JD Carlisle.

160 Madison Avenue

160 Madison Avenue

The building’s will have 319 rental units, which is a shift from earlier plans, when the tower was slated for condominiums. The height was also adjusted to 452′ during construction, an increase from the original 379′ plan.

160 Madison Avenue

160 Madison Avenue

While the extra height is semi-substantial, in the grand scheme of Midtown Manhattan, it is insignificant; besides local visibility, 160 Madison Avenue disappears on the overall skyline, with the vicinity dominated by giants including The Empire State Building.

Glass is also wrapping its way up the base of the tower, and it looks predictably glossy; the project’s most unfortunate aspect is its base, which would look at home in any number of developing cities, but is completely out of character for a world-class thoroughfare like Madison Avenue. While the podium’s lack of intimacy or relation to the pedestrian sphere degrades the street-scape, the vertical aspect of the high-rise is relatively innocuous.

160 Madison Avenue

Glass moving up along the base

Completion of 160 Madison Avenue is expected in 2015.

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Posted in 160 Madison Avenue | Architecture | Construction Update | JD Carlisle | Midtown | Midtown East | New York | Residential | SLCE

Revealed: 235 East 44th Street

235 East 44th Street

After a partial reveal via an on-site rendering posted two weeks ago, a tipster submitted a complete version of the design for 235 East 44th Street, in Midtown East. The site’s architect is Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel, and Adam Gordon of Pride Builders is the developer.

235 East 44th Street

235 East 44th Street, image by Groner Kernick + Valcarcel

While permits are slightly confusing — indicating a mix of office condominiums and apartments – the tipster also confirms that the bulk of the structure will be condominiums, with only the first two floors dedicated to office space. Contrary to what the DOB filings indicate, the building will stand 19 stories tall, which the above rendering would corroborate. The total scope is slightly over 70,000 square feet.

Given the seemingly dated DOB filings, plans for 235 East 44th Street have evidently undergone changes. Whether the building will still be divided between twelve units remains to be seen, but given the surrounding neighborhood — which does not merit super-luxury developments, or expansive floor-plans – it would seem unlikely.

Design-wise, the project will be indistinct; at only 19 stories, the structure will be invisible on the overall skyline, and the glassy facade is fairly nondescript. At the very least, it will enhance the block’s street-wall, especially when combined with the new Even Hotel rising just to the west, at 219 East 44th Street.

Completion of 235 East 44th Street is expected in the spring of 2015.

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Posted in 235 East 44th Street | Architecture | Midtown | New York | Office | Pride Builders | Residential

Permits Filed: 138 East 50th Street

138 East 50th Street -- the garage at center -- via Google Maps

The first DOB filings are up for yet another major new development in Midtown, at 138 East 50th Street. According to the New York Post, Extell bought the site for $61 million in 2012, but The Real Deal reported that Ceruzzi Properties acquired the site from Extell last August, though the last transaction’s dollar value was not specified.

Permits list SLCE as the architect of record, and the new tower will be a relatively large hotel, totaling 220,638 square feet. Plans include a 7,036 square foot retail component, and above, the 52-story skyscraper will be divided between 764 rooms, and 138 East 50th will stand 502 feet to its roof.

Renderings are currently lacking, but in terms of appearance, the project is likely to be average. Whether SLCE is the design architect remains to be seen, but the filings indicate relatively low ceiling heights, in addition to small rooms; while the product will seemingly fall below the super-luxury threshold, that is a good thing, as demand for more affordable new hotel rooms in Manhattan continues to soar.

As long as 138 East 50th Street has a proper street-wall and cladding that isn’t awful, the project should benefit the neighborhood, generating a significant amount of new pedestrian traffic in an area that is dominated by office workers. Even at 52 stories, the surrounding density will relegate Ceruzzi’s project to ‘filler’ status.

The new plans speak to another issue: Midtown East’s potential should not be limited to office buildings. While unions may oppose new construction, what’s best for New York is most important. The neighborhood’s accessible and central location could and should be a catalyst for a general boom in both hospitality and residential development, and hopefully the imminent re-zoning addresses the need for more projects like 138 East 50th Street.

138 East 50th Street

138 East 50th Street — aerial via Google Maps

If politicians do not up-zone in accordance with pent-up demand, neighborhoods like Chelsea and the Garment District will continue to be leveled piece by piece, with existing pre-war stock gradually replaced by modernist, street-wall defying monstrosities.

No completion date for 138 East 50th Street has been announced, but given the fresh permits, construction would appear to be imminent.

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Posted in 138 East 50th Street | Architecture | Ceruzzi Properties | Extell | Hotel | Midtown | Midtown East | New York | SLCE

Construction Update: 301 East 50th Street

301 East 50th Street

301 East 50th Street is making major headway, and the COOKFOX-designed tower — located directly on Second Avenue — is already one-third of the way up; CBSK Ironstate is developing.

301 East 50th Street

301 East 50th Street

The Real Deal recently revealed the building and its interiors, and 301 East 50th Street will have 57 units starting at $1.7 million. The structure was designed with eco-friendliness in mind, and per TRD, “Green features include laminated glazing on the glass and high albedo pavers for efficient cooling.”

Permits indicate the building’s total scope will measure approximately 120,000 square feet, including a small retail component spanning 6,200 square feet. 301 East 50th Street will stand 29 stories and 342 feet to its roof; ceiling heights and floor plans will both be generous.

301 East 50th Street

301 East 50th Street

In terms of appearance, COOKFOX’ work will be significantly more attractive than surrounding structures that already exist, and 301 East 50th will be clad in Indiana Limestone. When considering construction at The Halcyon – just a block to the north — it would seem the neighborhood is seeing rapid improvements.

Besides vertical progress, the development’s website has also been updated, and a set of views from the tower’s penthouse levels are now available. The surrounds are a mix of low, mid, and high-rise structures, but the upper floors of 301 East 50th Street will be high enough to have comprehensive views over the Midtown skyline; the pictures are slightly outdated, and 432 Park Avenue already dominates the northern perspective.

301 East 50th Street

301 East 50th Street’s northwest view, image via the official site

Completion of 301 East 50th Street is expected in 2015.

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Posted in 301 East 50th Street | 303 East 50th Street | CBSK Ironstate | Cook + Fox Architects | Fishman Holdings | Midtown East | Murray Hill

Revealed: 222 East 40th Street

222 East 40th Street -- 39th Street side of the garage currently undergoing demo

A tipster submitted the first renderings for a new residential building at 222 East 40th Street in Midtown East, which is being developed by Fisher Brothers; Handel is the architect of record.

222 East 40th Street

222 East 40th Street’s southwest corner, facing 39th Street: image by Handel Architects

As first reported in early May, DOB permits indicate 222 East 40th Street will measure 374,490 square feet, split between 372 apartments. The 37-story structure will stand 395 feet tall, and spans through the block, with another address at 235 East 39th Street.

The building’s design appears quite basic, though the current images may be subject to further change; 222 East 40th Street will have a standard glass facade divided between rectangles of various sizes, though the southwest corner will be almond-shaped, presenting a contrast to the otherwise boxy envelope. A parapet extends above the general squareness, covering the rooftop mechanicals.

222 East 40th Street

222 East 40th Street’s northern facade: image by Handel Architects

Pending higher-quality renderings, 222 East 40th Street compares positively to its Murray Hill surrounds, which are in major need of revitalization. Given the eventuality of the Second Avenue Subway — which will hopefully cross the neighborhood by the 2020s — repealing state limits on residential FAR and transforming the vicinity into a truly high-density node would be prescient.

While discussion regarding such a move has been sporadic, it would present an opportunity to relax supply constraints, potentially aiding the residential market’s ongoing price shock — and benefitting neighborhoods with excellent transit that sorely need top-down transformations, like Murray Hill.

222 East 40th Street

222 East 40th Street — 40th Street side of garage undergoing demo

While piecemeal improvements like Fisher Brothers’ latest undertaking are beneficial, Murray Hill must be completely re-built if it is ever to live up to its potential; nevertheless, 222 East 40th Street’s 372 units will present a relatively large density boost, hopefully revitalizing a formerly forlorn corner of Midtown.

Completion is expected in 2017.

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Posted in 222 East 40th Street | 225 East 39th Street | Architecture | Construction Update | Fisher Brothers | Midtown | Murray Hill | New York | Residential

New Details: One Vanderbilt Vies for Title of Midtown’s Tallest

One Vanderbilt rendering, image by Kohn Pedersen Fox via Crain's New York

While the Midtown East re-zoning awaits additional tweaking and ultimate passage, plans are already proceeding for SL Green’s new tower at One Vanderbilt, which will be built under a special permit. Kohn Pedersen Fox is designing the 67-story building, and the project’s draft environmental impact statement contains tentative new specifics regarding its total size.

Per illustrations, One Vanderbilt’s rooftop will measure 1,350 feet, while its ultimate pinnacle looks to stand approximately 1,450′ above 42nd Street; the latter number would place the building as the second tallest structure in New York City, behind One World Trade Center. Pending adjustments, an additional foot would put the skyscraper ahead of Chicago’s Willis Tower, making it the second-tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

One Vanderbilt

One Vanderbilt — image via the draft EIS

The structure’s roof height of 1,350′ will be slightly less significant, ranking below three of the 57th Street supertalls, as well as One and Two World Trade Center. Nevertheless, the building will become a neighborhood landmark, looming over the much-bemoaned MetLife tower. Unlike its monolithic neighbor, One Vanderbilt’s upper floors will be characterized by a series of setbacks, and the parapet recalls pre-war Manhattan, when the city was dominated by spires.

On lower levels, the tower’s plan includes both restaurants and retail space; SL Green will also dramatically improve conditions on Vanderbilt Avenue, which will soon become a pedestrian gateway into the revitalized Midtown East. KPF’s latest icon will also have direct subway access.

One Vanderbilt

One Vanderbilt — image via the draft EIS

In terms of specifics, One Vanderbilt will have 1.079 million square feet of office space, 246,000 square feet reserved for trading floors, 53,000 square feet of retail, 27,000 square feet for restaurants, and 55,000 square feet dedicated to rooftop amenities, including an observation deck. The development’s total scope includes another 343,500 square feet of unusable space, for a total volume of 1.8 million square feet, and an FAR of 30.

One Vanderbilt

One Vanderbilt’s base, image via KPF/Crain’s

The potential deck at One Vanderbilt would offer a new perspective on the skyline to the general public, given the site’s distance from both the Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building’s 102nd floor. Including such a feature will further enhance the tower’s potentially iconic status.

As Midtown’s built environment finally catches up with 21st-century demands, One Vanderbilt will likely be joined by other ‘supertall’ buildings. Demand for new development in the surrounding neighborhood is extreme, and given the prices people are willing to pay for premium office and residential space, future structures will likely push even taller, especially if the re-zoning allows for significant residential density.

De Blasio’s push for more affordable housing must come with a similar thrust to reduce constraints on market-rate development, which is the housing most New Yorkers inhabit. In its current state, ‘affordable housing’ is a misnomer, and securing such a unit is like winning the lottery; 50,000 New Yorkers applied for 124 apartments at one such development in Harlem.

Adding the potential for significant residential development to the Midtown East re-zoning would create new living options for the neighborhood’s office workers, while also transforming the area from a relatively sterile business district into a thriving hub where people can both live and work. Plans for One Vanderbilt are proceeding without thought for this potential, though the KPF-designed building will still enhance the pedestrian sphere and the skyline, maximizing its built envelope.

One Vanderbilt

One Vanderbilt — image via the draft EIS

No formal completion date has been announced — and the site’s existing structures must still be demolished – but given the recent news that SL Green is in talks with TD Bank as a potential anchor tenant, a 2020 completion date would appear feasible.

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Posted in Architecture | Kohn Pedersen Fox | Midtown | Midtown East | New York | Office | One Vanderbilt | SL Green | Supertall | Zoning

Construction Update: 219 East 44th Street

219 East 44th Street

Demolition is complete at 219 East 44th Street, where an Even Hotel will soon rise; the site is just to the west of 235 East 44th Street, where construction is also getting underway. Peter Poon is the architect of record, while Raber Enterprises is developing.

Permits were approved last November, and excavation appears imminent. The 35-story building will rise 415 feet to its mechanicals, while the actual roof will be 365 feet up; 219 East 44th Street will have 230 rooms spanning 100,749 square feet, and from floors 28 through 34, another 19,542 square feet will be split between eleven residences.

219 East 44th Street

219 East 44th Street

Renderings have shifted as the site has been stalled for several years, but the most recent images via Massey Knakal contain a vague depiction of the overall design, noting the developer will have “the ability to redesign the space at will in order to deliver a truly unique Midtown residential experience,” which is certainly ambitious considering the neighborhood.

With a total height of just over 400 feet, 219 East 44th Street would be tall in most cities, but it will be dwarfed by neighbors in Midtown and Murray Hill. Proximity to the 42nd Street corridor guarantees near invisibility on the overall skyline, though the Massey Knakal PDF highlights future views from the upper residences, which will still be relatively impressive.

While zoning diagrams indicate the development will fall back from the street-wall after the first floor, the overall appearance should be slightly better than typical mid-market hotels, given the residential component. 219 East 44th Street presents an opportunity for beneficial infill, though the neighborhood’s full potential remains unrealized, especially considering its proximity to the heart of Midtown.

219 East 44th Street

219 East 44th Street

No completion date has been announced, but an announcement from 2012 gave a late 2014 date, which would seem rather ambitious at this point; 2015 would be a more reasonable estimate.

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Posted in 219 East 44th Street | Architecture | Construction Update | Hotel | Midtown | New York | Residential

Construction Update: 235 East 44th Street

Exacation at 235 East 44th Street

The first rendering is up for a new residential building in Midtown East, which will have an ‘official’ address of 235 East 44th Street. Excavation is nearing completion, and the tower is about to start rising; Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel is the architect of record. Previous reports indicated the country of Senegal was behind the project, but recent DOB filings indicate that Adam Gordon is now the developer.

235 East 44th Street

Rendering

Permits indicate 235 East 44th Street will stand 21 stories and 272 feet tall, with 71,914 square feet divided between twelve ‘dwelling units,’ language not typically used in association with commercial structures. The Schedule A adds even more confusion, with the entirety of the building divided between various office amenities, including ‘Class B rooms’ and ‘accessory lounges.’

Regardless of the filings, the tower will apparently be split between residences and office space. Renderings are not all-encompassing, and only give a peek at the new tower’s lower levels. Still — if the facade is any indication — the bulk of the project appears to be residential, and units will likely average approximately 5,000 square feet each.

235 East 44th Street

235 East 44th Street

Senegal bought the property for $23.9 million in 2009, and after several years of hold-ups, construction is finally getting underway — though exact details remain murky, with Adam Gordon apparently taking the lead this past March.

The site’s former structure was subject to radioactive contamination. Per The New York Times, 235 East 44th Street “was occupied from 1939 to 1944 by the Radium Chemical Company, a family-owned radium supplier,” but after scrutiny, the property was cleaned up in the early 1990s.

Completion of the new building is expected in the spring of 2015.

235 East 44th Street

235 East 44th Street

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Posted in 235 East 44th Street | Architecture | Construction Update | Gerner Kronick + Valcarcal | Midtown | New York | Residential

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