New Look: Jamestown’s Chelsea Market Expansion

Chelsea Market Expansion, image via Jamestown

There hasn’t been any news on the Chelsea Market expansion since it was approved back in 2012 (has it really been that long?), but YIMBY has stumbled upon some renderings that show the project from some new angles.

Chelsea Market rendering, via Jamestown

Chelsea Market rendering, via Jamestown

An overhead view shows the addition in context with the rest of the neighborhood, and is a reminder that the expansion is perfectly consistent with existing mid and high-rise surrounds — and when compared with nearby structures like the old Port Authority building, it’s actually undersized. The 10th Avenue component is the most prominent part of the expansion, and even that part will be relatively short.

Chelsea Market Expansion

Chelsea Market Expansion, image via Jamestown

The new perspectives — and the comparatively small scope of what was approved — show the absurdity of complaints regarding the project’s height. Even if the taller version with the hotel had been approved, it would still be dwarfed by Related’s Caledonia rental building just to the north – and now, another 25-story hotel is rising just to the south, at 414 West 15th Street.

Chelsea Market Expansion

Chelsea Market Expansion, image via Jamestown

The lack of progress is also worrying. The office market in West Chelsea is doing very well, but this project is not the financial slam dunk that ground-up, as-of-right construction would be. The work to build the addition will be very tricky and expensive, given the need to keep the market open during construction, and Jamestown had to agree to throw in millions towards the High Line and an affordable housing fund.

Chelsea Market Expansion

Chelsea Market Expansion, 9th Avenue side, image via Jamestown

Without the hotel component – which was axed after opposition by West Side NIMBYs – the project may turn out to be financially infeasible. That would be a shame, denying the area an attractive and modern piece of architecture, to say nothing of the construction and office jobs, as well as the additional millions in tax revenue that the expansion would bring.

Stymied by irrational NIMBY opposition — which looks even more ridiculous in the face of the new hotel rising on 15th Street — the original plan would have been better for both Chelsea Market and the surrounding neighborhood. While what was approved will still be beneficial, many years may pass before Chelsea Market reaches its full built-out potential as an even denser hub for New Yorkers and tourists alike.

Talk about this project and more on the YIMBY Forums

Subscribe to the YIMBY newsletter for weekly updates on New York’s top projects
Follow the YIMBYgram for real-time photo updates
Follow YIMBY’s Twitter for the latest in YIMBYnews

For any questions, comments, or feedback, email newyorkyimby@gmail.com

Posted in Chelsea | Chelsea Market | Jamestown

Construction Imminent: Lighthouse Point

Lighthouse Point, rendering via Triangle Equities

Staten Island is better known for its single-family homes and driveways than multifamily dwellings, but pretty soon, a new apartment tower will rise. This fall, Lighthouse Point on the North Shore, a stone’s throw away from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, will break ground. The project is one of three planned for St. George, and coordinated by the city’s Economic Development Corporation, along with the Empire Outlets mall and the New York Wheel.

The centerpiece of the $200 million Lighthouse Point will be a 12-story tower with 100 apartments, 20 of which will be let at below-market rates. It will also include 85,000 square feet of retail and a hotel with more than 160 rooms, among other things.

Retail at Lighthouse Point, rendering via Triangle Equities

Retail at Lighthouse Point, rendering via Triangle Equities

For a century starting in 1863, the land was home to the U.S. Lighthouse Service Depot, with the EDC describing the site as “the center of lighthouse operations for the United States.” It then fell into disuse until being transferred to the city in 1984. The EDC finally chose a developer in 2006, and also plans for an adjacent historic building to house the National Lighthouse Museum.

The Lighthouse Point project will be developed by Triangle Equities, which describes itself in a press release as “specializ[ing] in city projects, earning an excellent reputation for working together with government agencies and skillfully navigating the most demanding public approval processes.” Their other New York City projects include malls in Flatbush and College Point, plus a number of suburban-style office complexes housing government agencies, sprinkled throughout the outer outer boroughs and beyond.

Looking at the bigger picture, the EDC’s three projects should just be the start for St. George. If Staten Island is to ever become a truly urban and integral part of the city, the Department of City Planning will have to zone for denser development across the North Shore (and beyond), and not limit construction activity to sites requiring top-down planning.

Despite the shortcomings of new development in St. George, Lighthouse Point will be a welcome infusion of bodies and economic activity for Staten Island’s North Shore, while also adding a relatively tall (and attractive) building to New York City’s most suburban borough.

Talk about this project on the YIMBY Forums

Subscribe to the YIMBY newsletter for weekly updates on New York’s top projects
Follow the YIMBYgram for real-time photo updates
Follow YIMBY’s Twitter for the latest in YIMBYnews

For any questions, comments, or feedback, email newyorkyimby@gmail.com

Posted in Architecture | Lighthouse Point | New York | Residential | Staten Island | Triangle Equities

It’s Time to Give West 14th Street the Rezoning It Deserves

The Apple Store

The Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, which laid out Manhattan’s iconic grid that sprawls beyond its chaotic downtown, designated 15 crosstown streets as major 100-foot-wide thoroughfares. The various major crosstown streets got subway stations and those below Central Park have developed distinct identities – home furnishing stores and chic apartments on 23rd, clothes shopping and tourism on 34th, office buildings on 42nd, ultra-luxury condos and world-class shopping on 57th.

By all rights, 14th Street should be just as grand. It sits above the L train, the city’s main vein of gentrification. Its adjacent neighborhoods have exploded in popularity, benefiting mightily from downtown’s ascendence.

Intersection of 14th Street and 9th Avenue

Intersection of 14th Street and 9th Avenue

But the crucial crosstown corridor, and especially its western half, has not fared well. The days of cheap apartments are long gone, but the cheap-looking tenements that once housed them remain, without any real character to speak of. Despite the exploding demand in the last decade or two, there’s been virtually no new construction.

Fourteenth Street had its first moment in the sun around one hundred years ago, as the city’s center was making its way uptown. Elevated trains, subways and a space crunch downtown were pulling Manhattan northwards, and tall commercial buildings popped up on Union Square and 14th Street around the turn of the century. But the center soon rocketed even farther uptown, first to 23rd Street and later up to 42nd and beyond, quickly leaving 14th Street behind.

The next building boom came in the 1950s and ’60s. Greenwich Village became very popular (drawing in, among others, Jane Jacobs) – along with the Upper East Side, one of the last places in Manhattan where new construction was still viable as the city was circling the drain – and builders met the new demand with massive, modernist brick buildings. The Victoria at 7 West 14th Street, by prolific white brick architect Philip Birnbaum, was the largest of these, providing more spartan and affordable accommodations than the grand pre-war apartment houses, but at a density more commonly found on the avenues of the Upper East Side.

It’s hard to say whether this sort of construction would have continued throughout the rest of the ’60s and into the ’70s, as the city’s desirability plummeted. But in any case, the zoning code did not allow it. Builders rushed to file permits before the new 1961 code took effect, after which the dense apartment blocks were no longer allowed.

But by the ’80s, demand for living on 14th Street had certainly reemerged (if it ever left). Development, though, was still not allowed. The Zeckendorf Towers on Union Square East were built in the late ’80s, but only after a politically fraught rezoning that was not to be repeated. Other than that, only one developer managed to assemble enough air rights out of the mid-rise tenements of West 14th Street to build a large scale project – Basile Builders and their Chelsea Verde at 125 West 14th Street, finished in 2001 between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.

Today, demand for new office space in the Meatpacking District is off the charts. The Meatpacking District, once the butt-end of 14th Street, has become a high-rent tech anchor. Google paid $1.9 billion for the old Port Authority building at 111 Eighth Avenue, and new office space in the area rents for well over $100 a square foot – prices more commonly associated with Central Park views uptown. The western end of the street has established itself as one of a select few submarkets in the city where new office construction pencils out without tax breaks. And the L train’s capacity west of Union Square is essentially unlimited, after the hordes from Brooklyn headed to destinations east of Broadway change for the 4/5/6 and N/Q/R.

Residential demand is similarly high. Condos at DDG Partners’s 345 Meatpacking have sold for upwards of $1,500 per square foot, with penthouses surpassing the $3,000/SF mark, and there’s likely much more room for upward growth in rents and condo prices.

To capitalize on this demand, the city should upzone West 14th Street and the broader Meatpacking District. Any rezoning would have to be carefully tailored to local conditions, as the area is ground zero for West Side NIMBYism, but compromises should be possible.

Old tenements

Old tenements on the north side of 14th Street

The lowest-hanging fruit is the north side of West 14th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. This strip is a solid block of some of the least attractive pre-war tenements in the city – largely denuded of their cornices and other frills, and nowhere near monumental or charming enough for such a key corridor. The whole block face could be upzoned to the highest densities possible (floor area ratios of up to 12 for apartment buildings, and 15 for offices), after which developers would gradually wait or buy out the tenements’ remaining residents and redevelop them.

What few affordable apartments are left in this part of town wouldn’t last long anyway, as landlords can easily use vacancy decontrol rules to raise rents to market rates after the current tenants leave, so there would be no major loss of affordable housing. With mandatory inclusionary zoning, the number could even increase. Or better yet, the city could have developers pay into a fund that it would use to build an even larger number of below-market units in cheaper neighborhoods uptown and in the outer boroughs.

837 Washington Street

837 Washington Street

The Meatpacking District would be a bit trickier, since it has more attractive buildings and is a landmark district, but growth is possible there too. The area is ripe for a façadist building boom, whereby developers submit plans to build modern structures within and on top of the old low-slung warehouses. Their horizontality and large footprints, combined with attractive but not historic architecture, make them ideal candidates for redevelopment along the lines of Morris Adjmi’s 837 Washington in the Meatpacking District, or the Hearst Tower on West 57th Street.

But unlike 837 Washington, future façadist towers should be allowed to rise to much higher densities – two or three times the floor area ratio of five of the torqued Washington Street tower. Indeed, there’s plenty of pre-war precedent for these densities in this part of town. The gargantuan Port Authority terminal has an FAR of 13, while the circa-1930 tower on the northeastern corner of 14th Street and Eighth Avenue has an FAR of nearly twenty. If New York City is to rein in its spiraling rents, it cannot limit developers to densities that are a fraction of what was being built nearly a century ago.

Tower on the corner of 14th Street and Eighth Avenue

Tower on the corner of 14th Street and Eighth Avenue

The Landmarks Preservation Commission should also be told to ease up on height-related concerns, to avoid the time- and money-consuming back-and-forth that ensued between the developer and the LPC that resulted in a slightly bulkier building but little else.

The city of Toronto offers a compelling model here. All development is discretionary in Canada’s largest city, and in exchange for the right to build tall towers, the city often asks developers to preserve pre-war structures and integrate them into the bases of new buildings.

The desirability of West 14th Street and the Meatpacking District has soared, and now it’s time for the demand to be matched by new supply. With the area’s high design sensibilities, iconic architecture is virtually guaranteed, so long as the city allows it.

Just as 14th Street bloomed with new office buildings 100 years ago and new apartments 50 years ago, today’s demand should also translate into new construction. This corner of the city has already become popular with tourists during the day and bridge-and-tunnel clubgoers at night, and now it’s time to cater to New Yorkers who both live and work in the neighborhood.

Talk about this topic on the YIMBY Forums

Subscribe to the YIMBY newsletter for weekly updates on New York’s top projects
Follow the YIMBYgram for real-time photo updates
Follow YIMBY’s Twitter for the latest in YIMBYnews

For any questions, comments, or feedback, email newyorkyimby@gmail.com

Posted in 14th Street Rezoning | 345 Meatpacking | 837 Washington Street | Architecture | Downtown | Greenwich Village | meatpacking | Midtown South | New York | Residential

Flushing Grows Up: A Conversation With F&T Group’s Michael Meyer

Flushing Commons, rendering from Perkins Eastman

About ten miles east of Grand Central Terminal, the 7 train terminates at Flushing Main Street. Stepping out into downtown Flushing, one is immediately struck with a sense of vibrancy, by the tangible energy of entrepreneurial activity. Flushing is home to over 5,000 businesses and 41,000 jobs, putting it right up there with Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City as one of the city’s most important outer borough business districts.

Like Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City, downtown Flushing – which vies with Sunset Park for the title of New York City’s most populous Chinese neighborhood – is brimming with potential for new businesses and job growth. The business district is getting a boost with the construction of Flushing Commons, a mixed-use project rising on a former municipal parking lot.

Flushing Commons

Flushing Commons phase I — image from Perkins Eastman

The first phase of this project will include 150 apartments and, notably, 220,000 square feet of commercial space, mostly offices. The second phase will add another 450 units of housing and an additional 150,000 square feet of office space, making Flushing Commons one of the largest new commercial projects in the outer boroughs.

Just how deep does Flushing’s potential for new office space run? YIMBY spoke with Michael Meyer, president of F&T Group, whose subsidiary TDC Development is leading the Flushing Commons development team.

F&T has been one of Flushing’s most active developers. Their Queens Crossing project, completed in 2007, included 210,000 square feet of office space, and they’re also working on One Fulton Square, another mixed-use mid-rise in downtown Flushing.

Right now the office market in Flushing is dominated by medical tenants, with Meyer estimating that 80 percent of Queens Crossing commercial tenants are medical users. “Most of the space we have here is office condominium,” Meyer said. “Our office building in Flushing Commons will be condo, and One Fulton Square, hitting the market now, is office condo. Those are predominantly sold to doctors, and they’re predominately sold to Chinese and Asian doctors,” with Flushing also being a major hub for New York City’s Korean community.

Flushing Commons

Flushing Commons — image from Perkins Eastman

“Right now you don’t have any large corporate entities that would be behind a lot of office growth,” said Meyer. “You don’t have the large blocks of office space I think you’re going to need, like how Jet Blue went over to Long Island City. Nobody is going to build it on spec,” he said, unless a corporate tenant is lined up. “There’s so much interest in investing in Flushing from Asia, from mainland China, South Korea, Taiwan. Maybe it would take a large corporation from there.”

Meyer believes that Willets Point would have been an ideal location to attract this type of tenant. F&T was among the developers to submit a proposal for Willets Point, but the city ultimately chose Related Companies and Sterling to develop the site.

F&T’s proposal included a pedestrian bridge linking Willets Point to a reactivated Flushing waterfront. The bridge would not only have been an iconic structure, but sought to “link and expand the development zone and create a nexus in this area.”

“Looking forward, there could still be elements of that kind of thinking,” Meyer says. He thinks that the city should look at the Flushing waterfront as an area to be rezoned for “more enlightened, urban development.”

The area on the western edge of Flushing, on the waterfront across from Willets Point, was rezoned over a decade ago, but “that zoning wasn’t ideal for redevelopment from an urban standpoint,” Meyer says. “It was really more suburban, particularly because of the parking requirements.”

Meyer believes a rezoning effort along with a new park and waterfront esplanade would unleash a torrent of new development.

“If you could get the state, city and federal governments coordinated on cleaning up the creek and doing some infrastructure development there – like a pedestrian bridge – you would totally transform the area. That would allow extraordinary, extraordinary development and have an effect for generations.”

Meyer also thinks that providing incubator space for startups could ultimately lead to more commercial growth. “When we start talking about Flushing, because of the very entrepreneurial populace here, there’s an opportunity to incubate future office demand by doing initiatives like that. If you started small and it attracted foreign venture capital it could result in more robust commercial growth, and that’s something that would sit well with the population here.”

Parking requirements and suburban-style zoning are hurting the prospect of new development along the Flushing waterfront. In fact, city parking requirements nearly derailed the Flushing Commons development. He notes that because of pressure from the local community – shopkeepers, residents, and elected officials – Flushing Commons will have twice as much parking as would have been required under zoning.

Flushing Commons

Flushing Commons — image from Perkins Eastman

“We prevailed at Flushing Commons, but we almost died because of the bias for parking. A huge threat to enlightened development is the attitude that people have towards parking and the misconceptions people have about parking, which is unfortunately enabled by local politicians who sort of support it.”

“If you didn’t have to worry about politics and you were trying to design a development in a congested area, you would come up with a traffic and urban and zoning plan that would not build so much parking.”

Meyer said that the Flushing Commons took so long to break ground because of the process of incorporating community benefits, but ultimately the idea of community benefits is valid.

“Getting all that to work,” including the parking, “was extraordinarily challenging.”

“I do think it is legitimate for community benefits to be introduced in developments where there is some sort of city subsidy, on city land. I think the political process by which that works is often counterproductive, and winds up making a lot of development expensive or unfeasible. Or it imposes such a burden that the development you ultimately get maybe isn’t the best for the neighborhood.”

Talk about this topic on the YIMBY Forums

Subscribe to the YIMBY newsletter for weekly updates on New York’s top projects
Follow the YIMBYgram for real-time photo updates
Follow YIMBY’s Twitter for the latest in YIMBYnews

For any questions, comments, or feedback, email newyorkyimby@gmail.com

Posted in Architecture | F&T Group | Flushing | Flushing Commons | New York | Queens Crossing | Residential

Permits Filed: 262 Kent Avenue, Domino Sugar Factory Site A

262 Kent Avenue outlined in red, rendering by SHoP

Permits for 262 Kent Avenue, the northernmost site at Two Trees’ Domino Sugar Factory redevelopment, have been filed.

The building will sit on Site A, between Kent Avenue and River Street, just north of Grand Street. As with the filings earlier this month for Site D at 320 Kent, this application is just in preparation for infrastructure and groundwork, with actual construction coming later, after plans have been finalized and financing for the building is secured. The shorter building at Site E – the only one on the eastern side of Kent, bounded by South 3rd and 4th Streets – will be the first to go vertical, and half of its units will be reserved for below-market renters.

Domino Site Plan

Domino Plan, Site A outlined in red, image via SHoP

According to the permit, 262 Kent Avenue will contain nearly equal parts commercial (mostly office) and residential space, with about 281,869 square feet of total leasable floor area. The tower would rise 320 feet and 30 stories, with 93 apartments, for an average unit size of about 1,500 square feet – which is very large for rentals in Williamsburg. While the location and heat of the Williamsburg market would generally push builders in the direction of condos, Two Trees has said that it prefers holding onto its assets, and will therefore build rental apartments.

The office space was added after Two Trees took over the project from CPC Resources, in a deal whereby the developer swapped out a bit of residential space for a much larger amount of office space, which is seen as more amenable by local politicians wary of luxury housing.

Ismael Leyva is the architect of record, and while SHoP created the site’s masterplan, other architects will be designing some of the buildings. SHoP is set to design the first Site E building along with one other, though which building that will be has yet to be determined.

If 262 Kent Avenue does take on the form originally unveiled in the SHoP plan, it would be marked by a colorful bridge planted atop two towers – one with a traditional glass curtain wall, the other of the same colorful golden material as the bridge.

Talk about this topic on the YIMBY Forums

Subscribe to the YIMBY newsletter for weekly updates on New York’s top projects
Follow the YIMBYgram for real-time photo updates
Follow YIMBY’s Twitter for the latest in YIMBYnews

For any questions, comments, or feedback, email newyorkyimby@gmail.com

Posted in 262 Kent Avenue | Domino Redevelopment | Ismael Leyva | SHoP | Two Trees | Williamsburg

New Look: Herzog & de Meuron’s 215 Chrystie Street

215 Chrystie Street, image from Herzog & de Meuron/Beyer Blinder Belle

A helpful tipster has sent along a fresh set of renderings for the Herzog & de Meuron-designed 215 Chrystie Street, on the Lower East Side, which will likely become the neighborhood’s first iconic high-rise. Ian Schrager and the Witkoff Group are the developers behind the project, which will have a hotel on lower floors, and condominiums above.

215 Chrystie Street

215 Chrystie Street, image from Herzog & de Meuron/Beyer Blinder Belle

The 370-room hotel will rest beneath eleven palatial residences, split between half-floor and full-floor configurations. As the latest batch of renderings make clear, the ceiling heights on upper levels will be soaring, and proportions will be enhanced by floor to ceiling glass. 215 Chrystie will stand 28 stories and 314 feet tall.

215 Chrystie Street

215 Chrystie Street, image from Herzog & de Meuron/Beyer Blinder Belle

In terms of comparisons, Herzog & de Meuron’s 56 Leonard is already rising, and the architects have another project imminent at 357 West Street, where they are also partnering with Schrager. 215 Chrystie will be eye-catching in its own right, and the new images are the first to illustrate the sheathing that will hide upper mechanicals, ensuring the building’s pinnacle tops-off in a cohesive and attractive way.

Each of Herzog & de Meuron’s designs utilize a raw, concrete facade, though the developments will be differentiated by strikingly different forms; the Jenga-like silhouette of 56 Leonard would tower over the relatively angular 215 Chrystie, and 357 West Street is a departure from both high-rises, offering a softer and more flexible take on typical concrete rigidity.

215 Chrystie Street

215 Chrystie Street, image from Herzog & de Meuron/Beyer Blinder Belle

Per on-site signage, completion of 215 Chrystie is expected at the end of 2016.

Talk about this topic on the YIMBY Forums

Subscribe to the YIMBY newsletter for weekly updates on New York’s top projects
Follow the YIMBYgram for real-time photo updates
Follow YIMBY’s Twitter for the latest in YIMBYnews

For any questions, comments, or feedback, email newyorkyimby@gmail.com

Posted in 215 Chrystie Street | Architecture | Downtown | Herzog and de Meuron | Hotel | Ian Schrager | Lower East Side | New York | Residential | Witkoff Group

Demolition Imminent: 77 Commercial Street

77 Commercial Street, image by CetraRuddy

In December of last year, Greenpoint councilman Steve Levin gave 77 Commercial Street the all-important local thumbs-up, and the rest of City Council followed suit, voting to approve the project. Two towers are planned for the site – one 30 stories, the other 40 – on the condition that the developer set aside 200 of the 700 apartments to let at below-market rates, and include 5,000 square feet of community space.

The development was made possible by the purchase of air rights from the MTA, which, as Brownstoner explained last year, came with some conditions:

The city and the developer will provide $14,000,000 in funding to relocate all of the vehicles currently at the park site, including MTA Access-a-Ride vehicles and Emergency Response Units. And the developer promises 9,500 square feet of open space around the two towers, “as a second fully landscaped walkway to serve as community access from the east” and a path to where Commercial Street dead-ends at the industrial waterfront. There will also be a free shuttle to the 7 and G trains (paid for by the developer), and the MTA will work with the developer to run a bus line along Commercial Street.

Now, preparation of the site for development is underway, as permits were filed in June for the erection of a construction fence and sidewalk shed, and permits requested yesterday for the demolition of the site’s existing two-story structure.

77 Commercial Street

77 Commercial Street, image via Google Maps

Joseph Chetrit and David Bistricer are the developers, and CetraRuddy – who spoke with YIMBY last month about 77 Commercial Street and other projects – is the architect.

Talk about this topic on the YIMBY Forums

Subscribe to the YIMBY newsletter for weekly updates on New York’s top projects
Follow the YIMBYgram for real-time photo updates
Follow YIMBY’s Twitter for the latest in YIMBYnews

For any questions, comments, or feedback, email newyorkyimby@gmail.com

Posted in 77 Commercial Street | Architecture | Brooklyn | CetraRuddy | David Bistricer | Greenpoint | Joseph Chetrit | New York | Residential

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.

Subscribe to the YIMBY newsletter for weekly updates on New York’s top projects
Follow the YIMBYgram for real-time photo updates
Follow YIMBY’s Twitter for the latest in YIMBYnews

For any questions, comments, or feedback, email newyorkyimby@gmail.com

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

Construction Update: 855 Sixth Avenue

855 Sixth Avenue

Full renderings may be lacking, but construction at 855 Sixth Avenue has begun in earnest, where the Durst Organization is erecting a 41-story mixed-use tower (with the help of some foreign EB-5 investors looking for a slice of the American dream), as YIMBY previously reported.

The tower will be predominately residential, with 375 luxury apartments (20 percent of which will be rented at below-market rates), but will also include a sizable office component and 57,000 square feet of retail space.

855 Sixth Avenue

855 Sixth Avenue

Because the large development site bleeds into the industrial M1-6 zone between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, the developer cannot build the entire site to its highest and best use – luxury residential – and will therefore be including a substantial 127,000 square feet of office space on the second through sixth floors (to put that in perspective, that’s not that much smaller than the Jeanne Gang-designed all-office “Solar Carve” tower going up on the High Line).

While the office space won’t be as profitable as luxury apartments – and office space hasn’t been more profitable than residential space anywhere in the five boroughs for longer than we’ve been around – Durst will likely have no problem finding tenants. Unlike the towers going up at the World Trade Center and on the Far West Side, 855 Sixth sits squarely within the Midtown South subdistrict, where tech and creative companies are eager to lease space.

855 Sixth Avenue

855 Sixth Avenue

The tower should add some heft to an area that’s been crying out for height to accompany the once-lonely Empire State Building. And the partial renderings that have been released show a clean façade designed by Cook + Fox (SLCE is the architect of record), mercifully bereft of the PTAC heating and cooling units that normally pockmark rental buildings in New York City, but which are unheard of in office towers.

855 Sixth Avenue

855 Sixth Avenue

Per on-site signage, completion of 855 Sixth Avenue is expected in April of 2016.

Subscribe to the YIMBY newsletter for weekly updates on New York’s top projects
Follow the YIMBYgram for real-time photo updates
Follow YIMBY’s Twitter for the latest in YIMBYnews

For any questions, comments, or feedback, email newyorkyimby@gmail.com

Posted in 855 6th Avenue | Architecture | Construction Update | Cook + Fox Architects | Durst | Midtown | New York | Office | Residential | SLCE

Nordstrom Tower to Become World’s Tallest Residential Building at 1,775 Feet

Nordstrom Tower, 3D Model and architectural diagrams

YIMBY has the latest drawings of Nordstrom Tower, courtesy of an anonymous tipster close to the project. Scoping documents also include the actual height numbers: 225 West 57th Street‘s facade will top-out 1,479′ above street level, while a surprise spire on top will cap the tower at 1,775 feet. Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill are designing the building.

Nordstrom Tower

Diagram of the Nordstrom Tower’s roof and spire, 1,775′ up

New York City’s skyscraper boom is entering unparalleled territory, and 225 West 57th Street could very well represent the crest of the current wave, assuming the tower is financed. The new height details will result in several superlatives: Manhattan will finally retake the ‘tallest roof’ in the United States from Chicago’s Willis Tower, which stands 1,451′, and 225 West 57th Street will become the tallest residential building in the entire world, surpassing both 432 Park Avenue and Mumbai’s World One Tower.

Nordstrom Tower

Nordstrom Tower, south elevation along 57th Street

Structural drawings indicate the curtain wall will be accompanied by steel fins and aluminum louvers, and the result should become a contemporary icon on the Manhattan skyline.  The talented Otie O’Daniel created 3D models of the tower based on the drawings and schematics, which give better insight into the building’s eventual appearance — though the images are not official renderings.

Nordstrom Tower

Nordstrom Tower — rendering by Otie O’Daniel

225 West 57th Street’s design has seen modifications since vague renderings were presented to Landmarks during the debate over the tower’s cantilever, which will rest over the historic Arts Students League. Additional protrusions have been eliminated, and the ultimate design appears to be far sleeker than the original proposal.

Even the cantilever appears to be well-integrated, adding additional heft to the stem of the actual tower, which rises after several setbacks in a style befitting the wedding cake-shape of Manhattan’s traditional skyscrapers. The result is aggressive, and the tower’s ultimate pinnacle will stand over 300 feet taller than any other manmade objects in Midtown, piercing the nascent plateau emerging around the 1,400-foot mark.

The Nordstrom Tower

The Nordstrom Tower

In terms of contemporary comparisons, the design looks to draw from Smith + Gill’s Trump International Tower in Chicago, which is also replete with setbacks and ends in a distinctive but far shorter spire; indeed, it almost looks like a merger between Trump and Willis, though the notched indentations at Nordstrom will be far less intrusive than the setbacks on the former Sears Tower.

Extell’s latest development will have a collection of superlative titles, but its (hopefully) imminent rise underscores the velocity of New York’s general ‘supertall’ boom, which is now the most impressive on the planet. In Midtown alone, other supertalls on the near-horizon include 111 West 57th Street, 432 Park Avenue, 53 West 53rd Street, 3 Hudson Boulevard, 30 Hudson Yards, and 35 Hudson Yards, all of which are already under construction or on their way.

Nordstrom Tower

Nordstrom Tower — rendering by Otie O’Daniel

While the Nordstrom Tower’s roof height will be the tallest in the Western Hemisphere, its pinnacle will fall one foot shy of One World Trade Center’s, which begs the question of whether Extell could simply add a few dozen feet to snatch the crown. Such a feat would not be unprecedented, and what ultimately signals resilience is continued progress; instead of deferring to the “Freedom Tower,” 225 West 57th Street should surpass it, returning the title of Manhattan’s tallest building to Midtown on a more permanent basis.

Completion of 225 West 57th Street is currently slated for 2018, and the most recent permits — which were partially approved on July 1st — reveal a total scope of over 1.2 million square feet.

Discuss The Nordstrom Tower on the YIMBY Forums
Subscribe to the YIMBY newsletter for weekly updates on New York’s top projects

For any questions, comments, or feedback, email newyorkyimby@gmail.com

Posted in 217 West 57th Street | 225 W57th | 225 West 57th Street | Extell | The Nordstrom Tower

YIMBY News

You have been reading YIMBY for 60 seconds.

That’s the time it takes to read our Saturday newsletter, which summarizes the week’s TOP 5 stories.