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.

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

New Look: The Taystee Building

Entrance to the Taystee Building: image from Leven Betts/Janus Property

A fresh set of renderings are up for Harlem’s Taystee Building, at 450 West 126th Street, which will anchor the wider Manhattanville Factory District. The project is located between Amsterdam and Morningside Avenues, and is being developed by Janus Property Company and Monadnock Construction; Leven Betts is the design architect.

The Taystee Building

The Taystee Building: image from Leven Betts/Janus Property

West Harlem continues to see piecemeal redevelopment, but the Taystee Building will likely accelerate the neighborhood’s revitalization, breathing new life into a block that has long been neglected. The 11-story tower will span 300,000 square feet, becoming one of the larger office properties in Upper Manhattan.

Janus’ assemblage for 450 West 126th Street spans through to 125th Street, and the Taystee development will include a public passageway linking the streets, which will also create a courtyard for the building.

The Taystee Building

The Taystee Building: image from Leven Betts/Janus Property

No tenants have publicly committed to the project, though several companies were rumored to be interested last year. With construction continuing on Columbia’s Manhattanville expansion, the neighborhood should prove increasingly appealing to all sorts of companies, and while office development is not typically associated with West Harlem, the Factory District has already proven successful.

Taystee’s design is contemporary and attractive; while it will not impact the skyline, its influence will greatly improve a formerly derelict span of 126th Street. Per Leven Betts, “The building is organized into four volumes – two thin white lobby and circulation towers and two wide black commercial blocks,” and besides its LEED-silver status, the project will boast finished ceiling heights of 10′.

The Taystee Building

Manhattanville Factory District, Taystee Building at right, image from Janus Property/Leven Betts

The Manhattanville Factory District’s website outlines plans for surrounding blocks, which will see several older buildings refurbished. Between all of the structures involved, the total amount of new office space will measure approximately one million square feet; renovations of the Mink Building and Sweets Building are already complete, and Taystee is the next phase of the project.

Concept rendering for future development on 128th Street, image by Janus Property/Leven Betts

Concept rendering for future development on 128th Street, image by Janus Property/Leven Betts

Future plans for adjacent blocks are also pending, and while nothing formal has been announced, renderings are up for another major project that could rise on 128th Street, utilizing 165,000 square feet of development rights. While those plans are conceptual, the potential is immense, and West Harlem’s prospects are looking increasingly bright.

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Posted in 450 West 126th Street | Architecture | Harlem | Janus Property Company | Leven Betts | Monadnock Development | New York | Office | Renderings | Taystee Building | West Harlem

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.”

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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.

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

Construction Update: One SoHo Square

One SoHo Square

YIMBY previously revealed the office conversion and expansion coming to 161 Avenue of the Americas and 233 Spring Street, dubbed One SoHo Square, and the project — which was designed by Gensler — is now moving forward, with construction making visible progress. Stellar Management and Rockpoint Group are the developers.

One SoHo Square

One SoHo Square

Once the build-out is complete, the new One SoHo Square will total 768,000 square feet, and stand nineteen stories tall. Insides of both existing structures will be completely gutted, and the reformed and modernized floor-plates should prove attractive to technology firms searching for modernized spaces in the neighborhood, which is dominated by aging pre-war stock.

While most of the work at One SoHo Square is internal, the actual expansion is now taking shape, with steel outlining the conservative addition to 233 Spring Street. The more dramatic commercial penthouses will come later, and that portion of the development will stand taller than both existing structures, though it will not overwhelm 161 Avenue of the Americas, which is already attractive in its own right.

One SoHo Square

One SoHo Square

Stellar and Rockpoint have hired CBRE to market the space, and One SoHo Square is expected to re-open at the end of 2015.

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Posted in 161 Avenue of the Americas | 233 Spring Street | Architecture | Downtown | Gensler | New York | Office | One SoHo Square | Rockpoint Group | Soho | Stellar Management

Permits Filed: 30 Hudson Yards

Rendering of 30 Hudson Yards, as seen from the 7 station, via Related

In March, Related celebrated the official groundbreaking for the $700 million platform on top of which the developer’s Hudson Yards buildings will rest. And soon, work on the firm’s second office tower – 30 Hudson Yards, sometimes called the North Tower, and the first to be built atop the deck rather than on terra firma – will commence, with architect KPF filing permits this morning under the structure’s official name, 500 West 33rd Street.

Financing arrangements for the tower are in the works, and the construction loan will close in mid-2015, at which point the tower will begin to go vertical.

Time Warner, which will own their own space, will be the anchor tenant at the tower at 10th Avenue and 33rd Street, occupying the building up to the 38th floor, with the choicest perches still up for grabs.

30 Hudson Yards, as viewed from 33rd Street and 10th Avenue, via Related

30 Hudson Yards, as viewed from 33rd Street and 10th Avenue, via Related

In related news, the first part of the “Hudson Boulevard” park and mid-avenue thoroughfare, between 10th and 11th Avenues, should open by the end of the year, according to the Wall Street Journal. The initial segment will stretch from West 33rd Street to West 39th, and will contain a pedestrian promenade in the center and north- and southbound streets on the edges.

The tower at 30 Hudson Yards will contain around 2.6 million square feet of office space, plus another million in retail in an adjacent podium.

The companion tower of 30 Hudson Yards, known as the South (or Coach) Tower at 10 Hudson Yards, started to go vertical last year. Its tenants – which include Coach, L’Oréal and SAP – are expected to move in by July 2015.

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Posted in 30 Hudson Yards | Architecture | Hudson Yards | Kohn Pedersen Fox | Midtown | Midtown West | New York | Office | Related

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

Revealed: Plaza Renovation at 1250 Broadway

Most New Yorkers may recognize the office tower at 1250 Broadway as the entrance to Koreatown, but owner Jamestown is well on its way to repositioning the black-and-white modernist skyscraper as a tech hub. To that end, the landlord is embarking on a $3 million renovation of the building’s plaza and lobby, and shared renderings of the project with YIMBY.

The makeover involves a new glass curtain wall at the tower’s base and a new stainless steel canopy, as well as replacing “the existing stone metal cladding at the corner of the building with new ‘white glass’ primary façade material,” per a press release.

Jamestown bought 1250 Broadway in 2008, and while it doesn’t have the stereotypically pre-war aesthetic of other tech-y buildings — like Chelsea Market, soon to undergo a major expansion — it has still attracted a fair number of firms, showing that a prime location on Silicon Alley and a dearth of older buildings with affordable rents will lead to companies stepping outside of their comfort zone.

Varonis Systems just tripled their space for a total of 46,000 square feet over three floors, while Rocket Fuel and Piksel, among others, also count themselves as tenants.

The renovation of 1250 Broadway should wrap up in the fall. The new design is by Moed de Armas & Shannon Architects, who are also heading up the redesign of nearby Herald Center at 1293 Broadway.

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Posted in 1250 Broadway | Architecture | Construction Update | Jamestown | Koreatown | Midtown | Midtown South | New York | Office

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.

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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.

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

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