Construction Update: 161 Front Street

161 Front Street161 Front Street

The new Fairfield Inn hotel at 161 Front Street has topped-out, and cladding has begun rising on the Peter Poon-designed tower. The building stands 31 stories tall, and the developer is the Lam Group.

161 Front Street has approximately 65,000 square feet of space, and the Fairfield Inn will have 200 rooms. The tower is located on the periphery of the Financial District, standing one block to the south of the South Street Seaport.

161 Front Street

161 Front Street

NIMBYs in the Seaport have vociferously opposed the development of a 50-story hotel by Howard Hughes on the neighborhood’s waterfront; while 161 Front Street is a good deal shorter, its relative prominence is not that dissimilar. Indeed, while the Hughes tower also appears to be high-quality — courtesy of SHoP — the same cannot be said for 161 Front Street, which faces the Seaport with a blank wall, characterized by arbitrary zig-zags.

161 Front Street

161 Front Street’s Seaport-facing facade

Besides the Howard Hughes tower, additional skyscrapers are planned at 151 Maiden Lane and 80 South Street, both of which could end up taller than the Hughes building. A development boom is expanding across the Seaport-adjacent blocks, and arguments against the redevelopment of the Fulton Fish Market hinge on the neighborhood’s ‘low-rise’ nature.

While a select few blocks are dominated by Disney-esque remnants of 18th and 19th century New York, they are completely surrounded by skyscrapers, and NIMBY arguments against surrounding developments are almost as ridiculous as those posed by opponents of the Torre Verre in Midtown, who characterized 53rd Street as a ‘mid-rise neighborhood.’

If buildings like 161 Front Street can be built as-of-right, better buildings — like SHoP’s tower — should not have an issue rising. Perhaps Seaport residents should instead focus on asking Howard Hughes to incorporate storm-surge mitigation measures into their redevelopment; the greatest threat to the neighborhood — which has apparently been ignored by the NIMBYs — is flooding, which was made abundantly clear after Hurricane Sandy.

Completion of the Fairfield Inn is expected later this year.

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