Vision: 1865 Broadway

1865 BroadwayConceptual 1865 Broadway, rendering by Goldstein Hill & West

YIMBY featured a sneak peek of 1865 Broadway’s potential earlier this year, with renderings by Danny Forster Design Studio depicting the reconfiguration and vertical extension of the building. Since then, the site’s current occupant — the American Bible Society — has elected to leave the location for a new building, opening the possibility for a skyline-altering icon to take its place.

Now, we have the first firm look at a proposal for the site, designed by Goldstein Hill & West, which would involve the total demolition of the old structure. The new building would stand approximately 40 stories tall, but the height would be accentuated by palatial ceilings, like many other new skyscrapers rising across Manhattan. GH & W could not be reached for comment, but the tower appears to rise between 600 and 700 feet, and would stand on the corner of Broadway and West 61st Street.

1865 Broadway’s location is fantastic, which should guarantee an attractive design. The rendered proposal features a relatively simple envelope, rising with several setbacks, and the facade features a mix of glass and masonry, likely limestone. This is especially apt considering the record-setting 15 Central Park West, aka Limestone Jesus, is directly across the street, and is deserving of equally attractive neighbors.

The site’s development potential measures approximately 300,000 square feet, and will likely include retail along Broadway. Even 15 Central Park West, where a penthouse sold for $88.5 million in 2013, has active retail in its frontage on Broadway. While many expensive apartments may sit unused for much of the year, a building’s engagement with the street below is what matters to pedestrians.

What’s ultimately most important, and often overlooked, is human density: the increasing amount of space taken up by the average New Yorker translates into less efficient use of air rights, which results in fewer people per square foot of real estate. This is most certainly a good thing, as average standards of living are increasing and city residents no longer live in slums, but it shows how a building code created in 1961 did not anticipate the world of 2014, where significant new construction is needed to maintain even constant levels of population density.

Zoning is the primary reason New York City city is facing a housing shortage. 1865 Broadway presents an opportunity to enhance a corner that was the victim of post-war anti-urban design, and if the GH & W proposal is built, the new tower will restore the architectural street-wall that characterizes Broadway along most of its path through the Upper West Side. But the location, next to the local and express subways just two blocks from Columbus Circle, warrants square footage beyond the scope that’s currently allowed.

As of May, the American Bible Society had placed its building on the market for $300 million, and property records indicate it has not yet traded hands.

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