The 33-story residential building at 44-26 Purves Street has risen past the 20th floor on its way to its 374-foot-high pinnacle. The luxury rental apartment building is being jointly developed by Brause Realty and the Gotham Organization. Completion is expected in late 2017, when its glass-and-copper design will stand as one of the most distinguished in all of Long Island City.
The building occupies an irregularly shaped, 27,092-square-foot site, which negotiates the ground level of Purves Street to the east with 44th Drive to the west, which leads to the elevated, slanted Thomson Avenue viaduct to the south. While 44th Drive and Thomson are wide and heavily-trafficked, the block-long Purves Street has been a quiet, manufacturing cul-de-sac for most of the past hundred years. At the end of the 2000s, the east side of the street saw the construction of some of the first residential mid-rises in the Court Square area. With the recent completion of the 26-story Halo LIC across the street from 44-26, the east side of the block is mostly built out.
Even greater change is underway on the west side of the street. Two 27-story towers at 27-19 and 27-21 44th Drive are rising on the two adjacent lots north of 44-26. The casual observer might easily mistake the three towers rising side-by-side for a single project. To the south, the small triangular site at 44-46 Purves has been cleared for the construction of a seven-story apartment building.
The architect’s building page lists the development at 266,000 square feet, though permits indicate a total construction area of 247,934 square feet. 206,811 of these would be occupied by 270 luxury rental units. The rest of the space would be taken by retail, as well as amenities such as a “communal living room,” an outdoor movie screening area, a private party room, a fitness center, and a sky lounge. A parking garage and bike storage would be included, as well.
The project, which occupies the entirety of the site, sits on a two-story podium. It addresses the busy intersection of Thomson Avenue and 44th Drive with over 2,000 square feet of retail. The podium is topped with a large terrace for the residents’ use, landscaped with seating, greenery, and a small pool.
The tower sits along the eastern edge of the site. This positioning shifts residential units to the furthest point from the busy thoroughfares, putting them next to the quiet cul-de-sac of Purves Street instead. The tower’s deep setback from 44th Drive provides breathing room to its northern neighbor at 27-21 44th Drive, where its 27-story tower currently races a few stories ahead.
The main tower is massed as three thin, staggered slabs of varying heights. The tallest one – in the middle – conceals mechanical space in the bulkhead. Renderings show a lone wind turbine sitting at the northern end of the flat roof.
Contextualism among Long Island City’s new skyscrapers typically follows one of two directions. The first type is transforming the neighborhood into an “Emerald City” of soaring green glass towers. These buildings appear to pay homage to the long-solitary One Court Square, which remains the neighborhood’s tallest at 658 feet. This category includes the 58-story Tower 28, the 50-story 43-25 Hunter Street, and the 44-story 23-10 Queens Plaza South as the skyline’s new champions, with more contenders of similar and greater height on the way.
Smaller buildings within the 10- to 15-story range tend to fall within the second category, which derives inspiration from the neighborhood’s industrial heritage. Their rusticated brick, concrete, metal finishes and casement windows speak of the factories that dominated the local streetscape for well over a century, emulating loft conversions that rose in popularity during the new millennium. Local projects of this type include the 16-story 41-21 28th Street, 13-story 42-14 Crescent Street, 11-story 11-51 47th Avenue, 10-story Factory House, and nine-story buildings at 25-19 43rd Avenue and 41-07 Crescent Street.
Curiously, the two groups are separated by scale so distinctly that some projects that rise somewhere in between tend to fuse both approaches. The neighboring, 26-story Halo LIC across from 44-26 starts with rusticated brick alternating with bays of glass windows and balconies, and switches to an all-glass façade around halfway up.
The architects at FXFOWLE also approached their 44-26 Purves project with a fusion of the two paths, but in an entirely different direction, with glass curtain walls framed by bands of rusticated, copper-colored panels. The wide, east and west facades are lined with distinctly horizontal rows of windows. The glass bands are separated by white metal strips that conceal floor plates. Skinnier strips delineate ventilation grills beneath the windows; this is one of the most effective façade incorporations of HVAC units anywhere in the city. The tower’s nearly-windowless, narrow, staggered sides are articulated as bands of rusticated, copper-colored panels. Their industrial look is a departure from the more commonly used red brick, black steel, and/or concrete that is seen in neo-industrial projects scattered around the neighborhood.
The residential lobby would face Purves Street with a wide, double-height casement window. It would sit adjacent to a wall of copper panels reminiscent of the side façades, apparently etched in the likeness of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. The heavy, blackened steel lintel caps the base, adding an air of monumentality to the Purves Street landscape.
The glass façade rises vertically until it hits the 15th floor setback 143 feet above the sidewalk.
The building’s glass facades framed within powerful, solid bands are reminiscent of the similarly-scaled, 31-story LIC Marriott And Residential Tower, which is finishing construction at Queens Plaza six blocks to the northeast. The two buildings share a distinct aesthetic that borrows from the 1952 United Nations Secretariat Building on the other side of the East River. The copper bands around 44-26 Purves are slightly pulled back at the corners to allow for slight reveals at the glass façade corners, somewhat similar to Lord Norman Foster’s 2008 Torre Cepsa, in Madrid. In all, 44-26 Purves is on its way to become one of the best-looking high-rises in all of Long Island City, relying on a bold aesthetic and finely-crafted exterior finishes.
When looking from the east and north, the tower would be largely obscured by its rapidly growing neighbors of similar or greater height. From these directions, the tower would be most visible from a two-block stretch of Jackson Avenue to the east.
The east-facing facades would be hemmed in by the residential canyons of Purves Street and beyond. The copper-and-glass slab would appear much more prominently from the west and south, as it stands at the skyline vanguard close to the wide open space of Sunnyside Railyards. The sweeping vistas open from the west façade looking directly at Lower Manhattan. They would remain protected by the tower’s podium, the courthouse and Court Square Park, and several blocks of pre-war low- and mid-rises beyond. The only obstacle here would be the two-tower 5Pointz complex at 22-44 Jackson Avenue, but the towers’ presence would be softened by their location five blocks away. The converted industrial loft across the street to the south, ensures protected southbound views across southern Long Island City and the vast expanse of Brooklyn beyond. The southern Midtown skyline would peek through the opening between the 5Pointz towers to the left and One Court Square to the right.
Though the project’s residential entrance sits close to the middle of the block, its residential and retail points of access are separated by a 1,000-foot-long walk, thanks to the peculiarity of the local street grid. The densely built, block-long Purves Street is accessible from the north via Jackson Avenue. The street’s south end runs into the roughly 20-foot-tall, blank concrete wall of the Thomson Avenue viaduct. A public staircase placed along the wall would greatly improve pedestrian flow, saving those heading to Court Square Park to the west, or across the Thomson Avenue viaduct to Sunnyside to the east, a long detour around the block.
The sidewalk at the top of the viaduct is wide enough to accommodate a landing, which may be styled as a small plaza. This plaza would be perched above the south terminus of Purves Street, overlooking the densest skyscraper canyon in all of Queens.