F.I.T.’s Scheme: Make It Pretty, Then Take It Over

406 w 31The Real Estate got its grubby little digits on a letter that the Fashion Institute of Technology sent to Community Board 5 last month, this time from school president Dr. Joyce Brown. In it, Ms. Brown downplays the defeat at the hands of the board of the school’s commons proposal—to permanently close down the eastern third of West 27th Street, pedestrianize it, and transform the western portion to a cul-de-sac. The project was defeated largely because of a small group of vocal local residents, who argued that traffic on the surrounding streets would increase, and the loss of parking spaces on 27th Street would adversely affect the neighborhood.

The Real Estate ain’t no traffic expert (unlike the folks over at the D.O.T., which endorsed the plan), but we’d sure be happy to see the street running in front of our own building closed down. Who wouldn’t?

Anyhow, we digress.

Ms. Brown says in the letter, “We now believe it makes good sense to defer the Commons project until the rest of the plan has been completed,” which confirms our suspicions that the commons project is far from dead. Most likely F.I.T. will spiff up the block with its new projects, and launch a massive P.R. campaign to get the locals on its side before trying again.

406 w 31Community Board 5 originally sent out an e-mail saying that F.I.T. “is no longer interested in the implementation of this project.” We dutifully posted that here, although F.I.T. director of media relations Brenda Perez said the schools was merely pursuing other projects in its master plan before approaching the commons proposal again.

Curious, The Real Estate decided to take a walk in the sweltering heat to check out the school’s new dorm building at 406 West 31st Street, right off the Lincoln Tunnel. It’s a work in progress, as the photos here show. Slated to be completed in August of next year, the 320,000-square-foot, 15-floor building will have 493 suites for 1,100 students, doubling the school’s current housing. F.I.T. bought the building for $48 million in 2004, and the renovations will cost $64 million.

406 w 31Another part of F.I.T.’s master plan is a project called “C-Squared.” This interesting project will face 28th Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues, and will function as an extension of the school’s Marvin Feldman Center (also known as building C–get it?). This six-story, 50,000-square-foot textured-glass extension was designed by architects Sharples Holden Pasquarelli (SHoP) and will cost $25 million, and it’ll include a fifth-floor atrium.

Hopefully, the new building will unite the disparate styles of the school’s various buildings on the block. While not exactly an eyesore, the current F.I.T. campus is a wee bit cacophonous in its various architectural styles.
—Matthew Grace