BIG/Durst Pitch Their Big White Tent at Community Board 4

big1 BIG/Durst Pitch Their Big White Tent at Community Board 4So the architecture critics love Bjarke Ingels’ new plan for a hulking Hell’s Kitchen development, but what about the neighbors?

Durst Fetner Residential brought their idea for the pyramid-like 57th Street apartment complex to Community Board 4 last night to a mixture of adoring fans and skeptical residents.

The project, first immortalized in comic form, then a City Planning-ordered fly through video, would be Mr. Ingels’ North American debut after several critically acclaimed projects in his BIG2 BIG/Durst Pitch Their Big White Tent at Community Board 4
native Denmark.

“City Planning is brain dead,” a man clad in suede pants and a tweet jacket told The Observer in a thick Eastern European accent. “There’s a lot of conflict.”

If there is, then the kind of conflict peddled by Hell’s Kitchen and Clinton residents is of the most cordial kind. The board members seemed almost smitten by the project, or at least more so than a rezoning proposal on nearby 11th Avenue that the board BIG3 BIG/Durst Pitch Their Big White Tent at Community Board 4
eviscerated, pushing back The BIG/Durst presentation 40 minutes.

Many in the crowd were most impressed by the ambition of the project.

Mr. Ingels called his plan a way to fuse the density of a New York skyscraper with a Copenhagen garden. The final project will be “a way for Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen residents to really connect to the waterfront,” he said, while not taking away the river views currently enjoyed by residents of the Helena, another Durst residential property.

Not that there won’t be roadblocks in the way. The thought of more rezonings–this project sits just two blocks north of the aforementioned 11th Avenue rezoning and is just a block south of Extell’s huge Riverside Center–caused plenty of pained looks and squirming on the part of the board members.

The rest of the community’s concerns were summed up by the West Side Neighborhood Alliance, an affordable housing group. “The neighborhood is now becoming sort of a bastion of experimental architecture,” one of the group’s members said. “What [this project is] offering the community is an iconic piece of architecture. I do think you really need to think about what else might benefit the community.”

That, for Durst and Ingels, means affordable housing, which right now is projected, but not locked in, at an 80-20 split–a deal that would also reap the developers building incentives. Many members of the board were relatively silent on issues like public green spaces, which they complain are few and far between in Hell’s Kitchen, and parking during the meeting, but they chimed in that affordable housing needs to be included in perpetuity.

Attendees did seem placated by the retail space and cultural programs built into the current design. The retail, which includes one large retail space and several other, smaller ones, got a positive response from the group. City Councilwoman Gale Brewer did point out that the larger space should not include a Costco, a swipe at Extell’s plans, or a Walmart, a company the City Council is currently at war with.

Current plans give the cultural program 170,000 square feet on the third floor with an entrance on the southeast corner of the building. One potential tenant is the International Center of Photography, currently housed in another Durst property at Sixth Avenue and 43rd Street.

As for the sustainability features of the project, one speaker asked if the project would be built to LEED standards. Any queston of that was quickly quelled when another attendee replied, “Of course it will be LEED-certified. It’s Durst.”

mcoyne@observer.com