In the Rezone
With the 7 train extension set to see its first train at 34th Street and 11th Avenue next June, developers are rushing to line up financing and break ground on millions of square feet in new projects. The New York Times took a look over the weekend at the progress at Hudson Yards, but they buried some news deep within the story: at least one landowner—Silverstein Properties, which owns a 90,000-square foot site at 41st Street and 11th Avenue—wants zoning rules changed to allow it to build more housing and less office space.
For an area with poor transit links, the desire to shift from commercial to residential is not surprising. Though there will be a new subway station at 34th Street and 11th Avenue, successful office locations generally require not only transit, but redundant transit.
Back in 2011, AvalonBay abandoned plans to build a 44-story, 700-unit rental building on the block south of West 57th Street between Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues. TF Cornerstone was rumored to be interested in the site, and it turns out the rumors were true: the Manhattan-based developer now wants to build a 45-story, 1,189-unit residential tower on the same site, according to documents filed with the Department of City Planning.
If approved, the project would contain a total of 1.2 million square feet of floorspace, with 42,000 square feet set aside for commercial use and a 550-space underground parking garage. Of the apartments, 20 percent—238 units—would be set aside as affordable housing under the city’s inclusionary zoning program.
Manhattan West too corporate? Far West Side too bland? Clinton too anodyne? Hell’s Kitchen too imprecise?
“You’ve heard of NoMad, NoLita, and NoHo,” writes Bisnow. “Well, get used to ‘NoChe.’ ” (We’d prefer not to!) “It stands for North Chelsea, pronounced a touch exotically”—because nothing screams exótico like millions of square feet of shimmering class A office space!—”like the Spanish word for ‘night.’ It’s how insiders are referring to the dramatic new area being forged by Brookfield and Related on the Far West Side.”
One of the big debates that has been raging around the rezoning of Midtown East is how it might impact development already underway around the city, much of it funded in part by the public sector, and thus taxpayers. Should these projects fail, Joe Public could lose out on his investment.
The World Trade Center and Hudson Yards have been two focal points, but Manhattan West, which broke ground yesterday, ought to be considered, too. While the project’s backers bragged at the groundbreaking about building without public subsidy, they are still competing for the same anchor tenants as their rivals further east. Furthermore, the $2 billion the city contributed to the construction of the 7 train nearby is to be paid back through property taxes on the new projects. No new development, no bond proceeds, big trouble for the city.
Still, Mayor Bloomberg is standing by the decision to fast-track the Midtown rezoning and ensure it gets completed this year.
For the second time in as many months, Mayor Michael Bloomberg trekked out the Far West Side for a groundbreaking on a major new development built over a set of railroad tracks. While Brookfield’s Manhattan West is not quite as big as The Related Company’s Hudson Yards, in its size and scale and heft and sheer exclamation of the arrival of this once derelict corner of the city, the project measures up pound for pound. Some 5.4 million square feet of offices and housing and shopping on not much more than one city block.
“With today’s groundbreaking, we’re taking a major step forward in the transformation and rebirth of the Far West Side of Manhattan,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said from the podium at the corner of 33rd Street and Ninth Avenue.
“My own feeling, and the feeling of board, is that we’d like this project to succeed,” J.D. Nolan, chair of Community Board 4’s land-use committee, told The Observer. “The Dursts are great developers, and they have worked very well with us in the past. Nevertheless, this is a rezoning, and the public should benefit as well as the developer.”
And so, the full board voted unanimously against Durst Fenter’s new apartment building on the far West Side last night. One of the most dynamic designs of the decade, 625 West 57th Street calls for a swooping white pyramid that rises dramatically up from the Hudson like an origami dove taking flight. Designed by Danish wunderkinds Bjarke Ingels Group (aka BIG), the project has even decided to eschew LEED ratings in its quest for singularity.
Just what makes the Mercedes House so popular? It’s not German engineering, but it sure looks like it. Take our tour and see for yourself what’s inside Two Tree’s latest sapling.
Who would want to live all the way out on 11th Avenue, at 54th Street, no less? What’s there? Nothing! Except the Mercedes House, where the answer to first question appears to be: everyone!
According to Two Trees’ Asher Abehsera, the second phase of the massive Far West Side development has been renting faster than a sports car, with more than half of the units gone since coming on the market a little over two months ago. So far, 174 of the 384 units have been leased, and move-ins are underway—without the help of any outside brokers, Mr. Abehsera said.
“I don’t know that other people have done 170 apartments at market-rate prices with no outside brokers in two and a half months. That’s probably a big deal,” he said.
In an unassuming corner of the city, perhaps the last one left, an under-appreciated brick building is about to undergo a transformation into yet the latest luxury development to hit a city that always seems to have room for another. The tan- and yellow-brick pile sits in the middle of West 50th Street between 9th and 10th avenues, on the border between Hells Kitchen and the neighborhood that suddenly seems to be blossoming along the river as the Dursts, Walentas and others assemble shiny new apartment towers just to the northwest.
Yet 435 50th Street is anything but flashy and new. A throwback in the grandest sense, in that it is a far bit better than the original, the project is the second coming out for Ralph Walker, the long-forgotten AIA president and Art Deco master who dotted the city with at once industrious and luxurious old towers for the New York Telelphone Company. It is noveau prewar of the first order.
Durst Fetner is at work on arguably the most dynamic, certainly the least square, apartment building in New York City. Jean-Daniel Noland, chair of Community Board 4’s land-use committee, even cautioned his fellow committee members against overwrought superlatives when they considered the project last night as it entered the first phase of public review.
“We are in a house of worship, so no talk of icons tonight,” he said from behind a long table inside the Actor’s Temple synagogue on West 47th Street. “Only Jehovah can do that.”
Still, his colleagues on the committee could not resist, referring to the building as beautiful, interesting, celebrated, stunning, beautiful, attractive, singular, impressive, beautiful and destination architecture. At the end of the meeting, when a resolution was being drafted to make recommendations to the full board on what conditions it should support the project, James Wallace said, “I think we should go out of our to note the spectacular beauty of this design.”