Can good design survive the recession? We may find out when, or even if, anything ever gets built at 5 Franklin Place in Tribeca.
Originally designed by Ben Van Berkel and his Dutch firm UN Studio–also known for the still-unopened New Amsterdam Paviliion–5 Franklin Place was one of the giddiest starchitect-designed condo projects to appear during the boom, doing so in early 2008, in those surprisingly heady days between the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. The 20-story tower was all ropy bands of black metal, lassoing their way up the building, creating balconies where they protruded. The project gave nearby Frank Gehry a run for his money for
Yet when the economy came clattering down a few months later, so did the building, getting as far as the demolition of the original five-story building located on Broadway three blocks south of Canal Street. In May, Procida Advisors was hired to help sell off the mortgage on the site, and Curbed just got its hands on a new set of alternative plans that come with the project, designed by local firm Montroy Andersen DeMarco. While their proposal is not bad per se, it is far more run-of-the-mill than the one proposed by their predecessors, clearly designed with cost in mind. As Billy Procida told Curbed, “The borrower has signed over the deed-in-lieu and the market is as hot as ever. We’ve made sure that the buyer can start construction on this project immediately.”
This is still a prime site in prime Manhattan, one deserving of a top-notch, if expensive building. While there is no guarantee top-flight architecture will pay off, it certainly looks that way, with the successes of Gehry and Robert Stern of late, among so many others. Whether the developer realizes this and goes with UN Studio’s design or whether it takes the quickest route to cash should say a lot about the kind of architecture the city has to look forward to for the foreseeable future.
Better yet, The Observer dares these new, hypothetical buyers to come up with something even more daring of their own.