Thursday, November 1, 2012

Man-half-tan: A Creepy Walk Between Two Cities After Sandy

lone deli serving tea by open flame, Fifth Ave bet 13th and 14th (A Fine)
14th Street + Fourth Ave (A Fine)
Union Square Park, tree down (A Fine)
Con Ed trucks, Union Square North (A Fine)
wifi lifeline, W Hotel (A Fine)
Nat'l Guard, 24th and Lex (A Fine)
I had an elderly client to check in on yesterday in Greenwich Village, and the contrast between Uptown and Downtown could be no less extreme. The comforts of the Upper East Side- power, light, hot water, stocked delis and packed bars are so easily taken for granted.

I crossed the border to what I would later refer to as "Zombieville" on the Fifth Avenue bus. Starting at 39th Street nearly every light was out, but I had a cheerleader of sorts, a chortle throated New Yorker pointing out every light that was randomly on through the 30's. "There is hope, there is hope, the lights are coming back on. I have faith, faith that the lights will be on come tonight." His hopes were brought down to reality by a French woman who corrected him- "those lights were there yesterday, they are the same." By the time I reached the upper 20's, all traffic lights were out, and the bus proceeded cautiously with sudden jerks to avoid unchecked crossing traffic. Aside from 14th Street, there were no traffic agents to organise the chaos. But, traffic was light, and the streets, suddenly, very dark. As I made the decent into the darkness on this gray, gloomy afternoon, the visuals were surreal. A dark Flatiron building, dark stores up and down Fifth Avenue. The usually teeming streets were virtually deserted, a ghost town. The usually gorgeous prewar facades of the district were suddenly transformed to haunting, lifeless masses.

I got off the bus at 14th Street and was struck by another sensation- silence. Yes, there was the occasional honk and the few drivers down there seemed impatient, but I have never heard the city so quiet. City folk joke how it is hard to sleep in the country, that they need noise to sleep, so it wouldn't be surprising that the few remaining residents there were indeed losing sleep. I reached for my phone, and Twitter app to record what I was thinking, seeing, and hearing. Ah, that's right, no cell service, no mobile internet, a comfort stripped. I managed to find my client safe and sound and delivered an unsolicited warm meal and jug of water. I wasn't looking to stay long. The light of day was fleeting, her apartment getting dark. I was eager to just get the hell out of ZombieVille! Why call it ZombieVille? That is exactly what it seemed like as I ventured north up Fourth Avenue and past Union Square Park. There were very few on the streets, and the homeless and methadone zombies suddenly made up a near majority of those who were. Passing the Union Square W there was a sign of normalcy- hipster looking youngsters on iPads and cell phones. But, they were tightly grouped. Turned out that the W had a back-up generator and the people out front were feeding off the wifi as a lifeline to the outside world, or at least that above 39th.

Nearing the border I passed a mobilization of National Guard jeeps and humvees at 24th and Lex, an unusual site. At that point I moved on to Third Avenue to grab a bus out of there. There was no traffic downtown, but the bus was packed with East Village refugees, many with 3 or 4 bags in hand. We moved swiftly to the border, and right at it, 39th Street, the traffic was suddenly think as molasses. It took 45 minutes to get to the next stop at 42nd Street, to escape the refugee bus. Although I still had 40 some-odd blocks yet to go by foot, there was palpable liberation that I had escaped ZombieVille and I was yet again on the other, vibrant, noisy, safe side of the border.

To all my friends and colleagues on the other side, wishing you a quick return to power and vitality. If you need a hot cup of coffee, a warm meal, or a hot shower, just look me up, the Upper East Side is not that scary, at least not this week.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Quick Recovery On UES As Construction Resumes At 135 East 79th

135 East 79th (A. Fine 10/31/12)
135 East 79th Bricks (A Fine 10/31/12)
Traffic may be snarled, and cell service spotty, but as downtown struggles to simply pump out tunnels and get the lights back on, new development construction is quickly cranking right back up on the Upper East Side. 135 East 79th Street, this morning saw teams of workers, and even the crane powered up and ready to go. Seems Brodsky Organization is not messing around with this one, as the building has added 7 or more stories to the building in just the last 5 weeks. There is even some brick work pictured, and I have to say, it looks much better in the flesh than it does in the rendering. Hey, it is "custom pigmented and hand-laid" after all!
135 East 79th Soaring To New Heights (AFB 9/24/12)
Ye' Old Curbed Files, 135 East 79th (Curbed)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Proof! Something Finally Happening At 56 Leonard St

56 Leonard worker (A Fine)
56 Leonard south side of foundation (A Fine)
56 Leonard render (Herzog & De Meuron)
Okay, it's only one little man in an orange sweatshirt, and one backhoe, but, it's on ladies and gentlemen! 56 Leonard, the long-stalled, lovable "Jenga Building" designed by architect Herzog & De Meuron is back on! Sure, the website, is a way back machine with press clippings from 2008, but it is on people, and we should all rejoice! 57 stories of pure architectural intrigue are on the way! Word from the half dozen workers on site is that they will really get moving in a big way within a couple of weeks.
Curbed Files on 56 Leonard (Curbed)
Good Article on 56 Leonard From 2008 (de Zeen)
Work To Begin At 56 Leonard (11/2012 Tribeca Trib)

Under The Radar: Re-zoned 84-86 White Tops, Remains Mystery

84-86 White front from south (A Fine)
84-86 White from southwest (A Fine)

There were many pitched battles over re-zoning areas in Chinatown, the LES, and East Village over the past several years, but one little known stretch bound by Broadway and Lafayette and White and Walker Street made it through the process. The area on the NW corner of Chinatown (and likely to be inaccurately marketed as Tribeca) was changed from a manufacturing zone to a commercial zone 4 or 5 years ago. What is rising at 84-86 White Street is a result. Here we have a 13 story residential building that will contain 34 residential units. Given the location, odds are that we are looking at a condo, but there is very little available about the building aside from the building permit. So, for now, we'll add this to the "mystery development file". Feel free to fill in the blanks, people!
Chinatown Blocks Re-zoned (TRD, 7/2008)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

137 Franklin Looking Sharp, Just Like Rendering!

A have a few entries lined up for Tribeca, and this is the first of three- 137 Franklin Street. The mini-condo in the perfect location is looking mighty sharp. The building consists of 3 duplex condo units ranging in size from 2900-3900sf. The sign on the outside of the building indicates that only one is left, the 3rd and 4th floor duplex listed at $6,85Mil.. Do they get extra credit for a near perfect match with the rendering?
Curbed Files, 137 Franklin (Curbed)
StudioMDA, the architect (StudioMDA)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

America's Tallest Residential Tower, 432 Park, Builds Foundation

A look at foundation work at 432 Park Ave from the north, on left side (se corner of property) foundation at grade.
432 Park from the southeast, E 56th and Park (A Fine)
432 Park from the north on East 57th Street (A Fine)
Render of the final product (CIM)
It's been long in the making, and has a heck of a long story reflective of the financial meltdown and resilience of the New York City, but it is finally happening, 432 Park Avenue is going full steam! What will eventually be America's tallest residential tower at 1390 feet, and the tallest in New York City (if you don't count the antenna on the new WTC), has built a foundation that has reached ground level on the southeast corner of the site, and is quickly building up from around 40 feet below grade on the rest of the site.
As I mentioned, it's a long story, but part of the site on Park and 56th Street was the former Drake Hotel. Harry Macklowe bought the Drake in 2006 for $440 Million and demo'd the hotel in 2007. At the same time, various battles ensued as Macklowe struggled to cobble together more adjoining properties on East 57th Street between Park and Madison. The goal was not only to gather air rights for a residential tower, but also to gain enough frontage on East 57th Street for a large and viable retail space. Some owners were easier to persuade than others, but 101' of frontage on 57th Street was eventually secured. Then, the financial crisis happened and Macklowe nearly went bust (losing several buildings including the GM building blocks away). For a few years there, the site sat dormant and rumors circulated that Macklowe would have to give up the prized property. But alas, both Harry Macklowe (with the help of CIM Partners) and the New York City real estate market have shown incredible resilience, and the dream of America's tallest residential tower is alive, well, and happening!
The stats:
- 1390 feet
- Rafael Vinoly, Architect
- 122 residential units
- Expected asking prices average $5800 per square foot
- 12 foot+ ceilings and, of course, amenities galore
- 101 Feet of retail frontage on East 57th, exact square footage unknown

A Fine Blog Files, Harry Macklowe (A Fine Blog)
Curbed files, 432 Park Avenue (Curbed)
Higher Tower, Higher Prices? Is 432 Park Increasing Asking Prices (Observer 9/2012)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Demolition Alley: Columbus Circle East, 225 W 57th + De-Contructing 220 CPS (Deal Reached?)

View from south side of 57th looking north to 225 W 57th (A Fine)
225 West 57th lot (A Fine)

Bobcat emerges from 58th Street side of 220 CPS
Demo of 221 W 58th, foreground, demo of north tower of 220 CPS background (A Fine)
Front of 220 CPS
At some point in the near future you will have an open view of Central Park from West 57th Street, just East of Broadway. No, not from the high floors at the Portzamparc tower, but simply from ground level. It will be a rare but short-lived view through two city blocks, but there is just that much demo work going on in the area right now. Currently there stands a large vacant lot where 225 West 57th once stood, future home to an Extell Development 50 story 1000-1400 foot tall (?) mixed use tower that is rumored to be the future home of the tallest Nordstrom in all the land. Extell has taken out a couple of adjoining buildings as well as the building just to the north on West 58th Street. Across the street on the north side of 58th Street the back tower of once and future 220 CPS has completed demolition, a couple of next door buildings are coming down (219 and 221 West 58th), and work has begun on the demolition of the front tower of 220 CPS that faces CPS. They are laying waste to the whole area! 220 CPS has been subject to a battle between Extell Development that owns (owned?) the garage space and Vornado that owns everything else. Last we heard from any source was that Extell was taking Vornado to court, but some settlement surely must have been worked out, as the only thing that is coming out of that garage at this point is a bobcat moving debris.

The  result here is an amazing demolition alley in some of the densest and most valuable property in the world! The pics I have here are from this week, and, yes, they are a bit gloomy, but then again, de-construction is a dirty business.
Extell Sues Vornado To Force It To Re-occupy 220 CPS (TRD 8/2012)
Curbed Files, 225 West 57th (Curbed)
Skyscraper Forum On 225 West 57th, the folks who pointed out the original error in the height of 225

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

On West 54th, 1717 B'way Double Marriott Gets Glassed, Neighboring Hilton Rises

1717 Bway fr east (A Fine)

1717 B'way fr SE (A Fine)

W 54th Hilton fr south (A Fine)
West 54th Hilton from south (A Fine)
I last reported on these 2 buildings back in May, and what a difference a few months makes! At 1717 Broadway, the 67 story Hotel on top of a hotel has been topped and is now getting glassed. The Nobutaka Ashihara designed building will house a Marriott Courtyard Inn up to the 30th floor, and a Marriott Residence Inn from there to the top. It is an impressively tall, towering and thin building, that looks tall even for the area. Next door we have competitor Hilton, which at last we checked was ground level with a rat staring at it, now nearly topped in what will be a less inspiring Kaufman designed 34 story hotel. Pretty good work getting 34 stories up in 5 months!
On West 54th, Three Hotels, On Rat, And An Office Tower (A Fine Blog 5/2012)
The Curbed Files, 1717 Braodway (Curbed)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Diamond In The Rough: Int'l Gem Tower Glistens On 47th St

From the West (A Fine)
From the NW (A Fine)
Front from the North (A Fine)
The is an unmistakable vibe on West 47th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in the Diamond District that is distinctly New York. There are hucksters, peddlers, probably a fair share of thieves, and  countless jewelry stores that are happy to buy, sell or trade diamonds, gold, rubies, coins- you name it. There are millions of dollars of value in pockets, bags, briefcases and other carriers just walking down the street at any time. The vibe is palpable and energizing. This is where commerce happens in it's raw form. That raw form also translates to the chaotic assemblage of stores and offices up and down the street that scream for your business.
The chaos is about to get a bit more orderly with the soon to open International Gem Tower in the middle of the block. The commercial condo, designed by SOM and built by Extell Development has topped at 34 stories, has been glassed, and now glimmers in the sun with diamond pattered exterior. Yes, it is another glass job, but I think that the execution is excellent, appropriate to the area, and to be frank, classes the joint up a bit! The building truly does glimmer, as intended, and makes for an interesting sight regardless of where the sun is in the sky. I haven't seen the building at night, but would not be surprised to catch a similar, if not more sparkly effect from the lights of the skyline. The building is a clear improvement in the area, but let's not get carried away, we don't want this street too cleaned up (a laTimes Square), as the gritty energy is a New York institution that should be savoured and enjoyed.
Wiki on The Diamond District (Wikipedia)
Curbed File On Int'l Gem Tower (Curbed)
The Bling Building, Review Of Gem Tower (TRD 3/2012)

Friday, October 5, 2012

309 Fifth Towers, Glassed. Rendering vs, Reality A Good Match!

309 Fifth (A Fine 10/2012)

309 Fifth Render (SLCE)
309 Fifth (A Fine, 10/2012)
309 Fifth (A Fine 10/2012)
This must be the week for under followed residential developments that are sprouting throughout Manhattan. To close out the week we have 309 Fifth Avenue, a 34 story, 452' tall (think high ceilings), rental building designed by SLCE as architect. While the location is far from inconspicuous, nary a mention on the internet for 11 months! Plenty has happened since then as you can see from the current state of the project. The building is now glassed up to the 26th floor and topped. There will be a total of 169,000sf including over 10,000sf retail with the rest being 100 market rate rentals and amenities such as fitness center, bike storage and common roof terrace. At this rate I would expect that the targeted opening date of September 2013 is spot on.
It should also be worth noting that the "reality" looks like a very close match to the rendering.
New Tower Trust Buying 309 Fifth Ave (TRD, 10/2011)
Fifth and 31st Finally Getting A 35 Story Tower (Curbed, 11/2012)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

323 Park Avenue South Rises Under Radar

323 PAS (A Fine 10/2012)
Render (Gwathmey Siegel)
Here is another building that you don't hear about very often- 323 Park Avenue South. Despite a prominent location on 24th and Park Avenue South, not much has been heard from this 17 unit, 10 story Gwathmey Siegel designed boutique condo. Sales started back at the end of February, but to date, according to StreetEasy, 3 of the 17 units have gone into contract. Prices are generally in the $1600's per square foot and range from $1,825,000 for a 1320sf 2 bedroom to $6,050,000 for the full floor penthouse. The building is currently 7 stories above ground, so it will be interesting to see how sales progress from here. It would seem like a slam dunk, but sometimes the market confounds. Any theories?
One of Gwathmey's Last Projects Starts Sales On Park Ave South (Curbed 2/2012)
One of Last Charles Gwathmey Projects Launches Sales On Park Ave South (The Real Deal 3/2012)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Could Small Development Be The Next Big Thing On The UES?

234 E 70th (A Fine 10/2012)
Small seems to be getting big on the UES of late. Bit by bit we are seeing additions to 5 story walk-ups, and increasingly, the knocking down of walk-ups for new development of small condos and single family homes. A prime example would be 234 East 70th Street, which is nearing completion between Second and Third Avenues. What was a 4 story building was sold a couple of years back for $3.5 Mil. What rises now is an 8 unit, 17,415sf condo, rising 9 floors. The condo will feature 7 full floor 2 bedroom units, plus an upper floor duplex. Despite the size, it is likely a profitable venture. Figure it sold for $200psf buildable, plus $300psf to build, there should be plenty of margin to turn a profit here.

1676 Third Ave Before (Google)
1676 Third (a couple months ago/ A Fine)

Speaking of mini-me spaces, it doesn't get much smaller than 1676 Third Avenue on the SW corner of East 94th Street. This once vacant lot was also home to a plastic framed fruit market for a number of years. The lot was sold in 2006, for a mere $450,000, and will soon be home to a 4,700sf two family home. The lot size- a meager 929sf! Talk about challenging! Needless to say, there isn't might free space left on this island.

News Follies: Was That Really A Story About The New School Building On 14th Street?

New School on 14th + 5th 9/2012 (A Fine)

I caught it last night, a teaser for the WNBC local news at 11, something along the lines of 'is this Union Square building on the verge of collapse?' Then at 11, the story, complete with live reporter in front of the construction site for The New School at 14th Street and Fifth Avenue. 'Concerned neighbors and passersby fear something is terribly wrong'. Really? Have these neighbors ever see the Hearst Building on 57th? Have they ever seen a cantilever before? To me that qualifies as slightly more scary, but not at all if you consider engineering. Yes, the supporting columns are slightly crooked, and that is intentional. So, for that matter are the staircases that jut out like fishbowls. Did anyone call NBC to tip them off that they thought the staircases were falling out of the building? I wonder how much effort it took, and how many people had to be interviewed to find this faux fear? Talk about a non-story!
Crooked Column In Union Square Construction Are No Mistake (WNBC)
Previously: New School Gets Its Zig Zag On (A Fine Blog, April 2012)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Foundation Set At Fischer's 84 Third, Questions Remain

Discredited Rendering
Rendering on ZD1 Form with City
Foundation set (A Fine 10/1/12)
84 Third site (A Fine 10/1/12)

One thing that we know for sure is that the old Nevada Smith's on Third Avenue is gone. It relocated to Webster Hall for a while and will soon relocate to the former home of a porno theater up at 100 Third Avenue.

The story behind 84 Third Avenue however is a little less clear. Here is what we do and don't know.

We know:
- City has approved 94 unit, 9 story building with 72,000sf of residential, 9500sf of commercial, and 327sf of "community space."
- The foundation is complete, and rebar is now jutting just above ground level.
- The property is under a land lease that runs 99 years at approximately $1 Mil. per year.
- We have a little sneak peak of the building from city zoning documents.

We don't know:
- Condo or rental? It has been reported both ways, but The Real Deal quotes the developer, Eli Weiss, as saying that it will be a rental. So that should settle that.
- What it will look like? There is a widely circulated rendering which looks very much like "The Corner" on West 72nd Street. That cannot be the correct rendering as it depicts a 13 story building, not the 9 story building approved for the site according to DOB records.

Adding to the confusion, I asked 2 workers on the site how tall the building will be, and the answer was 13 stories. Eh, at least we know where Nevada Smith's is.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Foundation Set, Alchemy's 31 West 15th Above Ground

Crane at 31 West 15th (A Fine)
Crane at 31 West 15th (A Fine)
A crane rises above the future 31 West 15th Street, the foundation is complete, and the Alchemy Properties part-condo/part-school is above ground. The 25 story project will feature 18 stories of condos (57 of them), above 6 stories of school facilities for Xavier. The project did have some controversy along the way. There was the nimby-style lawsuit by the adjacent Chelsea Lane which eventually clipped 7 stories off the building. There was a small sinkhole at one point. And, there was a website dedicated to, gasp, the horrors of construction next door. All of that seems to be in the rear view mirror at this point, and even the nimby website seems to have given up last October (or perhaps that person sold their apartment, who knows).

Construction was at a standstill today in light of the heavy rainfall, but all indications are that the project is going full steam ahead. The foundation has be laid, and steel beams are now jutting twenty or thirty feet above ground, and there are plenty of construction workers on site. Xavier will soon have 32,000 square feet of additional space, and good-guy developer Ken Horn will have his condo. Yeah, yeah, I said it, "good guy developer." I stand by that. Ken puts out a quality product at a competitive price. He is also personable, approachable, honest and sharp. Yes, a few neighbors are bent out of shape, but, such is life in a growing city.

Curbed Files, 31 West 15th (Curbed)
The Real Deal Files, 31 West 15th (TRD)

Dirt Flies at de Portzamparc's Future 400 Park Glassterpiece!

Getting dirty at 400 PAS (A. Fine)
The site, 400 PAS (A Fine)
The design (NYCDOB)
The rendering (grifted from Curbed)
Is anyone noticing a trend here? Toll Brothers is clearly changing. The builder, once (and to many still currently) known as a McMansion builder extraordinaire, who happened to be building some fairly pedestrian condos in NYC, has clearly had a change in tact. This change, given Toll's increased activity in the city over the past number of years, is great for the city. Examples? Anyone see The Touraine on 65th and Lex? The pre-war reproduction is a stunning, tasteful and very high end compliment to its surroundings. But, what really warms my heart is that this year Toll, with cooperation from Equity Residential, decided to move forward with what architect Christian de Portzamparc calls one of his favorite designs. Yes, some may complain that it is another one of those all glass numbers, but to me it is a sharp, stunning, and compelling design. It is far from ordinary.

Now, finally, cement trucks are lining up one after another, and the foundation is being built. The final result will be 416,000 square feet of residential space rising to 40 stories or 427 feet. The bottom 20 floors will be 265 apartments owned by Equity Residential, and the top 20 floors will be 100 condos owned by Toll. In an area that has come a long way in a short period, this Glassterpiece will be a welcome addition!

Curbed Files on 400 PAS (Curbed)
Toll, Equity To Stick With de Portzamparc's 400 PAS Design (The Real Deal, 2/2012)
Schedule A (NYCDOB)