Posts tagged with "Manhattan":

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Renderings revealed for Foster + Partners’ new tower at Hudson Yards

Today the developer of Hudson Yards has revealed designs for the Far West Side's newest tower.

Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group unveiled the icy cloudbuster for 50 Hudson Yards, designed by global firm Foster + Partners. The 985-foot, 58-story structure covers an entire city block.

“50 Hudson Yards is envisaged as a vertical campus in the heart of Manhattan that is eminently readable at city scale with three distinct blocks stacked one above the other,” said Nigel Dancey, Foster + Partners' head of studio, in a statement. “Crafted from a simple palette of white stone and glass, the building’s primary structure has been pushed to the edges to create large-span flexible floorplates. It aspires to define the workplace of the future, bringing to the fore the practice’s values of innovation and creativity by producing a positive work environment that seeks to fulfill the needs and expectations of a demanding workforce.”

When complete, the 2.9 million-square-foot building at 33rd Street and 10th Avenue will be the city's fourth largest office tower. When the building opens in 2022, principal tenants like the financial company BlackRock will enjoy outdoor terraces and private "sky lobbies," as well as access to 30 Hudson Yards' outdoor observation platform.

The New York Times reports that New York State is giving Blackrock, a company with more than $5 trillion in assets, a $25 million tax break to stay in the state and move into the shiny new tower.

Construction is expected to begin next year on the white stone– and glass-clad building. In the renderings, glass windows are framed by stone while dark-outlined floors peek out from behind the glazed facade. Column-free floorplates that span a minimum of 50,000 square feet per floor are able to accommodate 500-plus people, and workers on some floors will enjoy expansive outdoor spaces, the result of periodic setbacks.

“Covering a full city block, the building is highly permeable at ground level, allowing it to engage fully with its urban location," Norman Foster, founding principal of Foster + Partners, said in a statement. "Designed for a sustainable future, the building makes an important contribution to the regeneration of the far west side of Manhattan.”

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What’s new with the BIG U?

Four years after Hurricane Sandy, New York City is one major step closer to flood-proofing its shores. The Mayor's Office of Recovery and Resiliency (ORR) and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) have officially selected three firms to collaborate on the second phase of resiliency measures planned for lower Manhattan. AECOMBjarke Ingels Group (BIG), and ONE Architecture will work on the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency (LMCR) Project, a flood-proofing and park-building measure that extends from the Lower East Side up to the north of Battery Park City. "The project is landscape architecture as public realm, design as policy, and urban planning on an architectural level," said Kai-Uwe Bergmann, partner at BIG. In concert with heavy-duty resilience measures, the LMCR project, he said, aims to improve access to the waterfront and augment green space in the neighborhoods it will traverse. The 3.5-mile-long project will extend from the northern portion of Battery Park City to the Lower East Side's Montgomery Street to pick up where its sister initiative, the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) Project, leaves off.

Like the ESCR, the LMCR visioning process will begin with extensive community engagement to figure out what, exactly, neighbors want to see on the rivers' edge. The firms plan to take lessons from the ESCR, now in its final stages of design, to this one. Besides the resiliency measures that provided the impetus for the construction, Bergmann said the East Side ESCR constituents expressed a strong desire for more green space, open space, and recreation areas.

Initial renderings for the ESCR depict sinuous parks, lighting to illuminate dark and foreboding highway underpasses, and novel play spaces that bring citizens close to the waterway. BIG and ONE Architecture are working in concert to design the 2.5-mile strip, which costs an estimated $505 million, in collaboration with local, state, and federal agencies. Construction is expected to begin in 2018.

For that project and for the LMCR, Bergmann says there's no one design solution that fits all of the waterfront, especially the working waterfront. What Bergman called the LMCR “pinch points”—the tighter areas beneath the raised FDR Drive, or the Staten Island Ferry Terminal—present distinctive design challenges, though he said it’s too early to speak to specific solutions. Public meetings began this summer, and with the next set of meetings planned for February, "we hope the community can see there is traction and movement forward from a devastating event like Hurricane Sandy." 

The city says that by 2018 the LMCR team is to deliver an actionable concept design for the project area, with design and implementation to follow.

The plan, as its realized in stages, differs from the original BIG U, the sexy proposal that wowed both architects and the bureaucrats at HUD. When it first debuted, the floodproofing infrastructure extended all the way up to West 57th Street. “My hope," Bergmann said, "is that the vision will reach its full intention because that completely protects the entire lower Manhattan area."

The only component that's fully funded is the ESCR, so in order to realize both components—and possibly the whole BIG U vision—government at every level would need to open their budgets. Although Trump's infrastructure plan seems like it will focus on prisons, pipelines, and border walls, maybe the president-elect will put aside his climate change denial for a moment to help out his hometown?

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WeWork opens offices next to Fulton Center’s Sky Reflector-Net

Today, coworking office purveyor WeWork opened up their latest location on the third floor of the Fulton Center in Downtown Manhattan. The office pays homage to both old and new (a hallmark of WeWork's office interiors) integrating the Fulton Center's iconic Rotunda and the Corbin Building, which was built in 1889.

The project is WeWork's 15th office in a landmarked site (the Corbin Building was landmarked in 2015) and its eighth in New York City. Cautious of eradicating the 127-year-old building's history, WeWork kept new design interventions to a minimum. Existing elements in the Corbin Building, including an eight-story bronze and marble staircase, along with Guastavino tiles in the arches of the doorways (which form part of the French Gothic detailing found throughout the building and on its facade), were renovated.

Light permeates the space courtesy of the conical atrium which the office wraps around on the third floor. Officially known as the Sky Reflector-Net, the dome structure is the work of James Carpenter Design Associates, Grimshaw Architects, and engineering firm ARUP. The office area comprises places to read, conference rooms, a reception, and hot desks. A pantry and range of common areas operate as stand-alone areas. From inside, occupants can peer through the structure's complex of perforated optical aluminum panels, tensioned cables, high-strength rods, and stainless steel elements down onto the 300,000 transit users that pass through the center every day. The narrow space within the Corbin Building, meanwhile, will provide space for functions and office events. Bridging old and new, a 3D art installation by local artists, The Guild, is located on the threshold between the Corbin Building and Fulton Center and aims to unify them through material and color. In a statement emailed to The Architect's Newspaper, WeWork said:
WeWork Fulton Center is uniquely positioned across both the landmarked Corbin building and a new major transit hub. We have a history of breathing new life into historic buildings, and we’re proud to help give new futures to iconic pieces of the city’s history.
Also appearing this week within the Fulton Center is a new artwork installed by the MTA Arts & Design program. Titled New York Dreaming and by artist Anne Spalter, the kaleidoscopic video installation on show for the holiday season.
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Hudson Park River Trust moves closer to selling $100 million of air rights to St. John’s Terminal development

Today, the non-profit Hudson River Park Trust (HPRT) organization won approval to sell its Pier 40 air rights to the St. John’s Terminal redevelopment on 550 Washington Street. The subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises voted in favor of the idea to transfer the $100 million of air rights from Pier 40 on the Hudson River to the 1.7 million-square-foot development; revenue from the deal will allow the trust to carry out vital repair work to the pier. The subcommittee voted five to one in favor of the air rights sale with council member Jumaane Williams voting against. Williams argued that the affordable housing program within the St. John’s Terminal scheme "did not go deep enough" and fully tackle the affordable housing issue within the area. Speaking to The Architect's Newspaper (AN) after the vote, Council member for the 3rd District Corey Johnson said he was "excited" for the future of the St. John's Terminal redevelopment. "This project has been going on for years and it's got better and better throughout the process and I think we achieved an extraordinary amount for the community," he said. 25 percent of the housing units within the development (reportedly, 1,500 in total) will be "permanently affordable" while Johnson also said that the project will bring a "much needed" supermarket shopping facility to the far west side. Pier 40's revenue—mostly generated by the almost 2,000 vehicles that use the pier for parking—currently accounts for approximately 30 percent of the HPRT’s funding. Writing for AN, architect and critic Michael Sorkin described this as a "truly idiotic use for one the city’s most wonderful sites." The site does, however, host a well-used and much-cherished array of sports fields (all located on one area of artificial turf) where soccer, football, baseball, lacrosse, and rugby are all regularly played. Conditions on the site, though, are deteriorating with field lighting and markings as well as structural piles for the pier in need of repair. Later in the day, the Land Use Committee also approved the project twelve to one, with Williams again voting against. Williams argued that more needed to be done to combat inequality and homelessness in light of Ben Carson's selection to lead Housing and Urban Development (HUD); the former neurosurgeon once described public housing as a "mandated social-engineering scheme," and a policy of a "communist" country.

Meanwhile, Hudson River Park President and CEO Madelyn Wils said in a statement emailed to AN:

Pier 40 is a treasured community resource and an important revenue generator for Hudson River Park. Today's votes move us one step closer to ensuring that the urgently needed repairs to the pier's piles will be made, and the pier will stay open. Under a newly strengthened deal, the full $100 million will be guaranteed to the park before the developer can pull the special permit.

Once the funding is secured, we must also make sure Pier 40 serves as a revenue generator for the entire park. We thank the City Council for acknowledging today that the remaining development rights on Pier 40 should be used on the pier itself in a future redevelopment.

Thanks to Council Member Johnson, all of our local elected officials, the de Blasio administration and Community Board 2 for their hard work and leadership over the past year on this critical issue for Hudson River Park.

The full city council will vote on the matter on December 15.
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Major affordable housing developments coming to East Harlem and the Bronx

New York City is set to get hundreds of new units of affordable housing in the Bronx and Manhattan. On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio's office welcomed news that the City Council had approved four developments in the Bronx and East Harlem. Lawmakers had previously rejected rezonings that would've allowed affordable developments in Sunnyside, Cobble Hill, and Inwood, three major blows to the mayor's plan to build or preserve 200,000 units for low- and middle-income households over the next decade. In the Bronx, the biggest project is the redevelopment of the Lambert Houses, a $600 million initiative that will bring two elementary schools, a renovation of a local park, and $12.3 million in transit infrastructure improvements to the West Farms neighborhood. All units at the other Bronx developments, Morrisania's Melrose Commons and West Farms's Second Farms, will be completely rent-regulated. At East Harlem's Lexington Gardens, 20 percent of the units will be let for more than median rents, Politico reports. The complex, designed by Curtis + Ginsberg Architects and developed by L+M Development Partners and Tahl Propp Equities' Lexington Gardens, is a 400-unit development bounded by Park Avenue, East 108th Street, and East 107th Street. Retail, parking, and space for nonprofits will occupy a 15-story, 411,725-square-foot structure. The building is zoned for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), which ensures that units will remain permanently affordable. 20 percent of the Lexington Gardens apartments will be available to households making one-third of the area median income (AMI), which is $24,480 for a family of three, while an additional 30 percent will be offered to those making half of the AMI, or $40,800 for a three-person household. The full-block development portends residential construction elsewhere in the neighborhood: The pending East Harlem rezoning could bring 3,500 units to the area in the coming years.  
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An updated floodplain map may stop Water Street’s new developments in former POPS

Since the June approval of the controversial Water Street Upgrades Text Amendment, which opened up 110,000 square feet of underused, privately owned public space (POPS) for commercial use in exchange for community benefits, a snag has emerged: This same area is now included in the 2016 New York City Flood Insurance RateMaps (FIRMs) and developers will be held responsible for making sure new structures comply with the updated building requirements.

The Water Street Upgrades Text amendment applied to 17 buildings in the area enclosed by Pearl, South William, Fulton, South, and Whitehall streets. While opponents to the amendment believed it favored developers overmuch—it turns these POPS into more than 2.5 million square feet of potentially rentable space—it’s now looking less that way. In early October, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released new requirements for areas affected by flooding, expanding the number of areas needing flood insurance and requiring additional building specifications.

It is important to note that there are many areas in New York City, and in numerous other cities, that will be affected by the updated FIRMs—which have been in the works since 2008. The previous FIRMs were issued in 1983, and, over the past 36 years, the elevations identified as being in flood hazard zones have shifted across the UnitedStates. After receiving the new FIRMs, Mayor Bill de Blasio looked to the American Society of Civil Engineers, which develops the standards for many of New York City’s building and construction rules. The society recommended that New York City adopt the flood regulations issued by FEMA.

“The need for flood-proofing has been long understood,” said Jessica Lappin, president of the Alliance for Downtown New York. “What people are waiting on is clarity as to what the approved standards might be. Property owners along Water Street will make their own decisions about whether to take advantage of the changes once the impact of the regulations is clear. We do not think the costs of even the most demanding resiliency standards will deter anyone who believes the fundamentals of the plan make sense for them in the long term.”

Currently, the most obvious issue is how property owners will reconcile the new building requirement that storefronts must withstand floods as high as 12 feet with a previous law that specifies storefronts must also be made largely of glass. An easy solution would be to use aquarium glass—but the material’s high cost may deter developers from building. Might we suggest a new downtown aquarium?

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The future is unclear for the iconic One Chase Manhattan plaza as a proposal sees resistance

An ongoing fight over a storied Manhattan landmark proves that indeed, size does matter.

Fosun International, the Shanghai-based owner of lower Manhattan’s 28 Liberty Street (formerly One Chase Manhattan Plaza), has commissioned Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to revamp its own classic, 1960s International Style building and 2.5-acre plaza. Among its planned changes to the site, Fosun received Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) approval to build three glass pavilions on the landmarked plaza to serve as entrances to below-ground retail.

Although the commission approved the scheme, implementing changes at 28 Liberty requires an additional—and contentious—next step.

Fosun is seeking a modification of 28 Liberty’s deed restriction that would allow the pavilions to rise 11 to 17 feet above the highest points of the plaza, heights that far exceed the deed restriction’s stipulation that structures on the plaza shouldn’t be more than six feet tall.

SOM is updating the tower’s office space and plaza by reintroducing original details lost in prior renovations while transforming approximately 290,000 square feet of basement space into retail.

The developers maintain that the glass pavilions are a key part of the renovations. Fosun argues that the three pavilions will improve handicap accessibility to the stepped plaza as well as protect shoppers entering and exiting the retail spaces from inclement weather. The pavilions, along with glass storefronts along Liberty and William streets, are intended to activate street frontage and encourage more fluidity between indoor and outdoor, below-grade and street-level spaces of the plaza, and sidewalk and tower.

Although some later modifications imitate original conditions, all of the plaza’s elements are non-original aside from the Isamu Noguchi sunken garden. (The black-and-white Jean Dubuffet sculpture, installed 1971, was not included in the landmark designation.) The space is not a privately owned public space (POPS), but remains open to the public nonetheless.

Not all New Yorkers are thrilled with the changes. Some members of Community Board 1 (CB1), one of the city’s 59 local representative bodies, say the design and the deed restriction, although technically unrelated, cannot be considered independently from each other. They point to the scale of the pavilions as proof: According to plans filed with the Department of Buildings, the three proposed pavilions include a 17-foot-tall, 46-foot-long, 1,473-square-foot structure at the corner of Nassau and Liberty streets; another 16-foot-tall, 43-foot-long, 1,132-square-foot structure facing Pine Street; and a third 11-foot-tall, 18-foot-long, and 418-square-foot structure at Cedar Street.

The cubes’ sizes are not the only points of contention. Some residents think the architects’ renderings suggest the cubes are being rendered too transparently (a common offense in renderings), and that the built structures will impede sightlines on to the plaza, especially to the Dubuffet and Noguchi pieces.

“Depending on light and structural angles, a glass cube can be quite reflective. At most angles, glass cubes are pretty transparent, but they are not like a window, they’re totally going to interrupt the view,” said Michael Ludvik, glass engineer and founding principal of M. Ludvik Engineering.

SOM’s glass pavilions have been compared to the Apple Cube, which is not entirely accurate, Ludvik said. The Apple Cube is not made of anti-reflective glass, so when viewed from an angle, it can look almost opaque. To make the proposed pavilions as transparent as possible, he suggested using the thinnest and clearest glass available, along with appropriate fins, to minimize impact on clarity.

SOM could not be reached for comment on the glass choice, but a spokesperson for the developer explained that it is not far enough along in the process to have made a materials choice.

Alice Blank, an architect and resident who also serves on CB1’s board, asked why the design can’t be done differently, without the large pavilions that trigger the deed restriction modification: “I need to know, have all alternatives been considered before pavilions were added on top of the plaza? I need to know why the existing street-level entrances to the underground cannot be adapted.”

In July, a spokesperson for the developer issued a statement on the deed restriction modification to assuage concerns about the modification: “CB1 is voting on a MINOR MODIFICATION which would ONLY PERMIT THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE GLASS PAVILLIONS [sic] AS APPROVED BY THE LANDMARKS AND PRESERVATION COMMISSION [sic], AND NO OTHER CHANGES.  THERE IS NO CREATION OF ADDITIONAL RETAIL SPACE, AND NO CHANGE OF USE.”

Blank questioned the impact of the changes and the legacy they could set. “Development is important, but [a] violation of commitments to preserve open space for the public in perpetuity ought to be reviewed with extraordinary care in light of the compromise of the public interest. What would be next—Seagram, Lever House?”

Blank’s concerns mirror public outcry over the recent Rivington House scandal, in which the city lifted a deed restriction that mandated the property be used as a healthcare nonprofit, a move that allowed the owner to profit handsomely from the sale of the property. In response, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a series of reforms to the deed modification process that could impact the dealings at 28 Liberty in the near future. Faulting “a process that has failed to protect and preserve significant community assets, like Rivington House,” councilmember Margaret Chin, whose district includes 28 Liberty, along with Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer, favor a process that would make deed restriction changes subject to a rigorous public land use review.

Judgment day for the plaza is near if the city can agree on how, exactly, to process deed change requests. Right now, the mayor’s office is forging ahead with rules for the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) that would provide clear guidelines for changes to deeds.In parallel to the mayor’s office, sources tell AN the city council could vote soon on legislation that would create a more rigorous public review than the mayor’s rules. Although the board’s decision is purely advisory, in October CB1 voted in favor of council-led deed change reform.

UPDATE: Fosun decides not to build huge glass pavilions on landmarked plaza

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See the glowing winner of this year’s Flatiron holiday design competition

On a blustery night this week, local architects and members of the public came out to relax in hammocks in the middle of 5th Avenue for a festive holiday season kick-off. The hammocks, suspended on white powder-coated steel armatures, are part of Flatiron Sky-Line, this year's winning installation in a contest hosted jointly by the Van Alen Institute and the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District (BID). The Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition, now in its third year, asks architects to design a temporary structure for the traffic island at Broadway, 5th Avenue, and 23rd Street, adjacent to Madison Square and with the famous triangular building at its southern edge. LOT, the New York City– and Greece-based firm founded by Eleni Petaloti and Leonidas Trampoukis, won the invited competition to design a temporary interactive installation that anchors the Partnership's holiday programming. Ten connected arches with strategically-placed mesh hammocks, illuminated with inset LED lights, mirror the form of the Flatiron Building. “Flatiron Sky-Line creates a dynamic new social space underneath its illuminated arches. The structure invites visitors to walk within and around it, gaze through it toward the skyline, and experience the Flatiron District’s surroundings through a unique lens,” said Trampoukis. “The simplicity of the design draws in passersby and inspires them to savor this iconic intersection.” The installation is open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., as weather permits. See The Architect's Newspaper's coverage of the 2014 and 2015 winners here, and here.
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Brutalist Manhattan tower may be secret N.S.A. listening post

Local news sources, including The New York Times, are reporting that a 550-foot-tall windowless tower in Tribeca is being used as a "listening post code-named Titanpointe by the National Security Agency." The article was inspired by short film—dubbed Project X and first reported on by The Intercept_—that says Titanpointe was one of the facilities used to collect communications (with permission granted by judges) from international entities that have at least some operations in New York, such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, as well as 38 countries. Construction began in 1969, and by 1974, the skyscraper was completed. Today, it can be found in the heart of lower Manhattan as 33 Thomas Street, a vast gray tower of concrete and granite. The brutalist structure, still used by AT&T and, according to the New York Department of Finance, owned by the company, is like no other in the vicinity.
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A very ’70s artist’s loft is transformed into an elegant home for a growing Manhattan family

Except for the rarified homes of the rich and famous (or just plain rich), “spacious” is a relative term in New York real estate. Finding enough space for a growing family can be a challenge, so many choose to stay in place and maximize the square footage they have, any way they can.

For a loft on Jane Street, on a prime West Village corner, one family commissioned Architecture in Formation (AiF) to design a space that was warm, refined, and practical, and that took advantage of the 13-foot ceilings to compensate for comparatively little floor space.

”Before our renovation, the space was this classic hodgepodge 1970s artist’s studio that featured all the horrible tropes from that period,” said principal Matthew Bremer. The family needed room for more members, and once the ’70s touches were removed, the pre-war, former manufacturing building offered plenty of flexibility for a mutable layout with ample storage.

“The space is a celebration of storage and display, and articulates the positive relationship between the two—it’s 95 percent storage, five percent display,” Bremer said. The overall design stems from the white-accented arched living room window, which floods common areas with sunlight. Steel columns and beams are accented by raw brick and semi-industrial touches, like the dining room light switches, while teal counter-height chairs and a dark blue island add a subtle warmth that complements the lacquered cabinets. The family actually cooks (“unlike some of my Manhattan clients”) and entertains, so kitchen appliances and fixtures are top-of-the-line functionally, not just showpieces.

Taking advantage of the soaring ceilings, the architects were able to create a lofted mezzanine space—for sleeping, storage, or studying—above the bathrooms and closets that is accessed from a ship’s ladder in the master bedroom. The transition from public to private space is grounded by a pocket door between the master bedroom that allows the space to merge with the main living areas, if desired. At the ground level, the apartment is scaled to children, as well as four-legged family members—there are dog bowls built into the kitchen island. From every angle, the 1,500-square-foot home expresses coolness and subtle contrast in an extraordinary volume.

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Richard Meier, Rafael Viñoly, and KPF will each design a tower in this Manhattan development

Located between 61st Street and 59th Street, and next to the Henry Hudson Parkway, the newly-announced multi-tower "Waterline Square" development will stand among an interesting set of neighbors. On the other side of 61st Street is One Riverside Park of "poor door" infamy; across 59th street is the IRT Powerhouse, a massive Stanford White-designed steam production facility operated by ConEd (it was originally a subway power station). And just south of the IRT building—with its massive 240-foot-tall smokestack, the last of six originals—is Bjarke Ingles Group's hyperbolic paraboloid Via 57. Waterline Square—which is being developed by the Boston-based GID Development Group, owner of two nearby residential developments—will feature three glassy towers: One Waterline Square (Richard Meier and Partners Architects), Two Waterline Square (Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF)), and Three Waterline Square (Rafael Viñoly Architects). "Together, we are transforming one of the last remaining waterfront development sites on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, into a new, vibrant neighborhood," said James Linsley, president of GID Development Group, in a press release. Waterline Square will occupy the final large empty lot on Riverside Park South, which stretches from 72nd to 59th Street. The towers' luxury condominiums will be accompanied by "100,000 square feet of best-in-class sports, leisure, and lifestyle amenities, as well as a beautifully landscaped park and open spaces spanning nearly 3 acres," according to the press release. The new park will contain "a playground, fountains, and waterfalls." Construction actually began on Waterline Square in 2018 but this appears to be the first major release of the project's details and renderings. For more details, see the development's website here.
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All-black Richard Meier-designed tower starts construction in midtown Manhattan

When we saw the "Rare Albino Graves" proposal for Miami surface last year, one wonders if perhaps Richard Meier too had his eyes on bucking his own trademark color palette. The Pritzker Prize-winning architect did offer some explanation as to why his design for 685 First Avenue—his firm's tallest residential building in New York—dons a "Terminator-black" facade. “We asked ourselves, can formal ideas and the philosophy of lightness and transparency, the interplay of natural light and shadow with forms and spaces, be reinterpreted in the precise opposite—white being all colors and black the absence of color?” said Meier in a press release. “Our perspective continues to evolve, but our intuition and intention remain the same—to make architecture that evokes passion and emotion, lifts the spirit, and is executed perfectly." Developer Sheldon Solow has owned this site since the turn of the century, but plans have been a long time coming. Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) initially worked on a masterplan for the five-acre site in 2008 which involved an office block, six residential towers, and public parks. Some of that land had since been sold off by Solow and now construction has finally started on the site (initial exterior renders were revealed in May earlier this year). Back then, the Wall Street Journal was far from complimentary in describing Meier's work as “a plain rectangular slab." "The new building, except for its color, is vintage Meier inside and out, a polished specimen of neo-Modernist simplicity.” Sources close to AN also poured scorn: “A cheap lighter.” “Nice gap tooth.” “Looks like they hired no one to design it.” “Should have stuck to white.” The 556-unit tower will rise to approximately 460 feet (42 stories). 408 of these units will be available to rent while the remaining 148 will be condos. This programming is expressed through 685 First Avenue's facade with a double-height divider—emulative of a rogue Tetris piece—that can be found on the 27th floor. Above that gap is the project's 148 condos, of which 69 will provide balconies and views of Midtown Manhattan. Renders of these luxurious interiors can be seen in the gallery above. Along with the living units, amenities include specific rooms for games, yoga, work (on laptops/tablets), dining, as well as a children's play area and a 70-foot swimming pool and fitness center. These will be located on the building's second floor, while at ground level, residents at the public will have access to retail services.