The developers of the new super-tall residential tower at the corner of Greenwich and Thames Streets in the Financial District are hinting (but not confirming) that the building will top out at more than 1,000 feet. This would make it taller than the adjacent Four World Trade Center (at 150 Greenwich Street), which tops out at 977 feet. The comparative heights of the two buildings are strongly implied by sketches recently released by the project’s architect, Raphael Vinoly, which show the 125 Greenwich tower reaching a height approximately ten stories (or more than 100 feet) above Four World Trade Center, from a perspective that would make the buildings directly comparable.
Such a position is contradicted by two other indications from the developer (a partnership led by builder Michael Shvo): the most recent filings for the project with the City’s Department of Buildings (DOB), which date from October, 2015, say that it will rise to 841 feet. That height, in turn, is belied by the developer’s original proposal, for a tower that would have risen 1,358 feet — which would have made its roof just 10 feet shorter than that of One World Trade Center (the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere).
These changes may be part of an elaborate game that developers often play with the public and local community leaders, by initially proposing a building size sure to inspire opposition, then scaling back the plan (which causes criticism to subside), then enlarging it once again, albeit to less than the dimensions originally proposed — which gives the final outcome the appearance of a compromise.
The DOB documents specifying a height of 841 feet are official, but less than conclusive, because a developer is always free to amend such paperwork while building work is ongoing. (In this case, the foundation for the new structure has been laid, but construction of the tower has not yet started.) For most projects, such amended documents would amount to a request to be allowed to build higher, which would be subject to legal and zoning review. In this case, however, through a quirk in the City’s zoning code, there is no height restriction for the 125 Greenwich site. Although other regulations, such as the maximum square footage as a multiple of the building’s “footprint” might effectively limit how high it will rise, Mr. Shvo and his partners could theoretically put up a building of any height that engineers and bankers are willing to approve.
It is possible that the new sketches showing a 1,000-foot-plus tower at 125 Greenwich Street are the third step in this process, scaling the project back up from 841 feet, but still keeping it short of the originally proposed height of more than a quarter of a mile.
The site at 125 Greenwich was purchased by Mr. Shvo and his partners in 2014 for $180 million, from the development team of Fisher Brothers and Steven Witkoff, who had bought the plot for $87 million in 2012. The current developers plan to create 275 condominium apartments and 16,000 square feet of retail space in the new building.
Before the previous owners bought the site, 125 Greenwich was home to a ten-story Romanesque revival building that housed Western Electric, the manufacturing arm of American Telephone & Telegraph, which used the building as a factory to build telephone equipment. This building was opened in 1889. Although local leaders tried in 2012 to persuade the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to grant the structure protected status, it was demolished the following year.