In the years to come, Lower Manhattan may become a thicket of “super-tall” apartment buildings, if present trends continue. The local movement toward the stratosphere began in 2008, when developer Forest City Ratner began construction of the 76-story tower at Eight Spruce Street. Now known as New York by Gehry, for its star architect, Frank Gehry, this building is 870 feet tall. The trend continued in 2013 when developer Larry Silverstein broke ground on 30 Park Place, an 82-story spire at the corner of Church Street and Park Place that is slated to open this year. This tower, which will be 937 tall and contain 157 apartments, dwarfs the adjacent Woolworth Building, once the world’s tallest. It is perhaps unsurprising that 30 Park Place is slated to be Lower Manhattan’s tallest residential building. What may be surprising is that it won’t hold this title for very long.
In the Financial District, developer Michael Shvo is currently erecting a super-tall building at 125 Greenwich Street (between Cedar and Thames Streets), on a minuscule plot of just 9,000 square feet. Although specific details about the building’s design are being withheld, several filings with the City’s Department of Building’s and the office of State Attorney General indicate that it will likely top 1,000 feet, and contain approximately 300 apartments.
The tower proposed for 125 Greenwich Street is likely to be more than 1,000 feet tall, and contain approximately 300 apartments.
Mr. Shvo and his partners were originally considering a tower 1,356 feet tall, which would have made its roof just 12 feet shorter than that of One World Trade Center. Through a legal quirk in the City’s zoning code, there is no height restriction for this 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, the developer could theoretically put up a building of any height that engineers and bankers are willing to approve.
Elsewhere in the Financial District, developers are finalizing plans for a 86-floor residential tower at 45 Broad Street (between Beaver Street and Exchange Place), which will top out at more than 1,100 feet and contain at least 245 apartments. And Trinity Place Holdings (which owns the site of the former Syms discount clothing store, between Greenwich Street and Trinity Place, south of Rector Street) is planning a tower for 77 Greenwich, which multiple published reports say could rise at least 80 stories, with an overall height of more than 1,000 feet. A spokesman for the company says, however, “the height will be closer to 500 feet.” No determination has yet been made as to how many apartments this building will hold. Steps away from the Syms site, the new tower at 50 West Street, which is slated to open in a few months, has risen to 63 stories, with an overall height of 784 feet. Even with 191 apartments, this building stacks up as a comparative runt alongside its more recent peers.
In Tribeca, at 111 Murray Street (on the corner of West Street), developers the Witkoff Group and the Fisher Brothers have broken ground on a 62-story apartment tower that will rise 822 feet, and contain 139 residences. And the soon-to-open 56 Leonard Street stands 821 feet tall, with 60 floors and 145 apartments.
The building planned for 45 Park Place is slated to rise 70 stories, or 667 feet.
At the site for which a controversial Islamic Cultural Center was once planned, a 70-story (667 foot) condominium tower will soon rise, if developer Sharif El-Gamal has his way. His company, Soho Properties, has already demolished the former structure at 45 Park Place (between West Broadway and Church Street), a long-shuttered Burlington Coat Factory store, and begun excavation for the new tower, which it hopes to open in late-2017. The number of apartments this building will house has not been announced.
While the local trend toward super-tall buildings is a glamorous attestation to Lower Manhattan’s booming real estate market, and the area’s resurgence after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, it also raises questions. For the people who will live in these buildings, quality of life may open to conjecture. In many cases, super-tall also means ultra-thin. And slender buildings necessarily have fewer and smaller elevators (relative to their overall size) than Lower Manhattan buildings that were erected a generation ago. Many Downtown residents who live in buildings that are less than half the height of the new towers listed here, but have large enough base areas to accommodate many more elevators, still complain about having to wait ten minutes or more to reach their lobbies during the morning rush. This problem appears likely to be compounded for residents of narrow buildings whose tops disappear into the clouds.
For the people who will live alongside these towers, the questions are even more troubling. Lower Manhattan’s civic infrastructure, which mostly dates from the late-nineteenth century, is already taxed to its limit by the area’s swelling population. The total number of new households for the subset of projects mentioned here that have also announced how many apartments they will contain comes to 1,177 new homes in Lower Manhattan. Whether the capacity to deliver services like transportation, police protection, healthcare, and (above all) education can be stretched to encompass a population that appears likely to grow by many thousands in a few short years is, at best, uncertain.