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Developer Has Big Plans For 57th Street, But Are They BIG?

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On Friday we dabbled in the Durst Organization's plans for the far west end of 57th Street, where a big empty lot and an old neon sign factory surrounded by glassy new apartment towers are set to be replaced by...a five-story office building. As Curbed commenters were quick to point it, this made absolutely no sense, especially since a previous proposal for the site included a massive high-rise. But that's what the Durst family applied for at Twelfth Avenue and 57th Street through the Department of Buildings, and that was the story?until the Observer's Matt Chaban did some more digging and felt that the five-story thing is just an as-of-right placeholder for something bigger. Maybe even BIGger.

As we mentioned last week, the building's Schedule A form shows parking for 538 cars and 250 bikes. That's a lot of vehicles for just a few floors of offices. Not to mention that the site is in a corner of town where residential buildings are sprouting like weeds, including the 38-story Helena, a luxury rental right next door built by, wait for it, the Durst Organization. The smart money is on this site going the same route, but what's with the secrecy? As the Observer pointed out, the site is zoned commercial. The Dursts got a rezoning to build the Helena, and we're guessing they'll try to do the same here, but City Planning tells us no application has been filed yet. Speculation time!

City Planning boss Amanda Burden loves her some foreign starchitects, which helped get other zoning variances approved?like Christian de Portzamparc's Riverside Center a few blocks north, and (most of) Jean Nouvel's Tower Verre. Could the Dursts be working behind the scenes with City Planning to come up with something flashy for this remote part of Hell's Kitchen? SLCE Architects was listed on the latest permit, but one Curbed commenter wrote, "I have a secret about this site I can't share but I can promise SLCE is only the executive architect. You're going to be in for a rather pleasant surprise."

Well here's a rather pleasant guess. Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, the young former protégé of Rem Koolhaas who heads up white-hot international firm BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group), is opening a New York office and working on a top-secret high-rise condo in Manhattan, which he told an interviewer would be "a new hybrid that combines the classical New York high-rise and the traditional European block, with a courtyard in the middle." Sounds just flashy enough, no?

UPDATE: Forget all that speculation! As a commenter below points out, here is an online graphic novella in which, no joke, Ingels goes to New York, parties in the Boom Boom Room, meets with Amanda Burden, reveals the location of his secret project and unveils the zany vision seen below. It's sloping green roof time, y'all!

DOUBLE UPDATE: Faced with the undeniable awesomeness of the Bjarke Ingels comic, the Durst Organization now tells the Observer that the architect is indeed working on an 80/20 residential building for the company.
· Bjarke Ingels Group [big.dk]
· Does Durst Have Big Plans on 57th Street? [NYO]
· No More Teachers, No More Books at Hell's Kitchen Durst Site [Curbed]

625 W 57th St

625 West 57th Street, Manhattan, NY 10019