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SHoP's Revised, Shorter South Street Seaport Tower, Revealed!

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Last night, developer Howard Hughes Corporation presented 300 slides worth of information to community members, all about the revised version of the neighbor-hated residential tower they want to build along the waterfront beside Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport. In short, their concessions—mainly, to shorten the building by 10 stories, but also to build a middle school and a waterfront esplanade—were simply not sufficient to satisfy community members or elected officials. This morning, at SHoP Architects' offices in the Woolworth Building, Howard Hughes and the design team unveiled renderings and a model of the new proposed design, showcasing the now-42-story structure, which striated and narrows slightly as it rises.

The presentation expanded on what was revealed to the Seaport Working Group last night, and, obviously, gave Howard Hughes executives and SHoP an opportunity to defend the new design after local officials strongly criticized it. The new proposal still needs to go through the Landmarks Preservation Commission (at least parts of it will), and a full Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, so what is shown here could still change.

↑ There are a lot of moving parts in the plan, so let's start with the Tin Building. As the plan stands, the historic structure will be moved 30 feet to be able to raise it out of the flood plain; if the structure was raised in its current footprint, it would hit the FDR Drive. It will be completely reconstructed, with an additional floor, and it will be home to a "phenomenal food hall," according to SHoP Partner Gregg Pasquarelli. Moving the building back also allows for a larger plaza in front of the building that will connect with the East River Esplanade.

Pasquarelli said that because of a fire in 1995, very few historic elements actually remain in the building, but when they catalogued the building, they found paint samples, so the colors match what was original when the building went up in 1906. The cost of work on the Tin Building is about $54 million, which is part of the $171 million in private funding that Howard Hughes will put into the site.

Under the FDR (on the left of the above rendering), there will be retail pavilions, and SHoP wants to hang a lighting system off of the overpass to illuminate the space at night and make it a place that people would actually consider spending time.

↑ Moving the Tin Building back also allows for the East River Esplanade to seamlessly connect from the north and south. Currently, the Tin Building essentially cuts off the pedestrian and bike paths. This rendering also shows the plans for expanded public space around Pier 17. James Corner Field Operations is designing the open space, which includes a 20-foot wide waterfront pathway around the perimeter of the site, so Pasquarelli says it will be of "High Line-level" quality.

The plan also calls for extending Fulton and Beekman Streets to connect Pier 17 and the Tin Building with the street grid. "Real New York City blocks have cars and taxis and everyone all jostling together," said Pasquarelli.

↑ Now for the tower. The height has been chopped by 156 feet, from 650 feet to 494 feet, and from 52 to 42 stories. Pasquarelli said they thought hard "about what kind of building should go on a pier," noting out that stone and masonry would not work since more lightweight materials are needed—think glass, zinc, and possibly some wood. The design team drew inspiration from the historic ships, and the angles in the tower—"elegant cuts that slot back and forth to break up the building"—are meant to be shaped like sails.

The tower is the main point of contention for the local opposition. Pasquarelli was quick to note, "We know it's a tall building," but then pointed out the ways in which they've tried to mitigate its largeness. They turned the building so the slender side faces Manhattan, and overall, they built taller and thinner rather than shorter and wider, which is what the site's zoning allows for as of right. Howard Hughes' CEO David Weinreb chimed in to say that the tower is "half the height of most new buildings going up in Lower Manhattan."

But the tower wasn't only opposed because of its height; it will also replace the New Market Building, which many opponents feel is a historic structure that should be preserved. However, preservation attempts have failed in the past—the building, where the Fulton Fish Market used to operate, sits outside of the historic district—and the team today highlight that the structure is in really terrible shape. It also sits on a century-old pier that is sinking into the East River and is beyond repair. Howard Hughes will invest $64 million to rebuild the pier to support the new building.

Pasquarelli and Weinreb stressed that this is the only place within the entire Seaport site where they can create a "revenue-generating element." When asked about the possibility of taking the FAR and building elsewhere, Weinreb and co. said there is "no viable alternative site," but at this point, they are not ruling out anything.

As the tower would be literally right on the water, the building's ground floor is raised above the 100-year flood plain and the mechanicals are all on higher floors. Pasquarelli said that if a 500 year floor came through, it would still be fine. The smaller building at the base of the tower will be a new 71,000-square-foot middle school. The proposal's community space could potentially be located here, or at a new building on John Street and Schermerhorn Row.

The number of units has not yet been determined, but it will be anywhere from 150 to 180, with about 30 percent of those being affordable. The affordable units will be offsite on Schermerhorn Row, in a new building, as well as a few restored buildings.

During last night's meeting, the community was downright outraged when it was revealed that the affordable housing would not be in the tower. But Pasquarelli was adamant that this "is no poor door," but rather an "exquisite 18th century door." He said it will be "some of the nicest affordable housing" in the city, and compared them to the COOKFOX condos that sit on the same block. Renderings in the presentation (which were not sent out with the tower/Tin Building renderings) showed the infill building, which will rise on the corner of John Street, as a contextual brick building that fit well with the historic rowhouses.

Weinreb said the affordable units will have their own amenity package, separate from the tower. The tower model shows an outdoor amenity deck with a pool, which would be exclusive to the tower.

The proposal still includes a marina, and it includes several possible routes for saving the Seaport Museum and the historic ships. The museum could find space on Schermerhorn Row, or a new building could be constructed on Pier 16, so the museum and ships were right beside each other. Howard Hughes and the museum have not entered any kind of official agreement, but Weinreb said he believes the museum is committed.

↑ For comparison's sake, here is the old design. Everything that was presented today still has a long road to reality. Everything but the tower needs to earn the approval of the Landmarks Preservation Commission since its all within the historic district, and the whole shebang needs to go through a full Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. Howard Hughes expects to go before the local community board's preservation committee on December 10 and the LPC in January 2015. The plan should be certified for the seven-month public review period by spring, which puts a possible construction start date sometime in 2016, the same year that the new Pier 17 will open.
· Neighbors: A Shorter South Street Seaport Tower Isn't Enough [Curbed]
· Uncertainty Surrounds Plans For 50-Story Seaport Tower [Curbed]
· Neighbors Deliver Feedback On Seaport Progress, Hated Tower [Curbed]
· All South Street Seaport coverage [Curbed]

Pier 17

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