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NYU unveils massive Mercer Street student hub

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The 735,000-square-foot building will include student and faculty housing, performance spaces, and classrooms

A rendering of a city block with many tall buildings.
The new facility will rise on the corner of Houston and Mercer streets.
Illustrations by studioAMD

New York University has finally unveiled the 23-story multi-use facility that will replace its monolithic Coles Sports Center at the corner of Houston and Mercer streets. The Davis Brody Bond with KieranTimberlake-designed building will give way to 60 new classrooms, performance space, freshman and faculty housing, university common space, and gym facilities.

The design unveiling for 181 Mercer Street has been a long time coming. The City Council gave its approval to the project way back in 2012, and demolition started on Coles Sports Center in October, around the same time that the university filed plans for the 735,000-square-foot structure.

The faceted glass building looks like many glass buildings smooshed together, and in a sense it kind of is. The facility will become NYU’s largest classroom building, adding nearly 60 new classrooms as well as slate of arts-oriented spaces including 50 practice rooms, 20 group and individual music instruction rooms, a 350-seat proscenium theatre, an orchestral ensemble room, and 10 multi-use practice rooms for performing arts classes.

And that’s just the new academic space. The building will also include housing for about 420 freshman, 30 to 60 faculty apartments—the building will border the NYU faculty housing at I.M. Pei’s University Village—and a slew of common areas for students, faculty, and even university neighbors. A community facility will also be built into the building. No word on the dog run that the building will replace. (Update: An NYU rep confirms that the dog run moved just west of 181 Mercer.)

The building will also house an athletics facility with four basketball courts, a six-lane lap pool, and areas for wrestling, fencing, squash, and other fitness activities. The gym can also double as assembly space for up to 2,700 people.

Surprisingly, the Swiss Army Knife of buildings doesn’t come close to maxing out what could be built at the site according to zoning laws. The university notes that the facility consumed 20-percent less gross square footage than permitted under the city approvals process.

The building will include common space for students and faculty.

As for the exterior appearance, the building “also consciously seeks to reverse the monolithic, opaque character of its predecessor, Coles Sports Center, and to make Mercer St and the corners at Bleecker and Houston Streets more lively, active, and inviting.”

A new pedestrian walkway will run between the building and University Village in an extension of Greene Street. Construction is slated to begin in February 2017, and wrap up in 2021. An official ribbon-cutting ceremony will happen in the Spring, during which the university will formally announce an anonymous nine-figure gift—meaning anything between $100 million and $999 million—for the creation of the building.