Friday, December 14, 2012

Extell Development Thinking Tall. Very Tall

Extell Development, Manhattan's most prolific developer, is planning a new skyscraper that will rise 300 feet higher than the Empire State Building - and if One WTC did not have a spire, it would easily top that as well. Extell has tapped architects Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill - designers of the world's tallest tower, the 2,717-foot Burj Khalifa in Dubai - to design a 1,550-foot apartment tower atop the city's first Nordstrom department store at 225 West 57th Street. 

Gary Barnett is gearing up to build one of the tallest towers in the city, one that would offer sweeping views of Central Park a block to the north.

The company is aiming high: filing a permit application to build a 1,550-foot tower on the site just east of Broadway between 57th and 58th streets.

The 88-story building at 225 West 57th Street will be just up the street from Extell's One57.

Demolition work at the site is already underway, but a true groundbreaking is still a ways off, as Extell still needs to secure construction financing for the project. [see ElectricWeb | Blogger, April 2, 2012]

Nevertheless, Mr. Barnett said, "It's going to be a very tall building."

Plans for the building are moving forward at a time that a new type of skyscraper is beginning to emerge on the Manhattan skyline.

For decades, office towers accounted for most of the towers built more than 600 feet high, while top residential apartments were generally found in Upper East Side cooperatives.

But now a handful of developers are building very tall, slender luxury residential towers, betting that the wealthy will pay for great views.

Extell, currently one of the city's most prolific developers, has been on the vanguard of this change.

A few blocks east of the Nordstrom tower site on 57th Street, the company is building One57, a 1,004-foot tower. Mr. Barnett has said two buyers have agreed to pay more than $95 million each, for two penthouse apartments there, which would be a record price.

On 57th Street and Park Avenue, CIM Group is building a 1420-foot condominium tower with a waffle-like exterior.

As with all skyscrapers, it's the economics that makes them possible - and it is a strong market. Moreover, In Manhattan particularly, people are willing to pay a great deal—millions and tens of millions of dollars for apartments in the sky. There is a huge market for that.

If Extell's latest project does reach 1,550 feet, it is not exactly clear how it would officially rank among the city's tallest buildings.

The developer building One World Trade Center, formerly known as the Freedom Tower, has put that structure's height at 1,776 feet, which would make it the city's tallest building - but that height includes the building's 408-foot mast. Its owners say the mast is an architectural element and should be considered toward its height, but others may consider it simply an antenna, given that an architectural shell around the mast was stripped from the design during the development.

The Council on Tall Buildings is the arbiter, but is not set to rule until after One World Trade Center is complete in 2014. If the mast were not included, it would be significantly shorter than the 1,550 feet being eyed by Mr. Barnett.

Extell chose Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture for the 57th Street tower after considering a number of avant-garde architects for the project. Those included Swiss designers Herzog & de Meuron, and New York-based SHoP Architects, the designers of the new Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn.

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture was recently tapped to design the Equinox Tower as part of Related's Hudson Yards development.

Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill  were the designers of the 2,717-foot Burj Khalifa in Dubai - the world's tallest tower - when they worked at Skidmore Owings & Merill.

This summer, Extell secured a commitment from Seattle-based Nordstrom to build its first New York City location—a 285,000-square-foot store—on the site, and Nordstrom recommended the Chicago-based design firm. [see ElectricWeb | Blogger, June 29, 2012]

Blake Nordstrom believes the architectural firm shares its vision for a top-quality design for the building, which is scheduled to open in 2018.

We want to have our best Nordstrom store in the best retail city in the world," Mr. Johnson said. "That means being part of a building that we hope will become an iconic part of the Manhattan landscape."

Nordstrom would be in the base of the building. The building permit application calls for a hotel above the Nordstrom store, between floors seven and 12, while apartments and mechanical equipment would account for the remainder up to the top, 88th floor.

One challenge for Extell may come from a rival development firm with similar plans. Just one block to the north at 220 Central Park South, Vornado Realty Trust is planning to build a condominium tower that could obstruct many views from Extell's building and the two have been battling behind the scenes.

Mr. Barnett, however, has an Ace-in-the-Hole. He controls the lease to a parking garage at the site that runs until 2018 with the option renew, thus having the ability to block Vornado from doing any building.