An “oversized Silicon Alley” is what some are calling Mayor de Blasio’s plan to transform Union Square and its southern stretches into the city’s next tech hub. The main component so far is the massive Union Square Tech Hub proposed to replace the P.C. Richard & Son building on East 14th Street, but Councilwoman Rosie Mendez and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation are advocating that, in exchange for the building, the city rezone the surrounding blocks to prevent an influx of out-of-scale development. Despite their oppositions, CetraRuddy has revealed on their site two environmentally friendly proposals for the site at 799 Broadway, the former home of the St. Denis Hotel at the southwest corner of East 11th Street. Spotted by CityRealty, the 240-foot, 17-story office building would be the first catering to the Mayor’s tech dreams, though the renderings are merely conceptual at this point.
L to R: 21 East 12th Street; 34 East 13th Street; 809 Broadway; 827 Broadway
The new building won’t be the first tall, glassy structure nearby: In addition to the Tech Hub (dubbed 14th @Irving), already underway are Annabelle Selldorf’s Bowlmor Lanes-replacing condo at 21 East 12th Street, which will rise 22 stories; Morris Adjmi’s adjacent seven-story condo at 34 East 13th Street; ODA’s 15-story mixed-use building replacing Blatt Billiards at 809 Broadway; and a 14-story commercial building across from the Strand bookstore at 827 Broadway. Adjmi’s building aside, they’ll all rise between 200 and 300 feet, much taller than the proposed 95- to 145-foot height cap that Mendez and GVSHP are proposing. There’s also the Fumihiko Maki-designed 51 Astor Place, where IBM Watson is headquartered. Similarly, Facebook, Twitter, and AOL have offices in the neighborhood.
On their project page, CetraRuddy says that they’ve developed two 178,000-square-foot concepts for the site at 799 Broadway, which move “beyond utilitarian concerns to create an office environment that addresses mental and physical well-being and employs environmentally responsive design solutions.” This includes “a long south facade exposure, allowing an abundance of natural light;” shading devices on the facades; several garden terraces; a green roof to reduce heat gain and storm water runoff; and a public plaza along Broadway laid with permeable pavement.
As CityRealty explains, concept A has “a more conservative pinstriped facade and traditional setbacks,” while concept B “is more cutting-edge with a sloping form and transitioning window openings.”
The current site
It was reported in May that Normandy Real Estate Partners was in contract to buy the St. Denis Hotel site for $100 million (the building was famously where Ulysses S. Grant wrote his post-Civil War memoirs and where Alexander Graham Bell first showcased the telephone in New York). As previously stated, CetraRuddy’s plans are merely conceptual at this point, as the project would have to wind its way through various community and city review processes, which will likely be met with much opposition.
Mayor de Blasio, however, seems adamant on pushing through his Silicon Alley dreams. When critics spoke out against the Tech Hub his spokesperson fired back, saying its purpose is “to provide a gateway for real New Yorkers—kids from our high schools, public housing and immigrant communities—to get training and a good paying job in tech. It is disappointing certain groups would use that project as a pawn to change unrelated zoning blocks away.”
GVSHP’s executive director Andrew Berman said in a statement regarding the proposed designs, “While offices for the Tech industry may well be an important part of the city’s future, residential neighborhoods like Greenwich Village and the East Village are not where they belong. It’s one thing for the Mayor to propose a Tech Hub on Union Square or 14th Street; it’s another for him to allow 200- and 300-foot office towers to rise in a predominantly lower-scale, residential neighborhood. This only adds urgency to the campaign to protect this area.”
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Renderings via CetraRuddy; Aerial views via CityRealty