In the shadow of the Empire State Building, the concrete frame of 855 Sixth Avenue has quietly risen to its full 500-foot height. Spanning the full western blockfront of Sixth Avenue between West 30th and 31st Streets, the 41-story mixed-use tower, designed by COOKFOX Architects and co-developed by the Durst Organization and Fetner Properties, is poised to bring 190,000 square feet of commercial space and 375 rentals to the southern fringe of Herald Square later this year.
While unremarkable in design and imperceptible in the city’s skyline, the building’s small claim to fame may be that its 152-meter (slightly under 500 feet) height is sometimes regarded as the benchmark figure for defining a skyscraper. Therefore, statistically, 855 Sixth could be considered the shortest skyscraper in New York. Huzzah!
The bare concrete and steel skeleton of 855 Sixth Avenue. The lower commercial levels are framed in steel to provide open and more flexible spaces. © 6sqft
According to a required zoning diagram submitted to the New York City Department of Buildings by the architects of record, SLCE, 855 Sixth is 499.32 feet tall, just cracking the 152-meter cutoff, and tying it for the city’s shortest with the equally anonymous 650 Fifth Avenue. To make this “achievement” even more meaningless, the 152-meter standard isn’t universal. The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), a global authority in defining criteria and gathering statistics on high-rises, uses the 150-meter mark (492 feet) as the manageable cutoff for providing accurate data on skyscrapers.
Nevertheless, we’ll use 855 Sixth’s height as a measuring stick to compare against a time when building beyond 500 feet was considered noteworthy. According to data from CTBUH, in 1950 only 61 buildings 500-feet or higher existed worldwide, 85 percent of which were in New York and Chicago, with only one located outside the United States. Today there are roughly 3,200 such towers worldwide, with only 20 percent within the Unites States. New York currently has 223 buildings above the figure, trailing only to Hong Kong which leads the world with 303 such towers. Furthermore, as we all should know, New York is experiencing an unprecedented high-rise boom with 44 skyscrapers in some form of construction underway, and another 108 on the drawing boards by our latest count.
855 Sixth Avenue‘s site is at the northern end of the city’s former Flower District, an area that has seen significant high-rise apartment and hotel development over the past 15 years. Its growth spurt was facilitated by a 1995 rezoning spanning both sides of Sixth Avenue from 23rd Street to 31st Street. The diminished flower market, which has flourished in the neighborhood since the 1890’s, has mostly been relegated to 28th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenue.
The cleared construction site of 855 Sixth in 2012 from the 86th floor observatory of the Empire State Building © Joey Johanssen
Like many developments in the city with superlative titles, 855 Sixth has endured a musical chairs game of developers, lawsuits, foreclosures and re-designs. The majority of the development site consisted of seven low-slung buildings and a parking lot purchased in 2006 by Baruch Singer’s Herald Square Development for $117.5 miilion. In March 2007, Tessler Developments and the Chetrit Group purchased the site for $140 million, according to The New York Observer, and unveiled plans for a faceted 40-story mixed use tower designed by Costas Kondylis & Partners.
Upon the collapse of the market in 2008, the Tessler/Chetrit team defaulted on their iStar Financial loan and the site was picked up by Durst Fetner Residential. In 2011, the Wall Street Journal uncovered that the team would build a 56-story tower designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli and Cook + Fox, anchored by a 250-room Ian Schrager-operated hotel to be called the Public New York.
The hotel deal collapsed in 2012, citing that the Schrager/Durst-Fetner partnership “couldn’t make the financials of the deal work.” Durst-Fetner realigned the project to its current configuration consisting of a commercial base containing 120,000 square feet of office space and 70,000 square feet of retail, as well as a setback rental tower spanning floors 8 through 40. Separate entrances, lobbies, and elevators are provided for residential and commercial tenants. The commercial podium’s roof will serve as a terrace to office tenants, and The Post recently reported that Nike has expressed some interest in leasing roughly 100,000 square feet of office space.
The 375-unit rental tower is deeply set back from Sixth Avenue, allowing it to capture southern views past the neighboring Beatrice/Eventi Hotel tower. The 41st floor will feature a media room, children’s playroom, party room, residents’ lounge, and a roof deck capturing close-up views of the Empire State Building and skyline. A swimming pool and basketball court are also provided.
Stay up to date on future rental listings at 855 Sixth Avenue at CityRealty
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Renderings via COOKFOX:
Construction via 6sqft:
Neighborhoods : Midtown West