Loophole Allows Developers to Build ‘Skyscrapers on Stilts’ to Give Residents Ocean Views

Posted On Mon, January 18, 2016 By

Posted On Mon, January 18, 2016 By In Architecture, Policy

Image by CityRealty

There has been plenty of heated discussion over the city’s latest supertall towers such as 432 Park Avenue111 West 57th Street, and 225 West 57th Street; they block light, alter the skyline and cast long shadows, for example. To add fuel to the fire, Crain’s reports today on a recent discovery in developers’ attempts to construct the tallest towers possible–with views above 700 feet that not only stretch south over Manhattan, but reach to the open Atlantic Ocean 14 miles in the distance.

Currently, regulations govern how many square feet of livable space can be built on a development plot, which limits the height to which residential towers can rise. But rather than squandering those square feet on lower, less-in-demand floors, developers are vertically expanding the mechanical spaces used in their buildings–which don’t count toward the square footage allotment. This allows them to start their apartments higher up, essentially “putting a skyscraper on stilts.”

Mechanical space doesn’t count toward zoning floor area, so developers can employ it in neighborhoods with no height limits without having to deduct it from buildable residential space, though it’s closely scrutinized by the Department of Buildings and must actually function as mechanical equipment.

It’s an approach that was used by developer Joseph Beninati, whose firm Bauhouse Group is behind the 900-foot-tall Norman Foster-designed luxury condo tower slated for 428-432 East 58th Street in Sutton Place. It will be the city’s first to offer ocean views, a feature that “captured the imagination of prospective millionaire buyers,” making pricing of over $4,000 per square foot a possibility.

Some developers say the vast space to house mechanicals is necessary: Arthur Zeckendorf–who currently has a 780-foot spire at 520 Park Avenue in the works–told Crains that they’re needed to sustain the “complex systems of high-end, modern buildings.” There will be six mechanical levels in his tower, each about 20 feet high–adding 120 feet–a 15 percent height boost–to the structure.

[Via Crains]

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