Rendering courtesy of Richard Meier & Partners / Solow / BloomImages
Across the street from Richard Meier’s nearly-complete new black glassy-facaded condo/rental tower at 685 First Avenue (known as 685 First), between First Avenue and the East River, a boarded-up construction site has remained quiet for the better part of a decade. Now, Curbed reports, the site’s developer, Solow Building Company, headed by Sheldon H. Solow, 89, and son Stefan Soloviev, confirms the site’s awakening and imminent transformation into three condominium buildings and a fourth building, to be a biotech office, using the 2012 master plan penned by Meier’s architecture firm.
From Richard Meier & Partners’ East River Master Plan, the East Side site and 685 First Avenue across the street. Drawing: Richard Meier & Partners
What we know so far: Solow purchased the 30,000-square-foot site from Con Ed in 2000. Richard Meier & Partners won a bid to create the site’s master plan in 2008. The southernmost portion of the site at East 35th Street was sold to JDS Development Group in 2013 for $127 million; the rental towers known as the American Copper Buildings have since risen there.
The most recent information comes via a New York Times profile on the expanding partnership between the elder developer and his 42-year-old son, who uses the family’s pre-Ellis Island surname. According to Soloviev, the three new residential buildings to rise just south of the United Nations will also be condos. A fourth building on Meier’s master plan will be an office tower for biotech companies. Among the reasons for the project’s halted progress was the last recession, which resulted in the sale of two nearby parcels including the aforementioned sale to JDS.
Soloviev, who doesn’t exactly fit the mold of a New York City developer, has 15 children by several women scattered about the country. He commutes home for dinner by helicopter but drives a Dodge Ram truck. He has spent the last several years in cattle and other agriculture ventures out west. And he responds personally to disparaging reader comments in the Times’ recent profile on his growing role in the family business.
With that business, Mr. Soloviev has had his hands full from the get-go, as the black-clad tower (and its aforementioned nascent neighbors) have already had their share of obstacles befitting a billionaire’s Manhattan project. Litigation involving a longtime retail tenant has stalled progress on another project. And the newest wrinkle: Richard Meier’s recently unearthed history of unsavory behavior towards female employees and associates.
Soloviev, who now lives mostly in East Hampton and told the Times, “I say no to everybody. I do things my way, and sometimes it’s not that popular,” seems undaunted by the challenges of being a big-ticket New York City developer. He handled the scandal with a dose of distance: “Disappointment and anger were my reactions. I didn’t see it coming. But his firm did their job and gave us a beautiful building.” Apartments at 685 First have been on the market since March.
In addition to the East Side site, projects on deck for the developers include several additional condos, including a 16-unit building under construction at 7 West 57th Street. Across the street from that building is a planned hotel-condo combo–the one currently embroiled in litigation with a retail tenant holdout in a building headed for demolition–at 10 West 57th Street, a prime location opposite Bergdorf Goodman.
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