Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New Building on Columbia - continued

We've received two comments on our earlier post about the proposed new building on Columbia Street (see below).  A clarification of the criticism of the original post is in order:  nowhere is it indicated that the new building should be designed using a traditional or historic vocabulary.  The Waterfront District is indeed a 'mixed bag' of styles (as are most New York neighborhoods, actually) and of course contemporary design can coexist successfully with historic buildings.

The problem with Loading Dock 5's project is just that it is not very good, not that it is 'contemporary'.  And being 'green' does not compensate for clumsiness.  Unfortunately one can't refer to it any longer.  That the image of the building was removed from their website indicates that either they or their client was not happy about it being seen by the public.  Why would that be, if the designers and the developer were confident of their work? 

I am encouraged that there is some discussion about this project! I hope that others, plus the developer and designers (with plans and images, hopefully) join in: we'd love to see a lively exchange about this: it would help all of us clarify what kind of city we hope to live in and signal our expectations to the inevitable future developers.


  1. Thank you for clarifying your critique of the building design. I made my assumption based on what you wrote about the design and how it "unfortunately resembles many of the mediocre contemporary infill buildings". I interpreted that as a general bias against modern design, so I'm glad to hear otherwise. Can't wait to see some renderings of it in the near future!

  2. Glad to see this posting.
    As a local resident and architect, I can tell you the application for this building has been filed and zoning is still disapproved as of yet.

    As it is now though, the 3 merged buildings (which includes a larger than normal middle lot that snakes into the backyards of other buildings on Summit / President) will allow for almost 20,000 sf of residential square footage. What does this mean, well simply, 7 stories tall at a height of 70 feet tall by the 60 feet wide and who knows how far into the back since they are doing a conversion. There is a required setback at 60 ft (6 stories) as well. If you're looking for scale, then peer just south a block to that nasty 70's brown building (with the Stumptown office at the commercial 1st level) with a tall elevator bulkhead sticking up into the sky. This new building will be that tall overall, about double what is there now at Sokol Furniture. There will be 13 residential units and NO commercial/retail at ground level at all.

    Coming from this background, I can understand the developers wanting to get the most out of their 3.3 mil purchase and build new space over in this area as it's a desirable commodity to those who can afford it, plus the views from 6-7 stories up must be awesome. The turn around for this work, if sold at even $700/sf results will result in a $14 million pay out, minus all costs for land/construction involved. Not bad, huh.

    I'm sure the architect took it down to avoid the calls/criticism, etc. It's hard enough to get work in the city, let alone a new building, so they are acting in the best interest of the developer, Columbia Street Development, LLC. Who is this? Looks like a well off Dumbo resident, who is a fencing champ, and a seasoned midtown real estate lawyer who knows how to package a deal nicely.

    What's next?
    Well, once the zoning is approved by the Dept of Buildings, then there will be a 45-day community review (though work can happen during this period of time). Any responses to this zoning review will be reviewed by the commissioner at the end of the process.

    Here's the link to the DoB website / job application so it can be followed, since no one else is sharing information:


    If the zoning is as-of-right, based on the kooky lot configurations, we are SOL, especially the surrounding buildings who will get a nice dose of shadow and visual obstruction.

    All the other stuff regarding passivity, design, etc, is important, and should be utilized more by ALL builders/designers in general, but the crux here is the BULK of the building. This could be a dangerous precedent for this low-lying area of the waterfront, so take notice.