This is a surprising thing to be writing, but if it weren’t for the Bronx, we wouldn’t have much good news to report here at gbNYC of late. Yes, green building technology continues to improve and impress, and new green projects have cropped up over the past few months — it’s certainly not all bad news, or even mostly bad news. But between the revelation that superstar green condo Riverhouse may be notably less green than promised — Stephen has more on Riverhouse over at Green Real Estate Law Journal — and the apparently irresistible rise of mediocre and proudly un-green mega-developments such as Williamsburg’s New Domino, this hasn’t been the most inspiring time to be a green real estate watcher in New York City. The problems that New Domino is facing — those hacked-off city council members won’t be any less so after today’s revelation that developers, who have plead poverty while resisting calls to add more affordable housing, stand to make $400 million on the New Domino deal — don’t seem to be of the deal-derailing type. Given how much Mayor Bloomberg has invested in the development, it’s tough to imagine what a deal-derailing scandal would even look like, here. Even the city’s green new developments — we’ll have more on the just-approved, LEED Silver-hopeful Flushing Commons project tomorrow — are disconcertingly macro. But despite the fact that this hasn’t been a great June for green building news, I’m here to bring you some happy news. Or at the very least some pretty architectural renderings.
The one above is of the Pearl Street Triangle in DUMBO, which has already come a long way and which got this imaginary overhaul from DUMBO’s own Coburn Architecture, which won an “ideas contest” sponsored by the DUMBO Improvement District. Because this was just an ideas contest sponsored by a community organization, there’s no guarantee that the Coburn plan — or anything like it — will ever reach fruition, but if it can happen anywhere in New York, it will happen in DUMBO, which has already put a lot of work into the Pearl Street Triangle (it currently looks like this). And the design itself is pretty great. The New York Post has a couple of renderings, and the text of Coburn’s own description of the new Pearl Street Amphitheater. “The Tracks plaza takes it’s inspiration from the myriad of rail lines that at one time weaved their way through the industrial streets of DUMBO,” the description reads. “As these tracks emerge from beneath the pavement surrounding the triangle, they become the armature for a series of tiered seats that wind through the site to create three amphitheater-like spaces: the first, facing the Manhattan Bridge, is delineated by seating for films projected onto the masonry wall that encloses the arch beneath the bridge; the second, a performance and display space enclosed by two opposing tiers; and the third, where a low tier hugs a series of in-ground fountains.”
Perhaps even more ambitious than the proposed Pearl Street Triangle is the re-imagining of the Financial District’s Water Street (as opposed to DUMBO’s Water Street — this is confusing, I know) that was rolled out earlier this week by The Alliance for Downtown New York. The new Water Street plan — full name: “Water Street: A new Approach-Transforming Lower Manhattan’s Modern Commercial Boulevard” — was the product of a collaboration with FXFOWLE, Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Sam Schwartz Engineering. While the renderings here are also pretty nice, the whole project feels a bit closer to reality than does the Pearl Street Triangle amphitheater. In part, this is because ADNY rolled out an impressively comprehensive in-depth justification for the four-pronged plan alongside those pretty pictures. “The plan calls for improving sight lines from Water Street over to the East River waterfront, reconfiguring ground floor spaces on the street to allow more uses including retail, plus adding more lighting and concerts and other entertainment in public plazas,” Amanda Fung writes in Crain’s. “The plan also suggests putting a median in the street and widening sidewalks to allow an ‘amenity strip’ for café seating, benches, bike racks, and more trees and flowers.”
In scope, of course, these are all not notably more or less ambitious than New Domino, although it should be noted that trying to turn Water Street and its surrounding office-scape into a 24-hour neighborhood is very ambitious indeed. But their public-minded nature — and the fact that both would lead to neighborhoods with more trees, smarter streets and a more inviting and NYC-like urban landscape — was kind of exactly what I needed today. As projects like New Domino threaten to pull New York City more and more towards the rest of America’s generally bleak urban aesthetic, it’s nice to know that the project of making NYC neighborhoods both more neighborly and more NYC-ish is still ongoing.
Tomorrow: re-imagining an entire neighborhood in Queens, adding some chain stores, and putting a LEED Silver stamp on it. I think I need to look at some more renderings.