The New York City Cantilever: If You Can’t Go Up, Go Out

35XV Residences. Image Courtesy of FXFOWLE

City’s notoriously space-hungry real estate market is converting the – perhaps made most famous in Frank Lloyd Wright’s floating Fallingwater residence of 1935 – from a mere move of architectural acrobatics to a profit-generating design feature. Driven by a “more is more” mantra, developers and architects are using cantilevers to extend the reach of a building, creating unique vistas and extended floor space in a market in which both are priced at sky-high premiums.

NYC’s Midtown East: Rezoning and Streetscaping

Midtown West; Courtesy of Flickr User David Boeke, Licensed via Creative Commons

New York City’s Midtown East will be facing a rezoning in the near future, bringing a dozen office towers into the already crowded neighborhood.  To help the Bloomberg Administration address the issues that may arise with this move, the city has hired sustainable development firm, Jonathan Rose Co.; Dutch firm, Gehl Architects; and the global civil engineering firm, Skanska.  The different firms will be working to develop the streetscape to be known as the East Midtown Public Realm Vision Plan, which is scheduled for release later this year.

The Danger of the Zoning-Free Approach

Houston, ; Flickr User JoeInSouthernCA; Licensed via Creative Commons

Despite the romantic notion about cities that develop organically have a rich diversity of form and function, we cannot overlook the deadly side effects of negligent city planning. As Christopher Hume of the Toronto Star points out, last month’s tragic fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas is a grim reminder that planning has a time and place and its ultimate utility resides in the initiative to protect residents and make for healthier communities. The tangle of bureaucracy associated with planning, and land use regulations can give any architect or developer a massive headache. In some cases, the laws are so restricting that diverging from bulk regulations becomes very limiting.

Air: A Hot Commodity in New York City

The air rights to 140 West 58th Street were bought by the developer of the 90-story One57. Image via The Times

“There’s a price on everything in New York, and the air is no exception.” - Ross F. Moskowitz, Strock & Strock & Lavan

All of us are familiar with the practice of buying and selling property in the form of land, residential and commercial space, but the buying and selling of the air surrounding these spaces is a concept well-understood by few. With the recovery of the condominium market in , residential development is at an all-time high, and this means taller and even more luxurious towers are fighting each other tooth and nail for the best possible views of the city. Because of this, the price of air above and around these potential developments is becoming more and more expensive, since a room with a view is worth a whole lot more than one without. Is it possible that these empty, vertical pockets are now worth more than the ground below them?

Read more about New York City’s air rights to find out.

Where Does Zoning Fit Into Our Future City Planning?

NYC.GOV – Department of Planning

“Let’s dump the word “,” as in ordinances that govern how land is developed and how buildings often are designed. Land-use regulation is still needed, but increasingly has become a conceptually inappropriate term, an obsolete characterization of how we plan and shape growth.” - Roger K. Lewis 

Zoning, a concept just over a century old, is already becoming an outdated system by which the government regulates development and growth.  Exceptions and loopholes within current zoning legislation prove that is pushing a zoning transformation that reflects the current and future goals and needs of city building.  To determine how zoning and land use needs to evolve we must first assess the intentions of future city building.  

Planners, architects, legislators and community activists have already begun establishing guidelines and ordinances that approach the goals of sustainability and livability.  For example, the AIA has established Local Leaders: Healthier Communities through Design and has made a commitment to the Decade of Design: Global Solutions Challenge. New York City has come up with Active Design Guidelines: Promoting Physical Activity and Health in Design and its Zone Green initiative in regards to updating its zoning resolution. In addition, Philadelphia has augmented its zoning to include urban farms and community gardens and it is safe to assume that many other cities will follow this precedent.  

So what is it about current zoning codes that makes it so outdated?  Follow us after the break for more.

What Cities Can Do with Vacant Lots

Glenwood Green Acres; © Tony Fischer Photography

The bursting of the housing bubble wreaked havoc on cities across the United States causing widespread blight in once-thriving community economies.  Foreclosed, abandoned and condemned homes continue to pockmark neighborhoods and communities, adding to the of populous but affected cities like .  The Mayor’s Office of Philadelphia approximates that there are nearly 40,000 vacant lots throughout the city of brotherly love, about 74% of which are privately owned, making them virtually inaccessible to rehabilitation.  But the city has a strong drive to amend these conditions.  With organizations like DesignPhiladelphia’s “Not a Vacant Lot” and the city’s Redevelopment Authority, some of this land is being put to good use. 

The Pros & Cons of Revoking the DC Height Act

© Flickr User Rob Shenk

Earlier this week, Architect Robert K. Levy optimistically declared that the study which will evaluate the federal law limiting Washington building heights is a “win-win” situation for everyone involved. Writing for The Washington Post, Levy states: “By conducting a detailed, comprehensive city-wide study, the D.C. Office of Planning and the NCPC [National Capital Planning Commission] will produce analyses and recommendations leading to a fine-grain, strategic plan for building heights across the District. [...] Ultimately this study is a win-win proposition for all stakeholders.”

But can the situation really be so rosy? While Congress spends 10 months studying and debating the possibility of making alterations to the capital’s policies, urbanists, planners and citizens have already begun weighing in on the matter – and opinions are decidedly divided. Many question the true motivations behind the possible changes, and whether those changes will truly improve the livability and sustainability of the city  - or just alter it beyond recognition.

We’ve gathered both sides of the argument so you can make your own informed decision – after the break…

Hudson Yards’ Long Awaited Makeover

Photo: Rendering by Visualhouse

The west side of midtown Manhattan is probably one of the more unexplored areas of New York City by residents and tourists alike. Aside from the , and the different programs off of the Hudson River Parkway that runs parallel to the waterfront, there is very little reason to walk through this industry – and infrastructure – dominated expanse of land full of manufacturers, body shops, parking facilities and . The NYC government and various agencies, aware of the lost potential of this area, began hatching plans in 2001 to develop this 48-block, 26-acre section, bound by 43rd Street to the North, 8th Ave to the East, 30th Street to the South and the West Side Highway to the West.

The new Hudson Yards, NYC’s largest development, will be a feat of collaboration between many agencies and designers. The result will be 26 million square feet of new office development, 20,000 units of housing, 2 million square feet of retail, and 3 million square feet of hotel space, mixed use development featuring cultural and parking uses, 12 acres of public open space, a new public school and an extension of a subway line the 7 that currently terminates at Times Square-42nd Street, reintroducing the otherwise infrastructurally isolated portion of the city back into the life of midtown Manhattan.  All this for $800 million with up to $3 billion in public money.

Join us after the break for details and images.

Community Board Approves SPURA Redevelopment Plan, What’s Next?

Courtesy of NYC EDC

SPURA is one of the many adopted acronyms used to describe City’s division of neighborhoods. But unlike SOHO, NOHO, or Tribeca, SPURA is actually the name of a development site in Lower Manhattan, the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, to be exact. The history of the site is a story of , economics and social pressures. After fifty years of debates between community leaders, activists and designers, the City Planning Commission has given a proposed development plan the green light. That means that following a land-use review process called ULURP, a city council vote and the Mayor Bloomberg’s final approval, the site may finally transition from a street level parking lot into a mixed-use development full of retail stores, offices, community facilities, a new Essex Street market, a hotel, a park and 900 apartments that will occupy 1.65-million-square-feet.

Join us after the break to read more on the development and to see other alternative creative proposals that this site has inspired over the years.