570 Washington Street Skyscrapers Begin Construction

By Brian J Pape, AIA

THE FIRST EVER SKYSCRAPERS IN THE WEST VILLAGE began construction in May for the full block at 570 Washington Street, opposite the Google office project, at 550 Washington Street at right. This rendering of the proposed towers, posted onsite, is a view looking northeast from the Ventilation Shafts over the Hudson River Holland Tunnel at the end of Spring Street. Rendering Credit: SLCE Architects.

Excavation and foundation drilling equipment has moved onto the full-block 1.3-acre barren site, from Washington to West Street and Houston to Clarkson Street. It was formerly occupied by the north end of the St. John’s Terminal of the ‘Highline’ railroad viaduct. 570 Washington Street, formerly known as Clarkson Square, was designed by CookFox Architects as a $1.3 billion two-tower luxury development, starting back in 2016 with one tower along West Street at an “unprecedented” 450-foot height overlooking the Hudson River. The other tower was slightly shorter at 400-feet east along Washington Street.

This new project got financing to proceed last year with a new joint venture group comprised of Zeckendorf Development, Atlas Capital and the Baupost Group, according to a report by Greg Dool in The Real Deal, July 8, 2022. Brothers Arthur and William Zeckendorf, the third generation of a Manhattan real estate dynasty, with Arthur’s son Artie, are partners on the project. Atlas Capital is one of the initial investors in the property. Boston-based Baupost has been active in the city, most recently selling the American Copper Buildings in Murray Hill. They reportedly paid $340 million for the barren site.

The construction poster announces ACI VI Clarkson LLC as the owner and Aecom Tishman as the general contractor. With the change of ownership, SLCE Architects is now listed as architect-of-record, keeping the similar appearance of the former building renderings. It is illegal for an architect or owner to re-use another architect’s designs without their express approval.

A building of such height was made possible by being outside any historic district, plus amended manufacturing zoning and adding the purchased development air-rights from Pier 40/ Hudson River Park. The 2013 amendment to the Hudson River Park Act of 1998 and a Special Hudson River Park District were invented to allow this type of development. As-of-right, the developer could have built a hotel, office or retail building of 48 stories, approximately 630 feet tall.
Google bought the former St. John’s Terminal at 550 Washington Street south of Houston Street for $2.1 billion in 2021, after it was developed with CookFox Architects’ designs as office space.

There’s a real challenge to building in a flood plain, an in-filled shoreline that was once under the Hudson River, along a busy highway. Deep pilings will surely need to go down to bedrock.

For the luxury residential project rezoning, the developers agreed to include 30 percent ‘affordable’ housing units into the 1.7 million square feet of floor area in the towers. When I spoke to CookFox Architects last year about the affordable mix of units, I was assured they remained. In fact, healthy, sustainable affordable housing for seniors was a critical component of the ULURP approval. When I reached out to the CookFox office recently, they said they could not make any comments about the project. Calling the SLCE Architects’ office, I got the same response.

At an April Community Board 2 meeting, the developer approached the community to get permission to continue construction during the night, 8 pm to 4 am, to unload and install prefabricated structural members. The community stated disapproval of such continuous, noisy and disturbing activities. Drilling for the foundation pilings continues during regular work hours.