UPS Brown Gets Colorful on Greenwich Street

Text and photo by Brian J Pape, AIA

Perhaps the last place you might expect to find a colorful building décor would be on a UPS shipping center. Ever since the United Parcel Service (UPS) constructed their Hudson Square outpost on the superblock from the Customer Center in 522 Greenwich Street at Houston Street, down four blocks to Spring Street, soon after World War II, the company’s dark brown color scheme dominated not only their trucks and uniforms, but the building as well.

But now, thanks to Hudson Square Properties (HSP, a joint venture since 2016 of Trinity Church Wall Street and Norges Bank Investment Management with Hines, the operating partner), an improbable change has taken place on Greenwich Street. HSP has a large portfolio of buildings in the area, including the former Saatchi Building at 375 Hudson Street and the new Greenwich Street addition to 345 Hudson Street, directly across the street from UPS. They had an ulterior motive for sponsoring and supporting the plan to brighten the streetscape but you still wouldn’t think that would be enough to convince UPS to alter their traditional appearance.

According to the New York Times article by James Barron, 9/25/22, when Laura James, UPS Foundation global community director, was offered the idea by HSP, she replied, “This was a huge departure for us. We tend to fade into the background.” But then, “We’re honored to be the canvas,” James said.

Enlisting Publicolor, a nonprofit that provides programs for students at risk of dropping out of school and works with the students, tutoring to make sure they continue to college or vocational advancement, this project utilized about 80 students, supplemented by 280 HSP volunteers. The challenge was prepping and painting 34 truck-size metal roll-up doors with a multi-color scheme.

Designed and coordinated by Publicolor founder Ruth Lande Shuman, she said, “I took the colors of the spectrum and divided them so they meet on diagonals, which is more active than if they are meeting on vertical lines.”

Publicolor has brightened up more than 300 schools and 250 community centers since its 1990s founding. Now they have added a purely functional commercial building to their resumé and the neighborhood is grateful for their work.