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Building News - November 2007

Waterfront Access at New Harlem Park

Phase II of Harlem River Park set for completion in 2008. Also, Riverdale apartment and office complex gets renovation treatment.

$8.7 million Park Project Begins

Work recently began on Phase II of Harlem River Park, which will stretch from 139th Street to 142nd Street in Manhattan. The new, 1,200-ft-long portion of the park will connect with Phase I, which opened in 2003.

Designs for the park grew out of research and planning by a multitude of players, including the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, the Harlem River Park Task Force, community residents and experts such as marine biologists.

Implementation of the final design is being carried out by Ricardo Hinkle, the project’s Landscape Architect and Project Manager at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

Although New York City boasts a number of waterfront esplanades, the $8.7 million dollar Phase II development of Harlem River Park will be one of the first of its kind, offering visitors not only traditional park amenities and a continuation of the existing bikeway that started in the first phase of the park, but also water access-points that will allow people to dip their feet in the water and load canoes and kayaks. The project will also include a reconstruction of the current shoreline structure and modify traditional esplanade design to instead create an ecologically sensitive treatment that will encourage marine habitats.

“We were trying to create a living edge, as well as an accessible one,” said Ricardo Hinkle, the project’s landscape architect and project manager for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

Standard seawall construction at waterfront edges typically consists of steel sheet pile bulkheads for structural support, but after weighing alternate options, the design team settled on gabions, which are containers or baskets filled with rocks or other material that allow for the filtering of river and rainwater, to create the shoreline edge.

While the use of gabions in the building of dams and retaining walls is an old construction method, today’s technological advances give them a very strong, heightened structural soundness. Additional supports will be added, which will further extend the lifespan of the gabions, and they even have the ability to increase their strength over time through the deposit of sediments, according to Hinkle. He added that the stainless steel gabion baskets, as well as the planned tidepools within the safety railing, will be “ very appealing, visually, as well as ecologically sensitive [and] structurally durable.”

“It was a challenge to decide upon an edge treatment that met the structural requirements, while also meeting the ecological, aesthetic and community objectives,” he said.

Community input from residents of East Harlem was instrumental in shaping many of the unique features of the park, said Hinkle. A community charrette, held during the planning stages of the project, helped shape the idea for steps and tide pools to allow interaction with the water, as well as develop ideas for incorporating local artwork and heritage into the park design.

Phase II of the park will not only offer residents new ways to enjoy the waterfront, but will also make East Harlem more accessible to the rest of Manhattan. “The continuation of the bikeway will enhance [the area’s] appeal and usability, creating the link to more and more of east Harlem’s neighborhoods,” said Hinkle. The park is slated for completion in the summer of 2008.

The Rise of Riverdale

Waterview Operating, owners of the River-Pointe-on-the-Hudson project in Riverdale, saw an outdated residential tower at 2287 Johnson Avenue as an opportunity to build on the beauty of the Bronx.

The dilapidated, 15-story apartment building, constructed in the 1980s but conceived in the 1970s, offered affordable rental housing and included medical offices on the second and third floors. Because of the community medical facilities, the original developer was granted a zoning exemption to build higher and with greater density than the laws in the 1980s allowed.

In 2006, Waterview Operating bought the location from an off-shore private investor for $20 million and laid down an additional $5 million to spend in redevelopment.

Armed with several ideas for modernizing the building, Waterview Operating sought out Steven Kratchman Architect, P.C. to help redesign and update the new RiverPointe-on-the-Hudson. As the firm’s first order of business, “they were able to masterfully navigate the Attorney General’s process of codes, permits and approvals, with creative interpretation of zoning and Department of Buildings issues,” said owner-developer Randi Kahn of Somerset Financial Group. The research proved the same size building could be constructed with four additional units and without the medical offices.

The new 17-story, 80,000 square foot building will have one-bedroom units selling at an average of $300,000 and two-bedroom units selling for approximately $600,000. The tower will also have three penthouses starting at $1 million.

Along with a fitness center, roof deck terrace, private terraces and storage facilities, new residents will have a short, 24-minute commute to Manhattan because of the building’s location right off the Spuyten Duyvil stop on Metro North’s Hudson Line.

Steven Kratchman, President and CEO of Steven Kratchman Architect, P.C., said one of the major points of the renovation was to allow for natural light in the building.

“A buyer is sold in the first thirty, sixty seconds of a walk-through, we removed the semi-formal corridors — en vogue at the time of original construction — and we increased lighting without reducing the ceiling height to create excellent views.”

Rishard Mishkin Contracting has been retained as the construction manager for the project. The renovation was performed in phases as to accommodate the lingering occupants. After the sale of the building last year, the residential leases went month-to-month. Contrary to normal rental building turned condominium space agreements, 15 units have been sold to current residents. The leases for the doctors’ offices expired and were not renewed.

With over 65% of the 73 units sold and occupied as of September 1, 2007, Kahn predicts the entire renovation will be completed by the first quarter of 2008. To date, Kahn is “delighted” with the architects’ work.

“Their creativity made it possible for us to re-brand this twenty-five year old property and reposition it as … property that now offers unrivaled features and conveniences by design,” he said.

Kratchman said one of the most challenging aspects of the renovation was to make the lobby interesting.

“The doctors office patients were ushered in through the same lobby and used the same elevators, which was disruptive for residents,” he said.

One parking level was also higher than the main lobby, he added.

“We created designs for an enlarged, bright, new lobby with an inviting and clearly identified entrance and vestibule, [including] an expanded concierge service area inside,” said project architect Tom Palumbo. Also, “we replaced dark green marble floors with bright, reflecting terrazzo.”

Visionaire to Incorporate Sustainability

Construction continues on the Visionaire, Battery Park City’s latest residential addition and showcase of green technology. The Visionaire is aiming for LEED-Platinum—the highest standard available for buildings.

Developed by the Albanese Organization and Starwood Capital Group, and designed by the architectural firm Pelli Clarke Pelli, the Visionaire will house 251 units in 35 stories, totaling 350,000 sq ft. The building will also have about 4,500 sq ft of ground-floor retail as well as the new 40,000-sq ft headquarters of the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy. While developers hope the building will set the bar for a new level of green residential design, it will not be out of place in Battery Park City, where the Battery Park City Authority holds all of its buildings to stringent environmental standards.

Pelli Clarke Pelli and the developers—also known for the design and development of the LEED-Gold rated Solaire building in Downtown Manhattan—built on their existing knowledge base of green construction and the LEED point system to streamline the process for the Visionaire. According to Rafael Pelli, Principal of Pelli Clarke Pelli’s New York office, because the Solaire required a steep learning curve, the entire project team gained experience that helped the decision-making process for the Visionaire move ahead more smoothly.

In addition to features like solar panels and a black water system that will filter and re-use waste water, one of the most advanced features of the building is its exterior. It employs a curtain wall design as opposed to traditional brick and block construction, which incorporates newer technology, improved thermal abilities and dramatically higher-performing glass. The wall creates a more seamless, finely-tuned and more efficient exterior. The team also chose a terra cotta-based material for the exterior instead of brick, which Pelli said, displays a “more contemporary use of a clay-based product. This fits aesthetically with the use of a modern curtain wall exterior, but is also sympathetic to the existing visual of Battery Park City.”

While the building will contain many cutting-edge green features, the largest gains in energy savings and efficiency come not just from new technology, but from “the intelligent adaptation of existing technology,” said Pelli. By learning to intelligently design the exterior wall, the mechanical system for the building can then be smaller and less energy intensive, he said.

The shape of the building offers an additional amenity—more water-view units. “The building form emerged from the desire by the owner that all four corners have views of the water. This was developed using a treatment of two overlapping triangular shapes that allow for the building to embody a much more abstract, dynamic form, but with incredible corner apartments with sweeping views of the water,” said Pelli.

Pelli expects benefits from the Visionaire to be twofold—at the local level to the individual resident through high indoor air quality and less exposure to toxic chemicals, and on a larger community and global level, through reduced overall energy use.

Work on the $310 million Visionaire, led by Turner Construction Company of New York City, is expected to be completed by summer 2008.


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