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Features

3-West-29th-Stret-04 Unbuilt designs for the cleared site at 3 West 29th Street (Credit L to R: FR-EE, Architecture Work, Safdie Architects)
Five years ago, no one would have believed that NoMad would be an epicenter of Manhattan’s never-ending skyscraper boom. Today, the mid-rise neighborhood at the Empire State Building’s toes has joined Hudson Yards and Billionaires’ Row as fertile ground for sky-high supertalls. Six towering projects are now underway all jostling for their own slice of sky to endow their occupants with commanding views over the island.
Ziel Feldman’s HFZ Capital Group was one of the first developers to move on the neighborhood’s untapped mountain of development rights. In 2013, they acquired a large, through-block site at 3 West 29th Street and then quietly amassed a reported 350K SF of air rights up and down the block. Recently, we noticed workers and equipment milling about the cleared site, signaling construction is set to begin. A deeper look revealed that earlier this month, a pre-filed building application was filed by the developer calling for a 33-floor office tower designed by Bjarke Ingels’ BIG.
3-West-29th-Street-05 Rendering of possibly-shelved design of 3 West 29th Street by Moshe Safdie (HFZ Capital Group)
3-West-29th-Street Early prep work at 3 West 29th Street (CityRealty)
The Collegiate Reformed Protestant Dutch Church sold HFZ the string of properties behind their Marble Collegiate Church for $26.2 million. One of the buildings sold was the ornate 1898 Bancroft Building, which despite pleas from preservationists, was swiftly demolished. Gathering air rights from the landmarked church next door and Gilsey House at the corner of Broadway, the Landmarks Preservation Commission required HFZ to put together a plan to restore and maintain the structures and to ensure that the base of the new tower harmonizes with the block's landmarks. In the process, HFZ’s first vision for the site was revealed: a 64-floor, 830-foot tall condominium designed by legendary architect, Moshe Safdie.
 
 
 
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Resembling a more orderly 56 Leonard, renderings showed a rectangular tower fronted by an HM White-designed park along 29th Street, a limestone-clad base, and a plethora of 3-story-high volumes pushing from all its façades. 40 percent of the condos would have terraces and the residents would enjoy sweeping views over the city. Like many of NoMad’s new towers, the building would block several iconic views of the Empire State Building, and this project was even more precarious since its roof would be less than 200 feet shy of the Empire State Building’s observation deck.
Now, we can assume that Safdie’s volume-popping condo has been abandoned since newly-filed paperwork calls for a 34-floor office building designed by Bjarke Ingels. Best known in the city for his rental Via 57 West, the Danish architect now has several commercial and mixed-use projects in the works such as 2 World Trade Center, The Spiral, and The Eleventh (another HFZ project). Unlike young hot shot Bjarke, Safdie hasn't had the best of luck in the city with his radiant proposals for Battery Park City and TIme Warner Center both unbuilt — here's another for the shelf.
Perhaps the change of heart was due to growing competition from nearby condo developments such as 262 Fifth Avenue, 277 Fifth Avenue and 30 East 31st Street; or perhaps Feldman just saw a better bet feeding the Class A-office-starved market of “Silicon Alley.” The pre-filing shows the tower will rise 554 feet high and be topped by a communal roof terrace. There will be a total of 300,000 SF of zoning floor area and it is likely its podium will still need to play nice with its landmarked neighbors or face a new review with the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
277-Fifth-Avenue-06 View of cleared site and surrounding NoMad neighborhood (CityRealty)
New Developments Editor Ondel Hylton Ondel is a lifelong New Yorker and comprehensive assessor of the city's dynamic urban landscape.
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