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Rendering of Pelli Clarke Pelli's 138 East 50th Street and close-up mock-up of facade system
In Midtown’s skyscraper jungle, a new bamboo shoot is starting its 64-floor climb. On a parcel tightly hemmed in midblock at 138 East 50th Street between Lexington and Third avenues, cavernous foundations have been poured and the project’s first story is now above street level. Co-developed by the ambitious duo of SMI USA and Louis Ceruzzi’s Ceruzzi Properties, the 270,000 gross-square-foot project will be a soaring glass shaft housing a mix of retail and condominium residences.
The two-site assemblage once held a rather homely parking garage at 138 East 50th Street and a small walk-up building at 151 East 49th Street. The two lots and additional air rights from surround buildings which were sold to the developers by Gary Barnett in 2013 for $86 million or roughly $600 per buildable square foot, according to The Real Deal.
Recently-taken construction photos by New York Construction Photo
The developers commissioned Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects (PCPA) to formulate the design. The firm, originally known as Cesar Pelli & Associates after its Argentinian-born founder, is one of the most illustrious designers of urban projects on the planet. The firm has devised some of the world’s most familiar skyscrapers including the former world’s tallest buildings, the Petronas Towers, and the International Financial Center in Hong Kong. Cesar once said, “I see my buildings as pieces of cities, and in my designs, I try to make them into responsible and contributing citizens.” PCPA’s growing cache of international projects maintain much of the firm’s understated elegance and formal simplicity, but are often overwhelmed by their blown-out proportions and corporate anonymity.
Recent Pelli Clarke Pelli high-rises in NYC (L to R: L to R: One West End Avenue, The Visonaire, 731 Lexington Avenue/One Beacon Court)
The firm has redrawn the New York skyline with 8 skyscrapers over 500 feet tall, whose designs range from the Post-Modern Carnegie Hall and Brookfield Place (formerly the World Financial Center), to sleek corporate offices of Bloomberg at 731 Lexington Avenue and Goldman Sachs in Jersey City. Cesar’s son, Raphael now directs most of the firm’s new projects. Current New York projects include the now-selling condominium One West End on the Upper West Side, and a mixed-use commercial tower for Trinity Church at 74 Trinity Place in the Financial District.
138 East 50th Street will be Pelli’s largest New York commission in more than a decade. The spire is set to ascend 804-feet tall, a height that is no longer extraordinary on a global scale, but would still be the tallest structure in all but eleven states. For Midtown Manhattan, the building will hardly make a dent, and its apex will fall just short of 731 Lexington and 30 Rockefeller Center.
Google Earth view of 138 East 50th Street in future skyline
View north towards "Billionaires Row" and Central Park
The tower will encompass 270,000 gross square feet with 4,588 square feet of retail at ground level and 124 condominium units above. An earlier and shorter plan was to include a hotel but was scrapped in favor of an all-residential building due to the project’s valuable location and the city’s strong residential market. The developers are forging ahead during a more uncertain and competitive period in the super high-end condo market, however. Several large condo developments of similar caliber are planned nearby, such as 135 East 47th Street and the conversions of the Waldorf Astoria and the Crown Building, and 520 Fifth Avenue. Nevertheless, average closing prices of condos in Midtown East condo market have soared in recent months, and have eclipsed the $3,000 per square foot mark for the first time mostly due to closings at 432 Park Avenue, which is designed by Pelli’s fellow Argentinian architect Raphael Vinoly.
CityRealty graph showing average condo closing prices in Midtown East
SLCE is serving as the architects of record. Residences will begin at the eleventh floor and average nearly 1,500 square-feet apiece with no more than 4 units per floor. All units above the 47th floor will be full-floor residences and a penthouse duplex on the 60th and 61st floors. Amenities such as on-site parking, a swimming pool and a fitness center will be accommodated within the podium and sub-levels. The tower will rise directly east of the twin Art-Deco pinnacles of the Waldorf Astoria, and mid- to upper level apartments will offer dynamite views of the Manhattan skyline and all its landmarks.
Image Credite Boston Valley Terra Cotta / Permasteelisa Group
Echoing Manhattan’s stepped towers and complying with setback regulations, the tower will provide multiple setbacks and a shimmering geometric design along its lower five floors. Per Yimby, the podium will be wrapped in a terra cotta screen wall with integrated louvers. Permasteelisa Group is handling the curtain wall design and installation. According to Boston Valley Terra Cotta, which will be detailing the 37,000 square feet of terra cotta units, the terra cotta panels will be staggered at angles to the flat plane of the glass to add visual interest. The photos above provide a first look at a mockup of the system.
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