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Aerial rendering of Oxford Properties' redevelopment of the St. John's Terminal building (All renderings courtesy of COOKFOX) Aerial rendering of Oxford Properties' redevelopment of the St. John's Terminal building (All renderings courtesy of COOKFOX)
In light of the coronavirus pandemic, Google has announced that it will let employees work from home until at least July 2021. However, the tech giant is not saying a permanent good-bye to physical offices. A deal to lease the entire 1.3 million square feet of office space to be created as part of an addition to the St. John's Terminal building at 550 Washington Street was finalized last summer, and a recent site visit saw steel rising on the site. When Google employees are able to return to work, it will be interesting to see further construction progress on its new Hudson Square outpost.
In late 2018, Oxford Properties Group partnering with the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board’s (CPPIB) filed plans to build a 588,000-square-foot, nine-floor addition to the St. John’s Terminal building, and The Wall Street Journal broke the news of Google's interest. Shortly before New York went on lockdown, The Observer reported that Wells Fargo had been selected to lead the $973 million construction loan for the project.
Google Headquarters Mid-October 2020 (CityRealty)
550-Washington-Street-02 Construction progress circa August 2020 via CityRealty
The adaptive re-use plan designed by COOKFOX Architects involves salvaging the 1934-built former freight terminal of the High Line and building above it. A recent pass by the site reveals that work has started at Google/Oxford's nearly 600-foot-long portion spanning south of West Houston Street between Washington and West streets. The northern sections of the St. John's Building, which includes the bridge over Houston Street has been demolished (alas!). The section of the terminal building that stretched from West Houston to Clarkson Street will be developed with housing and retail, tentatively known as Clarkson Square.
550-Washington-Street-3053 View looking south down the West Side Highway (Credit: COOKFOX Architects)
550-Washington-Street-05 Rendering showing an opened up Houston Street
The conversion/addition is expected to be finished in 2022. The plan, in addition to Google's forthcoming expansions within Hudson Square, at Pier 57 and at Chelsea Market, has the potential to nearly double the search giant’s local headcount to at least 14,000 employees. Google's $1 billion investment into the neighborhood, collectively known as Google Hudson Square, includes taking up space at 315 Hudson and 350 Hudson Street.
Built as a rail freight terminus to the High Line in 1934, the St. John's Terminal features incredible ceiling heights, oversized floorplates and an unprecedented sweep of Hudson River-facing exposures. While Westbrook Partners and Atlas Capital Group will develop the northern end of the terminal separately, the Oxford vision entails preserving the first three floors of the old structure and incorporating them into a 1.3 million square foot, 12-floor office building — a groundscraper of sorts.
According to permits on file, the addition would nearly triple the height of the existing structure from 80 feet to 232 feet high. The floor schedule shows there will be ground floor retail, a bike room for 237 bikes, staff lockers, workshop and break rooms in the cellar, and offices above.
550-Washington-Street-03 Aerial rendering looking north (COOKFOX)
COOKFOX working with Adamson Associates released renderings last year showing a broad, glass and metal block with a slight fold in its center, breaking up the building's wall-like presence along the Hudson River. The original railroad tracks will remain visible throughout the building and the removal of the overpass covering Houston Street will reveal the railbeds in section. The newly uncovered Houston Street has the intention of creating a better connection between the neighborhood and the waterfront.
Rick Cook, Founding Partner at COOKFOX explains, “St. John’s Terminal once formed the end of The High Line and our design will preserve the history and authenticity of this important piece of rail infrastructure that once connected the world to New York City. By opening the site with the removal of the overpass and incorporating the rail beds, we’re connecting the building with the neighborhood, and at the same time creating a workplace that is connected with nature.”
COOKFOX Houston Street elevation facing south (COOKFOX)
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In February, Oxford and the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) announced they acquired a large portion of the terminal building addressed at 550 Washington Street. Two blocks of the 3.25-acre complex were purchased from Westbrook Partners and Atlas Capital Group for $700 million, following government agreements to build a mixed-use complex of apartments, offices, and retail a year prior. The terminal redevelopment was partly made possible through a 200,000-square-foot air rights transfer from Pier 40 across the West Side Highway.
Dean Shapiro, Head of US Developments at Oxford Properties says, “St. John’s Terminal has a long history as a hub of innovation and productivity. Its unique form allows us to create workspaces that reduce the friction of expansion and change over time, so tenants can focus on productivity. Our intent is to return the building to a place of prominence for the next generation of New York’s economy. With Hudson Square emerging as one of the city’s most exciting neighborhoods, the timing is perfect to activate this building in a way that connects the community to the greenway and Pier 40.”
The project is a few blocks from the 1 subway line and not far from Tribeca, the West Village and the Meatpacking District. It is roughly one mile south of Hudson Yards, which Oxford is building in partnership with the Related Companies.
Clarkson Square Shelved previous plan for Clarkson Square
COOKFOX Earlier rendering of the development showing both portions of the terminal building built-out with apartments, offices, and retail (COOKFOX)
Ten Arquitectos A decade ago TEN Arquiectos drew up an addition that would cover the entirety of the St. John's Terminal

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