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A blog from CityRealty (Links below will take you to the 6sqft site)

Features

Founded in 1981, the design, interiors, planning, and consulting firm Perkins Eastman is one of the world's top architecture firms with offices across the United States and around the globe. Their wide-ranging portfolio reflects their innovative design principles aimed at enhancing and uplifting the human experience, and their commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly buildings. The firm has also worked on hundreds of projects right here in New York City, including notable residential developments like 15 Union Square West220 Water Street in Brooklyn, and Liberty Luxe in Battery Park City.

Architect Michael Lew is a Principal at Perkins Eastman with extensive project management experience, and over the course of his decades-long career he has worked on a variety of mixed-use, public, hospitality, and residential projects, in both the affordable housing and luxury realms.

Most notably, many of his biggest projects are located in the New York City's fastest changing neighborhoods. Ahead Michael talks a bit about some of the challenges and opportunities he's been met with working on developments like the high-profile Flushing Commons, a 1.6 million square foot, mixed-use complex in Queens; the East Harlem Center for Living and Learning, a mixed-use project that includes 89 residences; and various AvalonBay Communities high-rise projects.

What are some of the NYC residential projects you’re working on at Perkins Eastman currently?

Michael: We are working on several new projects, but they are currently confidential. Two projects we’re completing are Flushing Commons and Harlem RBI. Flushing Commons is a large mixed-use development with AECOM Capital, The Rockefeller Group, and F&T Group. We just finished up the Harlem RBI project, which is a mixed-use project in East Harlem consisting of affordable housing and a charter school.

Can you share some details on the Harlem project and how you anticipate it changing the area?

Michael: That project is a combination of affordable housing and a charter school, K through 8. Harlem RBI started 25 years ago as a non-profit, and they got together with Jonathan Rose and Civic Builders to develop the site on an unused portion of a NYCHA site, which is the New York City Housing Authority. The space was an underutilized parking lot and trash compactor area, but the neighborhood needed more affordable housing, and was in need of really good schools.
 
 
 
 
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Harlem RBI has been in the Harlem area for 25 years and initially started as an academic and sports program with baseball, which is where the RBI name comes from. There are 89 affordable units within the residential portion and the 61,200 square foot DREAM charter school portion with 6,000 square feet of non-profit office space for RBI. The Blake Hobbs Playground adjacent to the project was redesigned, and it unites the neighborhood. We designed the ground floor for RBI to be open for public use where they can use the gym after hours and have community meetings.
The residential building was built according to Enterprise Green Community criteria. There are some families living in the residences whose kids go to the school, which is right downstairs. There were 79,000 applications for the 89 units. We have individual computer labs for residents and for the kids, a community rooms, and outdoor terrace, fitness rooms, bike storage, and laundry facilities. In terms of humanity, this mixed-use development brings together everything that we do.

Flushing Commons has a similar impetus as the Harlem project. How do these two projects compare?

Michael: It’s also mixed-use that has retail, residential, office, open space, and plans for phase two include a YMCA. It’s going to be LEED certified, but it’s still under construction. This project was started 14 years ago as an EDC (Economic Development Corporation) project where they were offering what used to be a municipal parking lot to developers for a mixed-use project. There’s a one-acre public plaza in the middle, which is the community focal point of the project. The building on the upper right hand corner is in the first phase of construction now, which is a residential building. Behind it is the commercial building with retail on a couple of floors, and below grade there’s parking. In the middle of the Macedonia A.M.E. Church and the adjacent Macedonia Plaza, there’s a new affordable housing project.
Part of the design includes one acre of open space because downtown Flushing is extremely congested. The intersection of Main Street and Roosevelt is second in pedestrian traffic compared to Times Square. We decided to put the open space in the middle and not break up the street wall. In the lower left hand corner is F&T’s mixed-use building, Queens Crossing. We curved the part of their building that faces Main Street so you can see it from one block away, and it leads you into the open space. When Phase 2 is built, the open space will include an amphitheater and performing area, water feature, and then the larger building will have more retail and more residential. It’s a good combination of uses.

Sky View Parc is another major Queens development you’re working on, but it sits on the other end of the residential spectrum as a luxury property with retail. You also ran into a number of site challenges with this project, like surrounding trains and low flying planes. How did your team tackle this development?

Michael: Sky View Parc is a 14-acre site bounded by the Long Island Railroad, the number 7 train, the Van Wyck Expressway, and College Point Boulevard, which is the main pedestrian and vehicular way to get to the site, and the high point, and then it drops down and heads towards the river. We were able to put the big-box retail on the lower three floors, one floor being below grade from the street, so it’s really not that tall when you look at it from College Point. This also is an offshoot of zoning. Zoning requires street walls and heights of buildings, so the big-box was set in the base of the building. It doesn’t look like the usual kind of big-box such as a Costco or Walmart. It’s more urban and upscale. You can see the different levels of the retail inside.
 
 
 
 
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What about the noise from the trains and the planes in the residences?

Michael: With an additional acoustic treatment of the windows and the wall. The windows are around two inches thick and extremely tight. The walls have additional drywall and other insulation. It’s pretty quiet inside. I was surprised when we were close to finishing it; you open the windows, and you can hear the planes and the trains going by, but when they are closed, it’s quiet. The way the zoning was set up, and the way we massed out the retail at the bottom, it puts the residential way up above the trains and everything else, which reduces the noise. It has magnificent views from the top.

We worked with a master plan to develop the site completely. And then it’s really a matter of economics in New York. The first phase included all of the retail and the garage and three buildings on the west side. The east side that currently has three towers going up was previously prepped. The foundation was already installed, the steel was in, and the transfer slabs set up for the new towers to come online when the time was good in terms of the market and the economy. Now is the time.

Given that some of these projects have been in the works for a while, how did the recession affect your project?

303 East 33rd Street was a big project for us happened during the recession, and it was successful. Skyview Parc was designed as a phased project with the second phase coming online. Flushing Commons had many starts and stops including the recession. Phase 1 is almost sold out and complete. New York is pretty resilient.

Additional Info About the Building

 
Contributing Writer Jillian Blume Jillian Blume is a New York City based writer who has published articles widely in magazines, newspapers, and online. Publications include the New York Observer, Marie Claire, Self, MSN Living, Ocean Home, and Ladies Home Journal. Jillian received a master's degree in Creative Writing from New York University and teaches writing, critical reading, and literature at Berkeley College.
Spacious 1 Bedrooms with outdoor space and in-residence w/d View Property
Luxury Homes in Midtown | Newly Renovated Studio-2BR Homes View Property
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