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A rendering of 685 First Avenue, Richard Meier's first skyscraper in NYC. A rendering of 685 First Avenue, Richard Meier's first skyscraper in NYC.
Now that we’ve gotten over the shock that Richard Meier is designing his first New York City skyscraper IN BLACK, rather than in his signature white aesthetic, we can turn our attention to the project's construction, which is now craned and above street level. The forthcoming, 42-story tall rental and condominium tower is being developed by legendary real estate developer Sheldon Solow, who has built some of the city’s slickest black glass buildings, including the trophy tower 9 West 57th. Solow, now 88, has been absent from the development scene for some time but will maintain his minimal Modernist aesthetic for this site.
Renderings courtesy of bloomimages
685 First Avenue rising above street level
Addressed at 685 First Avenue, the site is situated one block southwest of the United Nations on a full First Avenue frontage between East 40th and 41st streets. The parcel was formerly owned by Consolidate Edison who held a massive, nine-acre power plant complex across First Avenue. Solow’s East River Development Corp. purchased the property in 2000, and the now cleared site one of the largest development sites in Manhattan. When we stopped by earlier this week we noticed that some construction work was also underway along the much larger, weeded lot across First Avenue. Several years ago, Solow sold off the southernmost Con Ed parcel to School Construction Authority and JDS Development Group. JDS’ slice is now home to the American Copper Buildings which is gearing up for leasing in the coming months.
Excavators on Turtle Bay South's larger eastern lot
The former Con Ed smokestacks; now the site of the American Copper Buildings (Photo circa 1930s)
A more recent photo of the former facility.
With an emphasis on “materiality, lightness, transparency and order,” 685 First is mostly a monolithic bloc when viewed from the East River and Queens. Only a double-height cut-out on the 27th and 28th floors will break up its nearly 500-foot high mass. The western elevation is a bit more articulated with two lines of balconies offering residents delectable views of the Midtown East skyline and the Chrysler Building.
Inside will be 408 rentals and 148 condo units. Residences are enclosed by floor to ceiling windows with operable window panels. The dark glazing will offer residents privacy and give the building a uniform appearance from the outside. Amenities will include a 70-foot indoor swimming pool, fitness center, children’s playroom, work room, game room, private dining room, and lounge. Construction is slated to wrap up sometime in 2019. Though it is too soon to know the pricing for the residences, a few blocks north on First Avenue is Trump World Tower, where condominiums are currently listed for an average price of $1,952 per square foot.

While the building will be Pritzker Prize-winning architect Richard Meier’s first skyscraper in Manhattan, the project will be Meir’s 19th in Manhattan. His other local works include the Perry Street condominiums at 173 and 176 Perry Street, 165 Charles Street, On Prospect Park, and the conversion of the Westbeth.
Exterior close up
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