By Brian J. Pape, AIA
Chances are you don’t recognize the name, but in the real estate world you can choose any name you want for your projects or even for whole neighborhoods. Witness the One Morton Square moniker from a few years back and, now, the West SOHO label for Hudson Square. Whereas one used to expect an open space of a specific shape to be called a “square,” now any intersection can be so-called—thus, Clarkson Square.
Clarkson Square is a mixed-use development of 1.7 million SF in design by COOKFOX Architects, filling the entire block from Houston to Clarkson Streets and Washington to West Streets. According to their website, its diverse mix of living spaces includes critically needed affordable housing, flexible units for senior citizens, and market-rate housing which will provide filtered fresh air, biodynamic lighting, and access to public and private garden terraces. The inspiration for the design, at street level, is drawn from the solid masonry construction and industrial multi-sash windows and architectural detail of the historic Hudson Square factories and printing press buildings. Rick Cook and Mark Rusitzky head the project team at CookFox Architects.
You may recall that in mid-December of 2016 the city council approved plans for Atlas Capital Group and Westbrook Partners to proceed to develop a 1,586-unit mixed-use complex at what was then called 550 Washington in Hudson Square (the St. John’s Terminal site ca. 1933). The plans allowed acquisition of $100 million worth of air rights development (200,000 extra square feet) from the Hudson River Park Trust’s Pier 40 located across West Street.
Oxford Properties Group, the real-estate arm of Ontario’s municipal employee pension plan, bought the southern part of the three-block-long property in January, 2018, from Westbrook Partners and Atlas Capital Group for about $700 million. COOKFOX Architects is also responsible for Oxford’s development of an industrial loft-type office building, with nine stories added above an existing three-story structure, totaling 1.3 million square feet. The site currently has manufacturing zoning which allows for office use and hotels, but not residential use.
Westbrook Partners and Atlas Capital Group retained the block between Clarkson and Houston Streets; and with that end of St. John’s demolished they could build a 430-feet high residential tower, as previously approved in 2016. Thirty percent of the units (475 apartments) were to rent at below-market rates through a housing lottery; part of the tower was to be geared towards “older tenants.” There would also be retail space and a possible 15,000-square-foot recreation center. Strangely, no new renderings have surfaced since those 2016 approvals.
On July 13, 2019, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, closed the final deal on “Google Hudson Square,” a $1 billion 1.7 million-square-foot company campus at 550 Washington Street, plus both 345 and 315 Hudson Street, set to be ready by 2020. This will be, of course, in addition to Google’s current headquarters at 111 Eighth Avenue (purchased in 2010) along with the $2.4 billion purchase of 300,000 square feet at Chelsea Market and 250,000 square feet to be leased at the Pier 57 restoration, a landmarked property at West 15th Street.
You’ve heard of “Silicon Alley;” perhaps we should label this area “Silicon Shore?”
Brian J. Pape, AIA, LEED-AP, is an architectural consultant in private practice, serves on Community Board 2 in Manhattan, and is co-chair of the American Institute of Architects NY Design for Aging Committee.