By Brian J. Pape, AIA
Patient visits doctor and asks, “How am I doing?” Doc: “I have good news and bad news.” Patient: “What’s the good news?” Doc: “Your knee surgery went very well.” Patient: “Yeah. What’s the bad news?” Doc: “You have lung cancer.”
We have good news and bad news about the new residential towers planned for the west end of Houston Street.
The good news: Approved 2016 plans by COOKFOX Architects for Atlas Capital Group and Westbrook Partners to develop a mixed-use complex at so-called Clarkson Square—what was then called 550 Washington (or the St. John’s Terminal site, ca. 1933)—will still include a diverse mix of living spaces, critically needed permanently affordable housing, and flexible units for senior citizens, designed to provide filtered fresh air, biodynamic lighting, and access to public and private garden terraces. Up to 30 percent of the units—475 apartments—are said to rent at below-market rates through a housing lottery. A supportive elder housing community is in the design stage.
The bad news: Unfortunately the “Hudson Square” area is not in a historic district, so these out-of-scale towers can be built. Remember the $100 million development-right deal with Pier 40 “air rights?” That all went to this building site.
Clarkson Square will be two gigantic towers, 430 feet high—the tallest buildings along our west shore—in a mixed-use development of 1.7 million SF with 1,586 units, filling the entire block from Houston Street to Clarkson Street and from Washington Street to West Street.
The design’s inspirations at street level are the solid masonry construction, industrial multi-sash windows and architectural detail of the historic Hudson Square factories and printing press buildings, but in creamy white instead of red brick, with setbacks and planted terraces. Plans call for storefront retail space and a possible 15,000-square-foot recreation center.
On July 13th, 2019, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, closed the leasing deal on Google Hudson Square, a $1 billion, 1.7 million-square-foot company campus at 550 Washington Street, now totally separate from the Clarkson residential towers.
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.