22 Thames Street: To Rise High and Skinny in the Lower Manhattan Sky

Jul. 22, 2013

Developers of what will be one of the city’s tallest residential buildings, at 22 Thames Street, have revealed a tentative design and other details about the building, to rise next to the former American Stock Exchange and a block from the World Trade Center.

The thin, rectangular building, slated to open in spring 2017, will either soar 1,100 feet at 85 stories or 960 feet at 70 stories. Developer Fisher Brothers is applying for a city zoning variance to build it at the lower height and make up for the loss of square footage by providing shallower setbacks—stepped recesses from the building’s street front—than the law allows.

A shorter, wider structure, with a maximum of 450 residential units, would be less costly to build, Alex Adams of developer Fisher Brothers told Community Board 1’s Quality of Life Committee last week. (In its variance application to the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals, the developer is claiming that the “as-of-right” building presents an economic hardship.)

The lower building would not visually compete with the nearby 4 World Trade Center and the other skyscrapers on and near the WTC site, said Jim Herr of Viñoly Architects, the project’s designers. The taller building, in contrast, “really interrupts the rhythm of the master planning and the massing of the entire Trade Center site,” he said.

Responding to a board member’s criticism that the design was “banal” and “undistinguished,” Adams indicated that there are limited design options for a building on a narrow (9,000-square-foot) site and, also, that aspects of the design are still a work in progress.

“I don’t want to present this in any way, shape or form as a finished product,” he said, “but I think this is clearly the direction that we’d like it to head in.”

While the building does not require a lengthy Environmental Impact Statement, the owner’s variance request will entail showing how the proposed building wouldn’t “disturb the essential character of the neighborhood,” noted Michael Sillerman, the land use attorney representing the project.

As a lesson from Hurricane Sandy, the buildings’ mechanicals, he said, will be installed in higher floors.

The ongoing demolition of the site’s current building is expected to be finished by September. Construction of the new building would then begin next spring.