Location New York City
Size 440,000 ft2
Cost $300 million
Program Office building
Developer Edward J. Minskoff Equities
Architect Fumihiko Maki, Maki and Associates
Associate Architect Adamson Associates International
Structural Engineer Ysrael Seinuk
Mechanical Engineer Flack + Kurtz
Geotechnical Engineer Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers
Landscape Architect Thomas Balsley Associates
Telecommunications Eze Castle Integration
It’s a rectangle, on top of a rhombus, on top of an irregular pentagon. It has an address, comprises 440,000 square feet in Manhattan, is targeting LEED Gold certification, and is the newest and most provocative high-rise office building north of Delancey. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki, whose signature style blends Eastern and Western influence and plays with material interaction, the 13-story 51 Astor Place stands not only as a relevant architectural entry in the neighborhood (it’s part of the same streetscape as Cooper Union), but doubles as a bold developmental experiment.
According to Edward J. Minskoff of New York’s Edward J. Minskoff Equities (EJME), the developer of 51 Astor that was able to secure a $160 million construction loan despite having no committed tenants at the time, both the architecture and the development are representative of a new phase of office tower construction. “It’s rare that you can get an iconic location like this—an entire square block—unencumbered,” Minskoff says. “There is excellent retail, proximity to mass transit, two major universities, dozens of restaurants, walking distance from four different hotels—these are all things you need for an office building.”
Minskoff is no stranger to working with top-tier architects, and having developed nearly 37 million square feet across the country—some in conjunction with names such as SOM, Cesar Pelli, Kohn Pederson Fox, I.M. Pei—he has likewise developed a reputation for targeting unique projects that go beyond pure utility. “We interviewed four or five architects for 51 Astor but decided that Maki would be a great fit for us,” Minskoff says. “We created a very efficient floor plate and a very tight core, and Maki’s office worked very well with us.”
With a black and silver, low-E, reflective glass exterior and an aluminum curtainwall enveloping the entrance to diminish heat gain, the building has a cool, unaffected, and modern appeal. The building entrance is accented with an art installation by Jeff Koons in the lobby and a sculpture in the outdoor plaza. These features are typical of both Maki’s architecture and Minskoff’s artistic interests.
Certification LEED Gold (expected)
Site Urban infill, public transit access
Water Green roofs on two floors
Energy 8 watts per rentable square foot, 460-volt three-phase main service
Beyond aesthetics, however, what’s happening behind the scenes is just as impressive. Firstly, Maki’s design solves the problem of being seated on an irregular site. Although the floor plates go from 42,000 square feet in the base to 25,000 square feet in the tower, with roughly 14 to 18 feet from slab to slab, the building wastes no space by offering private green roofs on the fifth floor (the rhombus). Two cooling towers, with a combined capacity of 1,400 tons, deliver water-cooled air-conditioning operated on a variable air volume system to each of the floors, and there is space for a third 700-ton tower to handle increased tenant load if necessary.
Minskoff also contracted Eze Castle Integration to develop a state-of-the-art, ‘fully redundant’ telecommunications system for 51 Astor, good news for the high-profile tenants 51 Astor is expected to attract. “There has been a lot interest in full-floor tenancies,” Minskoff says. “This building has significantly changed the entire neighborhood.”