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Followup: Essex Crossing’s First Four Buildings

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Essex Crossing Site 2; view from the intersection of Delancey and Essex streets. Credit: Handel Architects.
Essex Crossing Site 2; view from the intersection of Delancey and Essex streets. Credit: Handel Architects.

On Wednesday evening, we published the first renderings of Essex Crossing, the large residential and commercial project set to break ground along Delancey Street later this year. Developers and architects went before Community Board 3’s land use committee that night to outline plans for the first phase of construction. While Delancey Street Associates released selected renderings to news organizations, the CB3 presentation included some additional images that help illustrate their design concepts. This story serves as a supplement to Wednesday’s report, so read that post first if you haven’t checked it out already. Apologies in advance for the quality of some of these images; we snapped photos directly from the powerpoint.

essex crossing overview

Let’s start with a project overview. The first phase includes sites 1, 2, 5 and 6. In total, Essex Crossing covers nine parcels and will create 1,000 apartments and about 650,000 sq. ft. of commercial space. It’s important to note that the development team was required to follow a very specific plan — the result of a painstaking three-year process that included a lot of give and take between a Community Board 3 task force and city planners.

CB3 approved guidelines for the project in 2011 that, among other points, required multiple architects. This was meant to ensure that each building offered its own distinctive design. From the outset, city planners were intent on using the former Seward Park urban renewal site to “stitch back together” a neighborhood that, in their view, had become an urban design mess. Essex Crossing’s four architectural teams were charged with creating buildings to “bridge” the old tenement aesthetic to the north with the hulking, mid-century co-ops and public housing that had been constructed to the south.

Site 2, at the southeast intersection of Delancey and Essex streets, is considered the gateway to the entire project. It will be home to a new Essex Street Market (remember that the current market remains open for business throughout construction). It will also include a 14-screen Regal movie theater, a rooftop farm and 195 rental apartments.

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In his presentation, Frank Fusaro of Handel Architects explained that the Essex Street Market would occupy the ground floor and feature a grand, glass enclosed mezzanine along Broome Street. The ceiling will follow the angled floor of the movie theaters on the next level. An urban farm (to be operated by a still-to-be-named organization) will be built above the theaters and will be accessed by the public from elevators located on Broome.

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One design challenge entailed coming up with an interesting facade for the movie theater, since it can’t have windows. Handel created a series of folded, two-tone metal panels, which are intended to reflect sunlight. Materials used on and surrounding the apartment windows are designed to create a cohesive feel from one section of the building to another.  A big picture window on Delancey will offer views of people circulating through the theater, just as movie-goers watch what’s happening at street-level.  The theater and residential entrances will be side-by-side on Delancey Street.

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Now across Essex Street to site 2, where the Andy Warhol Annex, a bowling alley/nightlife complex and 55 condominium apartments will be located:

Essex Crossing site 1; view from Broome Street, looking toward Ludlow. Credit: SHoP Architects.
Essex Crossing site 1; view from Broome Street, looking toward Ludlow. Credit: SHoP Architects.

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The L-shaped parcel, currently a public parking lot, is tricky because it wraps around a building, 75 Essex St., not currently held by the city or the developers. Shalom Eisner, the property owner of the former Good Samaritan/Eastern District Dispensary building, would like to sell it, but Delancey Street Associates is not interested at Eisner’s price. The museum will have frontages on both Essex and Ludlow streets, while the residential section of the building will be situated to the south, bordering Ludlow. Dana Getman of SHoP Architects said the idea is to create a relationship between the museum and the Essex Market across the street. The galleries will be visible from the market space. There’s also a rooftop sculpture garden on the Ludlow Street side. Getman showed a slide illustrating SHoP’s attempt to draw inspiration from the tenement architecture in the surrounding area. Ground floor windows offer a lot of visibility, while apartment windows on the upper floors include design features reminiscent of the tenement aesthetic.

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On to Site 5, located between Grand and Broome Street at Clinton Street:

Essex Crossing site 5; aerial view from the northeast, looking down on Broome and Clinton streets.
Essex Crossing site 5; aerial view from the northeast, looking down on Broome and Clinton streets.

The renderings released by the development team showed only the Broome Street side of the building, which is adjacent to a future 15,000 sq. ft. public park. In the rendering below you can see the Grand Street facade, which will face the Seward Park Co-op.  There will be a wall of windows on the first two levels, providing visibility for retail businesses. The tallest portion of the building, you’ll notice, is set back from Grand. The residential entrance will be on Broome. Richard Metsky of Beyer Blinder Belle explained that efforts had been made to draw connections between the building and the park, with the inclusion of landscaping along the facade and large windows looking into the building lobby.

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Finally, site 6, located diagonally across from site 5:

Essex Crossing Site 6. Credit: Dattner Architects.
Essex Crossing Site 6. Credit: Dattner Architects.

Daniel Heuberger of Dattner Architects said the building’s design was heavily influenced by the fact that it’s a senior rental property. Keeping in mind that many residents will be spending a lot of time in their apartments, all of the units face either north or south and will feature abundant sunlight. Residents will also be provided with a landscaped roof deck. A separate roof deck will be set aside for use by Grand Street Settlement, which will be running a variety of programming from the building. Entrances for the settlement house and for a yet-to-be-named health clinic will be on Delancey Street (some residents questioned the wisdom of that decision the other night).

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Still to come: A look at the developers’ decision not to build any underground parking as part of Essex Crossing.

There’s another opportunity this month to attend a project briefing. Here’s the description of the event from Delancey Street Associates:

You will have the opportunity to:

>Meet key members of the Delancey Street Associates team, the developers of Essex Crossing (SPURA).
>Get an update on the project timeline.
>See building renderings for the first phase of the project.
>Hear from the architects about design selections.

The meeting will be held at Grand Street Settlement’s Community Room/Grand Cafe.

January 28th at 6pm
Grand Street Settlement – Community Room/Cafe
80 Pitt Street, New York, NY 10002

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  1. My initial reaction is that site two, the main building appears to be the least appealing. While I’m happy the panels are metal rather than concrete, It still appears ugly. Maybe it won’t upon closer inspection, but the deign being led by a movie theater that was unneeded seems to be reverse engineering.

  2. Seems to me the lack of parking is a major flaw and will develop into a huge problem in the future. Current residents won’t have any parking, and all of the new residents and visitors will increase demand substantially.

  3. I think the buildings look pretty good. I like the way the market line concept is being done, and am looking forward to being able to walk underground from Clinton to Essex. That’s going to be really cool. Hopefully it will connect right to the subway.

    But I agree with the discussion so far — how was it determined there is a pressing need for a movie theater? That’s a great point that the most visible part of the building is being designed around it being a movie theater. I guess it will be a popular place for couples on dates, to go to the market line, the museum, and a movie.

    As to parking, I agree, it strikes me as totally bizarre that no parking is being included for residents. 1,000 new apartments and no dedicated parking at all? I’m a big fan of public transportation, but with the SPURA being right next to the Williamsburg bridge, it just seems so odd that there would be no parking included, not even a few spaces for residents. Even the little municipal lot on Site 1 will be gone. Chinatown will be toast, since it relies so much on customers driving in on the weekend from the boroughs and NJ to shop. Lack of parking in the neighborhood was already a major complaint of Chinatown merchants.

  4. As a resident within a few blocks from here, no parking is glorious. It means less outsiders, and more locals. Locals are all that’s left of the Lower East Side. I’d like to meet and know my neighbors, not have them drive in creating even more congestion in the area.

  5. Most residents of the Lower East Side/Chinatown and visitors do not rely on automobiles to get around the area. With already high levels of congestion it does not make sense to promote automobile usage by providing parking spaces.

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