Lower Manhattan Book logo

TriBeCa logo

56 Leonard Street

Shimmy-shimmy Shake

Block 176 Lot 26

Rendering of 56 Leonard Street, foreground, with Ground Zero development in background

By Carter B. Horsley

The stunning, 57-story residential condominium tower planned for 56 Leonard Street in TriBeCa was designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the architects of the "Bird's Nest" stadium for the Olympics in 2008 in Beijing and 40 Bond Street in NoHo.

It is a project by Alexico, which is headed by Ivan Senbahar and Simon Elias, who in 2009 were completing their conversion of part of the Mark Hotel on the northwest corner of Madison Avenue and 77th Street to residential condominiums. Alexico was also the developers of 165 Charles Street, a Richard Meier-designed apartment building on West Street.

The 56 Leonard Street project, which was planned to contain 145 apartments, was put on hold in 2009 after the site was cleared and after the great fiscal crisis of late 2008.

It was one of four spectacular high-rise towers that were widely seen as significantly transforming the Lower Manhattan skyline apart from whatever might eventually be developed at Ground Zero. It is not far from another major project that was put on hold at about the same time by Larry Silverstein, a mixed-use tower at 30 Park Place just to the west of the Woolworth Building at 233 Broadway. The Silverstein tower, which was planned to contain a hotel and residential condominium apartments, was designed in Post-Modern style by Robert A. M. Stern. The status of the very tall and very prominent 80 South Street tower near the South Street Seaport and designed by Santiago Calatrava has been in doubt even before the fiscal crisis as it consisted of several four-story-high "houses" stacked vertically.



The fourth major non-Ground Zero tower in Lower Manhattan is 8 Spruce Street designed by Frank O. Gehry as a rental apartment tower with a very shiny and rippling stainless steel facade that will overlook City Hall and the Manhattan approach to the Brooklyn Bridge. At one point in early 2009, there were rumors that its construction might stop at only half its planned height, but construction resumed on the project, which will also have a school at its base.

Two other spectacular towers in midtown - Jean Nouvel's 100 Eleventh Avenue in Chelsea, which was topped out in 2009, and his asymmetrical tower just to the west of the Museum of Modern Art on East 53rd Street, which received its public approvals in 2009 but whose construction timetable is uncertain - joined the four downtown projects in signaling an exciting new era in the the city's skyscraper history.

Alexico acquired the 56 Leonard Street site from the New York Law School and the new tower is planned for the 12,500-square-foot site of the Mendik Law Library building on the northeast corner of the block bounded by Church, Worth and Leonard Streets and West Broadway. The school's property was not included in a 1995 rezoning of the area.

Herzog & de Meuron's design for 40 Bond Street for Ian Schrager included huge green glass cylindrical elements and a graffiti-inspired gate. Recently, the firm showed a flamboyant design for a major new philharmonic hall in Hamburg.

Every floor in the new Herzog & de Meuron tower is different and rotated from the floors above and below. The press release for the project described it as "a thoughtful, daring and ultimately dazzling new alternative - the iconic American skyscraper re-envisioned as a pixilated vertical layering of individually sculpted, highly customized, graceful private residences opening to the atmosphere." In other words, every apartment in the shimmy-shimmy-shake form for the tower will have a balcony.

The press release also noted that the project "updates the relationship between private tower and public streetscape with an articulated base whose cantilevers generate a sense of movement and permeability," adding that "Here, the building's defining corner will be the site of a major commissioned sculpture by internationally celebrated London-based artist Anish Kapoor."

"Fully integrated into the architecture itself as if to say that culture and the city are indivisible," the press release continued, "Kapoor's massive, reflective stainless steel piece - an enigmatic balloon-like form that appears to be combating compression from above - will be a new cultural landmark in TriBeCa...."

The artist's dazzling and very impressive "Cloud Gate" sculpture in A. T. & T. Plaza in Millennium Park in Chicago is very similar but much, much larger and free-standing. Some have suggested that Kapoor's mercurial sculpture might be seen to better advantage atop the tower.

Apartments in the tower will range in size from 1,430 to 6,380 square feet and in price from $3.5 million to $33 million.

The proposed tower will have a double-height lobby sheathed in "gleaming" black granite with a concierge and doorman and seven elevators. Above the lobby will be several floors of "townhouse" residences and then two floors of amenities including a 75-foot "infinity edge" pool, a sundeck, a fitness center, a spa, a library lounge, a screening room, a conference room and a TriBeCa Tot Room.

Floors eight through forty-five contain the building's two- to five-bedroom apartments, each of which will have 12-foot-high glass doors leading to private outdoor spaces with travertine pavers. Fireplace "hearths" soar from floor to ceiling, crafted by the architects in high-gloss white-enameled steel, and kitchens will have a high-gloss black lacquer island with black granite countertop "accompanied by a custom hood either sculpted from the wall or descending from the ceiling."

The building will have 8 full-floor penthouses and two that occupy half floors, all with 14-foot-high ceilings.

Use the Search Box below to quickly look up articles at this site on specific artists, architects, authors, buildings and other subjects


Home Page of The City Review