What would be an appropriate development for
a full-block site between Central Park West and Broadway and 61st
and 62nd Streets?
The context is the glossy Trump International
Hotel and Apartments tower at 1 Central Park West, the huge, reflective-glass
Time-Warner Center on the west side of Columbus Circle, one of
Central Park West's legendary twin-towered apartment buildings,
and the proximity of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
The timing is the start of one of the city's
most historic real estate booms with rapidly escalating prices
and a neighborhood recently rejuvenated by the completion of the
Time Warner Center with Whole Foods in its basement and the Mandarin
Hotel in the north tower along with the headquarters of Time-Warner
and a couple hundred very expensive condominium apartments.
In 2004, an investment group headed by Arthur
and William Lie Zeckendorf, the Whitehall Fund of Goldman Sachs
and a company controlled by Eyal Offer acquired this full-block
site. The western half of the block had been occupied for many
years by a vacant lot , one of the last major "mystery"
sites in Manhattan, and the eastern half, facing Central Park,
was occupied by the Mayflower Hotel.
The Goulandris family, Greek shippers, represented
by John Avlon, had begun assembling the site in 1973 and within
five years it had owned the entire block and by 1982 it had stripped
the Mayflower hotel of much of its facade's terracotta decoration.
The last building on the Broadway side of the block was demolished
How could such a desirable site not be developed
for so many years?
Perhaps the answer is timing, perhaps, it's
just quixotic. In any event, the Zeckendorfs and their partners
began to put an end to the mystery with their purchase of the
entire block for $401 million.
According to a May 27, 2004 article by Charles
Bagli in The New York Times, "models built for the
owners by the architects Cesar Pelli & Associates showed two
towers of about 34 stories sitting on a five-story base."
Mr. Pelli is the architect of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur,
One Beacon Court on Lexington Avenue and 59th Street and the World
Financial Center at Battery Park City.
According to Mr. Bagli's article, other prospective bidders on
the property had been Stephen M. Ross of the Related companies,
a developer of the Time-Warner Center, Steve Roth of Vornado Realty
Trust, a developer of One Beacon Court, and Edward M. Minskoff.
A November 4, 2004 article in The New York
Times by David W. Dunlap noted that "Long past its glory
days - if it ever really had any - the Mayflower Hotel on the
Park is disappearing from the New York scene as quietly as it
occupied it," adding that the 335-room hotel was a "background"
building. "Originally two side-by-side residential hotels
called the Mayflower-Plymouth, which opened in 1926, the building
was designed by Emery Roth," Mr. Dunlap wrote. Mr. Roth would
later design Central Park West's great skyline buildings, the
twin-towered San Remo at 74th Street and the triple-towered Beresford
at 81st Street.
In his article about the auction of furnishings from the hotel,
Mr. Dunlap wrote that "about the only thing not being offered
for sale was the plaque that used to be affixed to the façade
commemorating the site as the birthplace in 1898 of Vincent Youmans,
the composer of 'No, No, Nanette,' which featured 'Tea for Two.'"
"That plaque," Mr. Dunlap continued, "served as
an apt metaphor for the reticent Mayflower itself, attesting to
the fact that the most notable event in the history of the site
occurred before the hotel was built. Yet the Mayflower had its
share of modern distinctions. It was the home of Patrick Sullivan,
a creator of the cartoon Felix the Cat, and of Max Schaffer, the
operator of Hubert's Museum on West 42nd Street, which included
a fabled flea circus. It was where the Bolshoi Ballet troupe was
staying in August 1979 when one of its leading dancers, Alexander
Godunov, defected to the United States."
A March 22, 2005 article in The New York Post by Steve
Cuozzo reported that the redevelopment of the block was being
designed by Cesar Pelli and Associates, adding that "sources
said architects Schuman Lichtenstein Claman & Efron have been
tapped to design the interior, a claim that could not be confirmed."
"No zoning changes are required for the project," the
article continued, adding that the Special Lincoln Square District
permits zoning bonuses in exchange for construction of off-site
moderate-income housing at 210 West 102nd Street. The district's
zoning mandates that a new project on the site must have a 85-foot-high
wall on the Broadway building line before any setbacks and Mr.
Cuozzo's article maintained that "two towers of different
heights will rise above a much lower base - one tower near to
Broadway, the other closer to Central Park West."
The notion of twin towers for the site seemed obvious, given Central
Park West's great architectural heritage of such structures. However,
if the new owners planned to abide by, and take advantage of,
the provisions of the special Lincoln Square Zoning District,
such a design may not have been practical.
Given that the real estate market places very high premium on
Central Park vistas and high floors and that twin towers are not
the most efficient use of space and given that developers often
enjoy one-upping their competitors it was not inconceivable that
the new project would have a single tower on Central Park West
that would be taller than the Trump International Hotel and Tower
just to the south.
In any event, given the high acquisition costs of the land it
was certain that the new project would be targeted at the residential
As it worked out, the Zeckendorfs opted not for Mr. Pelli but
for Robert A. M. Stern and a two-, rather than twin-, towered
The tower slabs would be parallel to Central Park West and separated
by a 60-foot-wide courtyard with the taller tower in the middle
of the block and a low-rise wing along Broadway.
Mr. Stern, who has designed high-rise apartment towers in the
city such as the Chatham at 181 East 65th Street, TriBeCa Park
at 400 Chambers Street in Battery Park City and the Westminster
at 180 West 20th Street, is known as a post-modernist architect
as well as one of the country's foremost architectural historians.
His design here almost reproduces the massing
of the former Mayflower Hotel for the lower of the two buildings
but instead of brown brick has clad it, and the higher tower,
entirely in limestone and glass.
The design is rather startling and is certainly
Mr. Stern's greatest Post-Modern achievement as this is the best
new pre-war building in town. It abounds in fine details and subtle
touches and the top of the tall tower is a very fine skyline addition.
The decision to go with Mr. Stern was obviously a conservative
one, but a very safe bet. What is rather extraordinary about the
design is how deferential it is not only to Trump's tower to the
south but also to the apartment tower to the north on Broadway.
It preserves many important views from both those towers and the
placement of the tall tower actually gives it impressive views
Its stately design avoids clashing with the
reflective towers to the south and significantly reinforces the
"solidity" of the streetwall of Central Park West.
Such sites do not come up often and the city
still was in the backwaters of tepid design, a lingering malaise
that would only begin to alter around the time of this building's
completion. It was a safe bet, and it paid off well as apartments
in the building quickly sold at astronomical prices.
The lower tower rises 231 feet on Central Park
West while the mid-block tower is about the same height as the
Trump International Hotel and Tower across the street to the south
and about 200 feet taller than the Century Apartments across the
street to the north.
The taller of the two buildings has an asymmetrical top. One tower
is 20 stories and the other is 43 stories. The Central Park West
building has several terraces and its roof is landscaped to enhance
the vistas of neighbors on higher floors.
The development has 201 apartments plus 30
"suites" that "may be purchased by residents for
their guests or personal staff, or for use as home offices."
The two towers are connected at their base.
The Central Park West wing is known as "The House" and
the higher mid-block structure is known as "The Tower."
A press release for the building provided the following commentary:
"In the tradition of the city's most prestigious apartment
houses, Fifteen Central Park West has two distinct lobbies. The
magnificent Central Park West lobby will be a sweeping 35 feet
by 45 feet, with two fireplaces, some of the world's most handsome
stone, and custom hardwood paneling. The other lobby will be off
of the cobblestone motor court, featuring a grand copper-clad
and glass entrance pavilion."
Apartments, it continued, "will range from full-floor penthouses
(6,617 square feet), to terraced duplex penthouses (6,139 square
feet), to oversized one-bedroom apartments (1,026 square feet)."
According to a fact sheet for the project, "Ninety percent
of the units have direct park views," ceiling heights will
be 10 to 14 feet, and the building will have more than 40 full-time
staff members. The apartments will have wood-burning fireplaces,
and residents will have a private dining room which can accommodate
up to 60 guests with room service and a private chef, a private
screening room designed by Theo Kalomirakis, a business center,
a game room with a billiard table, full-time maid and maintenance
services, individual wine cellars, bicycle storage rooms, private
storage units and a 13,500-square-foot fitness center with a 75-foot
swimming pool with skylights illuminated by the reflecting pool
in the garden above.
Prior to the demolished Mayflower Hotel, the site was occupied
by the United States Motor Company and Dorland's Riding Academy.
The tower and the Central Park West building
are separated by a 60-foot-wide street-level, walled open space.
On 61st Street, that space has a turnaround driveway, or "motor
court," with motorized sliding gates. On 62nd Street, the
space is walled but has grills that enable pedestrians to see
into it. This northern space is landscaped with a reflecting pool
that serves as a skylight for a swimming pool underneath in the
project's fitness center. In the middle of the through-block space
there is an oval entrance pavilion and the through-block space
also has a through-block pedestrian arcade.
The five-story base along Broadway has two-story-high
retail spaces topped by three residential floors.
The Central Park West entrance is two-stories
tall with an arched and curved surround flanked by wall lanterns.
The asymmetrical top of the tower building
has a variety of elements including an arch reminiscent of one
atop 1040 Fifth Avenue, open colonnades and a pergola-like structure.
The project received a 20 percent zoning bonus under the city's
"inclusionary housing" program and this requirement
is being met by providing 41 such units at 33 West End Avenue
under the auspices of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.
There are two elevator stacks in each building so that the elevators
will open onto two-apartment hallways.
Apartment prices ranged initially from about
$2 million to about $45 million.
SLCE is the architect of record.
The building neared completion in the fall
of 2007 to wide acclaim and great success. It was completedly
sold for a total of about $1,900,000,000 and an article by Michael
Gross in the July 23, 2007 edition of The New York Observer
stated that about 26 percent of that figure represented profit
for the developers. Indeed, in 2005, Daniel Loeb, a hedge-fund
manager, bought a 10,700-square-foot penthouse for about $45 million.
It had eight bedrooms, 10 bathrooms and 14-foot-high ceilings.
Mr. Gross's article indicated that Mr. Loeb's neighbors in the
new building would include Sting, the singer, Denzel Washington,
the actor, Bob Costas, the sportscaster, Lloyd Blankfein, the
CEO of Goldman Sachs and Sanford Weill. (9/29/07)
"The posh pad is on the
41st floor of 15 Central Park West, a building developed by real-estate
mogul William Zeckendorf and his brother Arthur for rich actors, sports
and rock stars and financial bigwigs. The last time anyone came
close to spending as much per square foot was in 2008, when Bolat
Nazarbaev, brother of the president of Kazakhstan, paid $20.1 million
for a 1,980-square-foot apartment at The Plaza."
It's also home to moguls like former Citigroup head Sandy Weill and hedge-funder Dan Ochs. William Zeckendorf, who currently lives in the apartment, did not return
calls. He bought the penthouse from his own company for $10.7 million in 2005
during its pre-construction stage." (11/9/10)