By Brian J. Pape
Until a few years ago, several hotel towers were being planned for the West Village and a 32-story condo tower could have been built at the Whitehall Warehouse site at 150 Charles Street, by right of the existing zoning regulations. When the city down-zoned parts of the West Village, to limit sizes and heights, any projects that hadn’t yet been approved and started with their foundations, were now limited to those zoning restrictions.
Appropriately named, 150 Charles, the new condo development had already started by the time the zoning changed. Instead of designing a tower on a cleared, setback site, like the Richard Meier glass towers nearby, architects Rick Cook and Bob Fox of CookFox Architects promoted a different, more holistic vision.
Both the Villages streets of Charles and West 10th maintain a uniform “streetwall” of buildings overlooking the sidewalk, creating an intimacy for both their residences and businesses. The new 150 Charles is designed to maintain this streetwall by reusing the façade frame of the warehouse, reclad in traditional red brick and industrial style mullion windows. (If you visit the Apple store at 14th Street and 9th Avenue, you will see a similarity of CookFox parti.) Instead of the common blank walls between entrances, CookFox created maisonettes of town houses along the sidewalks, some with their own garage doors.
This development, by the team of the Witkoff Group, CookFox, and Alan Wanzenberg Design (interiors), will have only 91 residences. This is roughly the same number as the condo in which I live and that means it too will have a very low intensity of traffic for the area; it will have its own parking garage, so it likely won’t burden the streets. There will be many amenities included for the luxury residences, such as a pool, gym, storage, lounges, concierge services, and courtyard gardens. Each apartment will feature high loft style ceilings and expansive windows. This will also be one of the greenest residential buildings in the country, incorporating many sustainability features.
How else will it affect the neighborhood, even if we’re not able to go inside? Once construction is complete in 2015, we will be able to look up at the many terraces landscaped in trees and vines, spilling over and softening the profile. Do we not delight in seeing the rooftop trees and plantings visible from the street or other vantage points? The new building will gently build up from behind the height of the older existing buildings along West Street, envelop the new courtyard, and conclude as a 15-story setback main body, with terraces at various levels facing the street.
There are some who don’t like any changes to their environment; there are others who don’t like anything that is old. Some fight to have the right to do anything they want with their property; others fight to take property rights away from owners. How can anything be achieved with this tension? With thoughtful consideration of the neighborhood, the domestic lifestyle of residents, the dynamic changes of the city, and what quality design features to include, this development team will produce a beneficial addition to the West Village.