New York is facing twin real-estate crises: a massive amount of empty office space and almost no new housing construction.
The pandemic-induced shift to remote work caught many in the commercial real-estate industry off guard. But some developers and architects have used the opportunity to lean into a business model they’d been pursuing long before COVID-19: turning empty office buildings into housing.
They include the real-estate development and investment firm Vanbarton Group and the architecture firm Gensler. They’re currently finishing up their transformation of 160 Water Street, a 1970s office tower in lower Manhattan that will become 586 apartments. This comes after Vanbarton worked with the architecture firm CetraRuddy to convert a similar building at 180 Water Street into 574 units back in 2017.
Their work has drawn support from politicians like Mayor Eric Adams, who recently announced plans to grease the wheels of office-to-residential conversions. Most of the estimated 96 million square feet of vacant office space in New York City would be prohibitively expensive, or illegal, to turn into housing. But in some cases, it’s feasible.
The conversions each pose unique challenges. A universal issue is the lack of air and light in the center of these large commercial buildings, and making more windows available for apartments can require extreme makeovers to those looming, dark office towers.
DAVID MARCUS: Mayor Adams says the world’s greatest city will be destroyed by the migrant crisis… after HE fought to make New York an immigrant sanctuary. Yet all those who warned him were trashed as racists!