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New Building Report Card: 30 Park Place


Only residents may care how new buildings turn out on the inside, but we all have to live with the outside. So let’s review the new tower at 3o Park Place. The building was developed by Silverstein Properties; the architect is Robert A. M. Stern. Please don’t let the fact that you’re not an architecture expert (either) stop you from weighing in.

The design in general

The 82-story building is primarily a thin, square column atop a wider four-story base; chamfered corners at the base and notched corners and setbacks on the tower lend an Art Moderne feel. The first 24 floors are the Four Seasons Downtown New York hotel, with an entrance on Barclay; the rest are condominiums, with an entrance on Park Place. To the east, across a narrow public plaza, is a three-story outbuilding (for parking and mechanicals) in the same style. Designing a new tower on the same block as the Woolworth Building poses obvious challenges; mimicking the Woolworth’s ornateness may be impossible in this day and age, so Stern utilized myriad devices to make the new tower feel as if it could’ve been built decades ago. (If anything, 30 Park Place feels more akin to the Federal Office Building across Church.) Besides all that notching and chamfering, there are bay windows, Juliet balconies, iron railings, Neoclassical frills on the level above the hotel, Art Deco grilles…. I don’t have the architectural vocabulary to describe them all; spend a few minutes looking at the building and you’ll see how decorated it is, especially compared to the glass shafts going up everywhere else.

The only serious issue with the overall design is that the proportions are off: The building is too thin for its height. But that’s the new normal, and as more pencil buildings pop up, it’ll likely feel less weird.

At street level

The façade is generally elegant at street level: Stern used granite and limestone to clad the first floor, and cheaper pre-cast colored concrete panels—to mimic limestone—higher up. The Four Seasons entrance looks like a bank vault, which might be intentional, and the Cut restaurant’s exterior could use some drama, but the condo side has a terrific Art Deco awning (soon to get wrought-iron poles), and there are sconces made to resembles vines all around the building. I’ve already gone on record as admiring the plaza, which is far better than the afterthought over at 111 Murray; the tenants that rent the three retail spaces will have a tremendous effect on the overall appeal of the plaza.

Upon closer viewing…

From a distance, 30 Park Place has a welcome dignity, even if its pencil-like proportions can be jarring. Stare at it up close for a while, and all those flourishes can start to look like the gilding of a lily. I have found myself wishing that Stern had streamlined the design a bit, trusting the inherent grace of the shape more. And we’ll have to see how the concrete holds up; the second photo below is from a balcony on the amenity floor, and you can see the concrete is stained and chipped. (Speaking of stains, the ugly black soot around the second-floor restaurant vent, right off the residential entrance, is pretty embarrassing.)

And the top?

The top possibly has too much going on, compared to the vast middle section, but that’s a quibble. Because to the building’s immense credit, the mechanicals are hidden from view—something that happens far too rarely around here. And it’s lit nicely at night.

Is the building an improvement?

I didn’t really go below Murray Street much before starting this website, at which point the previous building had already been demolished (and then sat stalled till the economy improved). There aren’t that many photos of the previous building online. As you can see below, or better yet, on Google Maps, it was the type of solid, gray-flannel-suit building they don’t make anymore. But the new 30 Park Place holds its own well enough.

Rendering vs. reality

The renderings are slicker than reality, but there are no glaring discrepancies.

Pass or fail?

Pass, definitely.

••• 15 Leonard
••• The Sterling Mason (71 Laight)
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••• 290 West
••• The Reade Chambers (71 Reade/87 Chambers)

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