Tower Verre Gets the Green Light

Wednesday, 30 Oct 2013 04:03 PM
tower verre - 53 West 53rd street - street view
air space diagram
tower verre - 53 West 53rd street - sky view
tower verre - 53 West 53rd street - lobby
tower verre - 53 West 53rd street - lobby space
tower verre moma

After six years on the back burner, the Tower Verre is finally getting the green light to go ahead. Like many other extravagant high-rise developments, 53 West 53rd street came to a sudden halt during the recession. This is all set to change thanks to a group of cashed-up Asian banks and real estate tycoons who have just offered to fork out $1 billion to bankroll the project through to fruition. Houston-based development group, Hines, is partnering with Goldman Sachs to oversee the development which is set to take place on the lot adjoining the world famous MoMa.

When initial plans for the soaring structure were revealed in 2007 by French architect; Jean Nouvel, they were received with the typical mix of excitement from investors and criticism from preservationist groups. But as financial backing for the development waned over the years, so did public interest. Until this week, that is, when Singapore’s fifth richest family, the Kwee brothers, coughed up a cool $300 million in project sponsorship.

Construction for the 1,050-foot skyscraper is due to commence next year and is expected to be finished in 2018. During the development’s six year hiatus, plans for the building have remained relatively unchanged. Hines is still promising to deliver a 78-story skyscraper which will house 145 luxury condominiums and incorporate a three level expansion of the MoMa.

Tower Verre is one of many post-recession juggernauts that’s come about as a result of the growing trend in the buying and selling of air rights. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that in a space-poor island like Manhattan, building upwards is the only way to expand. But this overhead space comes with a price and this price is rigidly dictated by Floor Area Ratio (FAR). As the standard unit for measuring and dividing development rights, FARs are fast becoming the hottest commodity in the New York City real estate.

Essentially, how it works is: if a developer wants to erect a tall building or extend an existing property upward, they cannot exceed the FAR limit dictated by their particular zone. However, if any of the neighboring buildings fall below their FARs, the developer can buy them, max out the collective FARs for that particular zone, and construct their money-making monster skyscraper.

This is exactly what we’ve seen happen with the recent surge in luxury condominiums like “Billionaire Building” One57, the Trump World Tower at United Nations Plaza, and 35XV which bought its air rights from neighboring properties to build upon Xavier High School. Thanks to the lucrative air right markets, and a bunch or Singapore billionaires, it looks like Tower Verre will soon be joining this exclusive club of Manhattan skyline standouts.