It is a familiar big-city pattern, real estate professionals and artists say: Low rents draw artists to a fringe area, and galleries follow. Then other residents, drawn by the hip ambience, show up as well. Later, restaurants and retailers, seeing the potential, want to move in. Demand for space grows and rents climb. The artists, priced out, eventually leave for cheaper areas and their galleries go with them.
In West Chelsea, Manhattan's current booming art district, a developer has taken an unusual step that may help to prevent this pattern from playing out again.
The project, the Chelsea Arts Tower, is a commercial condominium, as opposed to the much more common rental building. The theory is that galleries and other arts-related businesses can protect themselves against rising rents by buying a unit, perhaps benefiting from escalating property values instead of being victimized by them.
In a neighborhood like West Chelsea, which is soon to experience a rash of new residential and commercial construction tied into the redevelopment of the High Line, an elevated former railroad track, ownership of space may prove especially important.
At least, that is the bet being wagered by Bass Associates, the developer of the 20-story tower.
Located at 545 West 25th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues, the site of a former parking lot, the $60 million development features full-floor units of 3,100 to 4,700 square feet, with thick concrete columns and floors. Buyers will build their own interiors.
"We built the Chelsea Arts Tower because the demand for the product is there," said Jack Guttman of the Chelsea Development Group, a partner in Bass Associates. "We wanted to create a landmark property in a great location, and we wanted it to be a draw for the arts community. The site was perfect for this particular design."
So far, the bet by Bass seems to be paying off. Fourteen of the 20 floors have been sold, with some buyers taking multiple floors. Prices per floor are $700 to $1,200 a square foot, depending on how high a floor is (and therefore how good the view is); this works out to $2.87 million to $4 million a floor, according to Stuart Siegel, a managing director in the New York office of Grubb & Ellis, a real estate brokerage firm, which has represented Bass through all stages of the development process.
The building, which will be clad in gray and black metallic-looking panels of Trespa, a hard plastic composite made in the Netherlands, already dwarfs its low-slung neighbors, though it will not be finished until August.
To maximize light and views, each unit has floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, and seven floors have terraces.
The lobby will be designed by Richard Gluckman, whose New York credits include work on the Whitney Museum and the Dia Center for the Arts. This area will be staffed by a concierge, who will perform a variety of services like signing for packages, receiving visitors and calling for car services.
The developer is also promising tight security, including surveillance cameras and locking elevators, to keep the works of art safe.
"Security is one of the first questions that buyers ask about," Mr. Siegel said.
One unusual step taken by the developer was to convene five focus groups of gallery owners to figure out what it would take to get them to buy in a commercial condo. The answers produced some changes in the preliminary plans. For instance, the original plan called for only two elevators, but the gallery owners warned about the long waits that can occur on opening nights, so a third elevator was added.
In addition, the ceiling height was increased to 11 feet from 9 feet to accommodate lager installations, and the developers learned that zoned temperature controls were desirable, so the air-conditioning could be controlled on each floor, whatever the season.
The use of focus groups is "a very good approach to the process when you're doing something new," Mr. Guttman said.
He is the principal of Chelsea Development, which is based in Manhattan. It represents one-half of Bass Associates, which was created for the purpose of building this project. The other half is Young Woo & Associates, another developer with headquarters in Manhattan.
Among the tenants are established galleries and some individuals, and businesses that are buying office space. Marlborough Gallery — a focus group participant — will keep its West 57th Street gallery but move its second gallery operations from 211 West 19th Street to the tower's second floor and ground floor, which will have rollback glass doors for moving very large pieces into the gallery.
Another gallery is Tina Kim Fine Art, which has purchased the third floor. Jaime Schwartz, a sales assistant at the gallery, said the move would allow the firm to double its floor space, to 4,300 square feet, from about 2,000 at its current location at 41 West 57th Street, as well as help it attain a higher profile in the industry. "We're hoping that the new building will generate some curiosity in itself," Ms. Schwartz said.
Other tenants include Calvin Klein, who bought the 18th floor, and Glenn Fuhrmann, a money manager, who purchased the 9th and 10th floors.
In addition, Adam Lindemann, a board member of the Public Art Fund, a nonprofit group that sets up art around the city, has purchased the 17th floor, though he says it is to set up a New York office for Ikepod, a watch design company, in which he is a partner.
"It will be a good place to go to get creative thinking done," he said.
Condos are not popular with most retail businesses, in part because ownership limits their ability to expand into larger spaces if they are successful, according to Brian Gell, a vice chairman with CB Richard Ellis who specializes in commercial leasing in Manhattan.
Buying a commercial condo also requires a large upfront payment and that can be difficult for a start-up business, he said.
Still, a few commercial condos do exist in the city, like Delmonico Plaza at 55 East 59th Street, 420 Fifth Avenue and 830 Third Avenue. Among commercial properties that have recently been converted into condos are 14 Wall Street and 125 Maiden Lane.
During the past few years Chelsea became a one-stop-shopping destination for high-style contemporary architecture as well as high-end art, and the results can be depressing. For every significant building that went up, the neighborhood seemed to produce a half-dozen or so inferior knockoffs. The feeling on the streets now is the same as it is in most of the galleries: the sheer amount of work, and the mediocrity of most of it, can make the effort of sorting out the good from the bad too painful to contemplate.
So Jean Nouvel’s new residential tower — at the western end of 19th Street, unveiled at an event this month — is a relief of sorts. It is a luxury building, and who would argue that we need more of those? But its mix of grit and glamour — embodied in a glittering facade that seems to have been wrapped around the curved front of a black brick tower like a tight-fitting sequined dress — is apt to temper whatever you may feel about the Wall Streeters and art-world insiders who are likely to move into its apartments. It conjures a downtown New York we once loved and can now barely remember, where rundown manufacturing buildings buzzed with cultural vitality.
Jean Nouvel’s new apartment building is at 100 11th Avenue, at 19th Street, in Chelsea. Credit Michael Appleton for The New York Times
The building’s rough-edged sex appeal may actually overshadow what’s best about the project, the remarkable skill with which Mr. Nouvel embeds it into its surroundings. Rising on the brief stretch of 11th Avenue that doubles as the West Side Highway, directly across the street from the billowing glass forms of Frank Gehry’s IAC building and abutting a somber brick women’s prison on the other side, the tower is part of a taut composition of disparate — even conflicting — urban realities. Its shifting appearance in the skyline is a sly commentary on the conflict between public and private realms that is an inevitable byproduct of gentrification.
That process has become particularly savage in New York, a city divided between big development companies that see architectural novelty as a tool for inflating prices for their luxury projects, and local activists who have marginalized themselves by their refusal to accept any kind of change at all. (If the financial collapse has slowed this trend, it has done little to alter the mentalities behind it.)
Mr. Nouvel did not invent that world, but he knows that his name is used to sell real estate, and he understands that fashionable forms can disguise the damage caused by heedless market forces behind a gloss of radical chic. Like many of his generation — Mr. Nouvel is 64 — he retains a stubborn, some might say naïve, belief that architecture should make us alert to the conflicts that shape the modern city rather than conceal them.
That attitude is apparent in the mixed signals the building sends. Seen from across the West Side Highway, the tower’s twinkling facade, with its hundreds of irregularly shaped windows tilted at odd angles to reflect fragments of sky or the surrounding city, offers a striking counterpoint to the soft, sail-like curves of Mr. Gehry’s creation. Rows of older brick buildings flank them to the north and south, and the contrast between glass and masonry, straight and curved lines, creates a nice rhythm along what was once a bleak strip of decrepit offices and warehouses.
Cut-out windows frame contrasting views of Manhattan. Credit Jean Nouvel
I prefer the view from the east, however, along West 19th Street. The side of the building is made of matte-black bricks and punctured by a few small sporadic windows, evoking the unadorned backsides of prewar tenements. All you see of the main glass facade is a thin sliver of steel running along its front edge.
As you approach the corner, the facade’s riotous forms suddenly come into view, and it’s startling. Close up, the steel frames that support the windows look beefier, and the effect is more frenetic. A second glass-and-steel screen wraps around the building’s lower floors. Supported on a heavy concrete base, the frames of this screen interlock at the street corner like interwoven fingers, enclosing a small open-air terrace that will serve a ground-floor restaurant and bar.
These spaces have no tenants yet, and for now remain hidden behind fencing and construction equipment. Some of the window frames have been left intentionally empty, so that it may take a moment to sort out whether you’re indoors or out. A network of heavy steel beams reaching up several stories connects the screen back to the main facade; the beams will eventually support big planters containing trees that will seem to hover in midair.
It’s a nice surrealistic touch. Yet the punched-out windows and ragged corner also suggest an erosion of the boundary between the public life of the street and the guarded, private realm inside. The future restaurant’s terrace is made of the same concrete as the sidewalk, as if to suggest that it really belongs to the city. Glass-enclosed terraces off the lower-floor apartments will push out into the space of the elevated trees, as if the building’s residents were reaching out to grab more for themselves.
Black brick helps Jean Nouvel's Chelsea tower blend in. Credit Michael Appleton for The New York Times
These same tensions continue to play out inside. There’s a sexiness to the main lobby, with its floors and walls of sleek black granite and painted glass, and its fleeting view of a swimming pool set between the tower and the back of the older brick building behind it.
Once you get to the apartments, however, that eroticism is mixed with a certain urban toughness. Details are simple and straightforward (despite the Viking stoves). The apartment terraces are reached through pivoting, industrial-scale doors. Mr. Nouvel imagines the terraces filling up with potted plants, bicycles and other odds and ends once the tenants have settled in.
Conversely, the backs of the apartments have small cut-out windows placed at odd heights — some at eye level, others up near the ceiling — that frame contrasting views of the city: the clock on the old Metropolitan Life Tower; a caged recreational area on the roof of the prison; a sooty brick wall covered with pipes, the Empire State Building. The care with which the views are framed — reinforced by the windows’ simple heavy steel borders — is such that you can almost feel the city tugging at you.
(The penthouse, not surprisingly, is the least seductive of all the apartments. Vast and airy, it could have been shaped by a real estate agent’s checklist. Sweeping river views, marble fireplaces, walk-in closets: these are today’s equivalent of gold faucets and sunken tubs.)
Some will argue that all of this simply provides a veneer of civility to a culture that is sliding deeper and deeper into narcissism. For me, though, the building is a lesson on how to navigate an enlightened path in an era of extremes. It’s not utopia, but it demonstrates what a major talent can accomplish when he focuses his mind on a small corner of the city.
THE far west side of Midtown, once notable mostly for being home to the Javits Center and the city’s few remaining stables, is quickly becoming known for huge residential projects like Silver Towers, with 1,360 units; MiMA, with more than 800 units as well as a hotel; and Mercedes House, with 850 units.
Now comes Gotham West, a vast rental-and-condominium complex that will take up nearly all of the block from 44th to 45th Street and from 10th to 11th Avenue. Its construction will involve a feat of engineering: the extension of a platform over below-grade railroad tracks that bisect the site.
Gotham West, which broke ground this summer and is expected to open in 2013, though most likely with a different name, is also packing a remarkable amount of housing into that block.
Its 1,263 units will range from 475-square-foot studios to 1,400-square-foot three-bedrooms, and will include both market-rate and income-restricted rental apartments, though with a handful of condos as well.
According to renderings from the developer, the Gotham Organization, the 556 market-rate rentals will be clustered in what is essentially a single U-shaped brick building on the site’s western side, though it will appear to be adjacent towers of varying heights, from 7 to 31 stories. That design was chosen to diversify the streetscape, said David Picket, the president of the Gotham Organization.
Gotham West will take up almost an entire block and include 682 affordable units. Credit SLCE Architects
“We wanted to give it a little delicacy,” Mr. Picket said.
But the bulk of the project will be affordable units, 682 of them, or more than half the total homes. In fact, Gotham West represents the largest-ever affordable project undertaken in New York by a private developer, according to a spokesman for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which previously controlled the site.
Those apartments, with reduced rents, will be reserved for families who make below a certain income level, with three tiers of eligibility: those who earn up to 50 percent of the area’s median income; up to 135 percent; and up to 165 percent.
Some of those units will be scattered among the market-rate homes on the western side, which will also have 15,000 square feet of retail space, possibly including a specialty food store, Mr. Picket said.
Most, though, will be at midblock between 44th and 45th Streets and will share a landscaped, Wi-Fi-enabled two-level private courtyard with other residents.
The remaining 243 affordable apartments will be in a pair of 14-story towers on the site’s eastern side, over the railroad tracks.
Finally, 25 condos will be built in a 40,000-square-foot red-brick former elementary school on 45th Street. It housed Public School 51 until this fall, when students were relocated to Our Lady of Good Counsel, a former Catholic school on the Upper East Side.
Work has started on the site, between 44th and 45th Streets.
Behind the recently vacated school, the School Construction Authority is building a replacement, which is supposed to be completed by fall 2013. On a recent afternoon, a few stories of its framing were visible. The condos are also to be completed in 2013, Mr. Picket said.
Developers say both market-rate and affordable units will have stainless-steel appliances and granite counters, though the market-rate units will get wooden strip flooring while the affordable get parquet. The designs for the condos are still under consideration.
Although rents have yet to be determined, market-rate one-bedrooms in new buildings in the area, on high floors with sweeping views, average $4,000 a month, brokers say.
Having so many affordable apartments also allowed the $520 million project to qualify for tax-exempt bonds from the state’s Housing Finance Agency. Still, the Gotham Organization is contributing $200 million of its own money. The condos will be financed separately.
The site was condemned by the city in the 1970s and largely cleared, to make way for new buildings that never materialized, despite a range of proposals. The most recent one, in the early 2000s, was to erect Studio City New York, a 15-story complex with 7 film and TV soundstages as well as a restaurant and shops.
Instead, the site has mostly been a place to park cars and board police horses through the decades.
What changed is Hudson Yards, the megadevelopment planned for a few blocks south. As part of the deal that allowed that area to be rezoned for offices and homes, Clinton residents were promised more below-market-rate housing, which led to the approval of Gotham West.
Even with the other major projects in the neighborhood, there is little risk of oversaturation, said Daniel Neiditch, the president of River 2 River Realty, a brokerage that has rented apartments there for a decade. Adding housing supply, especially large projects like Gotham West, can generate more demand in an area in transition like Clinton, Mr. Neiditch said, because it conveys a sense of stability and permanence to potential residents.
Correction: January 15, 2012
An article last Sunday on Gotham West, a planned residential development between 10th and 11th Avenues on the West Side of Manhattan, misstated the amount of retail space in the project. There will be 15,000 square feet of retail, not 1,700 square feet.
In terms of marketing tone, the commercial real estate industry has long played the quiet cousin to the brasher residential business. While apartments are routinely sold using splashy, multifaceted ad campaigns, commercial brokers and developers have favored lower-key, brochure-based approaches.
But the two branches of the family may be growing closer. In recent months, the marketing teams for some New York office buildings have decided to get the word out by deploying the type of stylish Web sites once used only by luxury condominiums.
Unlike the Web sites of office buildings past, which tended to be bare-bones and buried deep within a landlord’s corporate home page, this new crop stands alone and crackles with animation, exuberant language and videos.
And by publicizing details like where telecom cables enter the building, these sites add transparency to a business that can seem clubby and secretive.
“Lunches with brokers is an old-school way of getting your message out,” said Grant Greenspan, a broker and principal at the Kaufman Organization, a landlord that has set up Web sites for two of its buildings, 100-104 Fifth Avenue and 550 Seventh Avenue. But, he added, “it’s only as good as the group of brokers who you perceive to have the clients.”
A rendering of 837 Washington Street in the meatpacking district. More commercial developers are using Web sites to promote their buildings. Credit Dbox Branding & Creative
By introducing buildings to the public online to generate demand, Mr. Greenspan said, “you get clients going to their brokers and saying, ‘Why aren’t you showing me this building?’ ”
The site for 100-104 Fifth Avenue, a pair of joined, early-20th-century buildings near Union Square that Kaufman co-owns with Invesco Real Estate, was also useful in chronicling the $15 million renovation that occurred after the development team bought the property out of bankruptcy in 2010 for $94 million.
The renovation, which took two years, included adding a fire safety system and six elevators and redesigning a pair of lobbies. All of this is described in a colorful, animated timeline on the Web site, 100-104fifth.com, as are the specifics about those telecom cables.
The Kaufman Organization credited the site with helping to fill the 270,000-square-foot building quickly. It is at 98 percent occupancy today, up from 60 percent when the landlord bought it.
According to Mr. Greenspan, all six tenants signed there since 2010 said the site had played a major role in piquing their interest. Those tenants include Yelp, the online review business; Apple’s iAd, an advertising network; and Net-a-Porter, a women’s apparel retailer. They pay rents ranging from $45 to $60 per square foot, Kaufman said.
Similarly, at 550 Seventh Avenue, which Kaufman recently began managing for Adler Group, a new Web site is being used to rebrand the 12-story building in the garment district, where fashion tenants have historically held sway.
The Web site, 550seventhave.com, may surprise property owners who tend to be tight-lipped about their tenants. It shows the directory in the building’s lobby, revealing that Lilly Pulitzer, Donna Karan International and Oscar de la Renta have offices inside.
The site, introduced in October, is already paying off. An 11,000-square-foot space on the 10th floor is expected to be leased this month to a software company, Mr. Greenspan said, adding that the $30,000 cost of making both sites, plus the hours logged by a full-time worker, had been worth every penny.
If Web sites “facilitate renting the spaces 60 or 90 days sooner, they make all the sense in the world,” he said.
Some major New York landlords, like the Chetrit Group, have no online presence. And even when Web sites do exist, they can be a bit stolid, offering little more than the year the building was completed, its architect and its total square footage, as with the General Motors Building, owned by Boston Properties. Brokers say that when a high-rise has existed for years and is one of Manhattan’s prized addresses as well, it may not have to promote itself online.
A new office building must do more, especially when it hasn’t even come out of the ground yet. In those cases, a Web site is essential to allow tenants to visualize their future home, said Christopher V. Albanese, president of the Albanese Organization, a Long Island-based developer. These sites tend to be extremely eye-catching and could easily be mistaken for ones intended to sell multimillion-dollar condos.
In November, the Albanese Organization unveiled 510w22.com, for 510 West 22nd Street, a planned 170,000-square-foot office building in West Chelsea. The centerpiece of the artful Web site is a four-minute video narrated by the architect Rick Cook, which brims with dramatic music and soaring shots of the adjacent High Line.
Creating such a Hollywood-caliber product, which includes renderings that normally would not have been commissioned, doubled the building’s marketing budget — “but without it, tenants might think that this was just some ordinary building, and it really isn’t,” Mr. Albanese said.
Also, financing for the $150 million project cannot be secured until the building is 30 percent leased, he said, making a dynamic marketing tool all the more important.
Though online videos for commercial real estate are not widespread, they are gaining in popularity.
The Web site for 7 Bryant Park, a 28-story office building that Hines is developing on Avenue of the Americas, features a two-minute video. A piano tinkles; the camera swoops.
The site, 7bryantpark.com, introduced last winter, has not led to leases yet, but George C. Lancaster, Hines’s senior vice president of communications, said to expect similar branding for future projects. Web sites are “the first place anybody goes these days to shop for clothes or office space,” he said.
Brian Lindvall, a partner at Dbox, which made Hines’s video and the Web site for 510 West 22nd Street, agreed. Commercial assignments are coming in more frequently, he said, including one for the International Gem Tower, an Extell Development Company project at 50 West 47th Street.
Multimedia Web sites “have kind of been a residential tactic for a while,” said Mr. Lindvall, who has worked on apartment projects for Rudin Management and Forest City Ratner. “I think that relaying square footage and location is not enough to convey what a building represents.”
Like sites for condos, commercial real estate sites can seem to hawk lifestyles rather than places to put sofas or desks.
For example, businesses are urged to lease space at 837 Washington Street, under construction in the meatpacking district, because of its proximity to the new Whitney Museum and an Apple store — and, 837washington.com says, “because when fashion arrived, restaurateurs and hoteliers followed.”
The six-story, 55,000-square-foot, $100 million project is expected to be completed in 2014. Asking rents for the offices are $100 per square foot, said Paul E. Pariser, co-chief executive of Taconic Investment Partners, which is developing the building with Thor Equities.
According to Mr. Pariser, who sold 111 Eighth Avenue to Google in 2010, the tech companies that will most likely rent the space care about the hipness of their neighborhood. “They don’t want some stuffy image that says, ‘I have a Madison Avenue address,’ ” he said.
If Web sites help landlords leapfrog brokers to some degree by taking their message to the masses, the brokers don’t seem overly concerned.
Bruce Mosler, co-chairman of the brokerage firm Cushman & Wakefield, said he was glad technology had advanced enough to portray large offices compellingly online. He added that condos were ahead of the game only because apartments are simpler to depict.
Besides, brokers still need to be at the negotiating table when a lease is signed. “It will allow the product to get to the market more quickly,” Mr. Mosler said. “This town recognizes the value of what brokerages and brokers can provide.”
A drawn-out and often divisive plan to create a new neighborhood atop railroad tracks on the Far West Side — and, surprisingly, one having nothing to do with Hudson Yards — is embarking on its final phase.
Two towers are now rising at Riverside Center, an eight-acre development in the low West 60s near the Hudson River that is the last piece of the Riverside South mega-project, which since its conception five decades ago has put a shiny stamp on land once crossed by Penn Central trains.
The two new high-rises at West 60th Street — One West End, a 362-unit condominium from the Elad Group and Silverstein Properties, and 21 West End Avenue, a 616-unit rental from the Dermot Company and AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust — will be lofty and gleaming like their predecessors.
These buildings will also add a public school and stores, and possibly a European-style food market and restaurant, which brokers and residents hope will help to ease a lingering stigma that the area is an underserved backwater.
The 43-story building will be a mix of boxy glass and masonry sections. Credit Rendering from SLCE
“We’ve had room to grow, and this kind of growth is only positive,” said David Tobon, a resident and a founder of the BLU Realty Group, a brokerage with an office on Riverside Boulevard, the main strip. A section of that office is BLU Cafe, one of the only places, so far, to sit down and eat a sandwich.
The towers won’t be making a subtle entrance. Both have bold styles in an area that can seem dominated by cookie-cutter architecture.
The 42-story One West End, for instance, balances soaring glass and slightly off-center sections atop a limestone base that echoes an early 1900s steam plant still in operation across the street.
Designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, the condo will offer 246 market-rate apartments, on floors eight and above; they will mostly range from one-bedrooms starting at 800 square feet to four-bedrooms that start at 3,000 square feet.
Finished with wide-plank wood floors and gas fireplaces, the units will also feature marble kitchen counters and walnut vanities in their master baths. Also, bronze mailboxes will be set into the walls outside the front doors of each unit, so building staff can deliver newspapers and mail daily.
If touches like these recall a hotel, it’s no accident. Jeffrey Beers, the architect behind many hotels, including the Cove Atlantis resort in the Bahamas, as well as restaurants for Daniel Boulud, handled the interiors, in his first multifamily assignment. “From the moment you enter the lobby,” which will be decorated in dark-colored stone and wood, he said, “there will be a warmth and welcoming feeling you would find entering someone’s home.”
A vacation-in-place vibe, however, does extend to the amenities, including a 75-foot glass-walled swimming pool that will cantilever out from the tower, giving swimmers the illusion of being suspended over West End Avenue, according to Elad.
Nearby will be a 12,000-square-foot terrace on a roof lined with recliners, cabanas and barbecue grills, though in a nod to the building’s location in a part of town that often gets strafed by winds off the Hudson River, glass walls will protect it, Mr. Beers said.
Perhaps most significant, from a neighborhood-building perspective, One West will offer a market selling fresh produce and meats along West 60th Street, which is to be extended into Riverside Center. Details about the market are still being hammered out.
But Mr. Beers said he hopes that unlike the voguish food courts found at the Gotham West complex and other places, where there are a number of tables and counters for eating, any market at One West would be more akin to ones found in England, which mostly contain food stalls. Mr. Beers also designed the Plaza Food Hall in the basement of the Plaza Hotel.
As required by the 2010 rezoning that allowed One West End to go forward, the tower will also have 116 affordable rental units in a separate but connected structure entered through its own lobby. Though so-called poor-door arrangements have come under fire in mixed-income buildings, the affordable residents will have equal access to building amenities, according to Elad.
When sales kick off this winter after the offering plan is approved, prices will start at around $2,000 a square foot, or from $1.3 million to $20 million, said Samantha Sax, an executive vice president of Elad, which converted the Plaza to condos. Silverstein is known more for rental properties like Silver Towers. The foundation is complete and the building is expected to open at the end of 2016.
“If you went downtown or uptown not even a half-mile, the prices would be substantially higher,” said Ms. Sax, who would not disclose the development cost, though Elad and Silverstein did buy the site from the Extell Development Company and the Carlyle Group for $168 million in 2013, according to city records.
The 43-story tower at 21 West End, across West 60th Street, is now several floors out of the ground and is expected to open in the spring of 2016. A mix of boxy glass and masonry sections stacked like children’s blocks, the design, from SLCE Architects, also includes a cubelike section on stilts.
The building will have 616 apartments, from studios to three-bedrooms, 127 of which will be affordable, reserved for those within certain income limits and scattered throughout the full-block project, said Drew Spitler, Dermot’s director of development.
Market-rate rents at the units, which will have washers and dryers, stainless-steel appliances and walk-in closets, will be about $90 a square foot, or $3,700 a month for studios. That is similar to rents charged at other ground-up luxury towers on the nearby Upper West Side, Mr. Spitler added.
Aware that hefty amenities packages can entice residents to out-of-the-way locales like Riverside Center, Dermot will pack 21 West End with 30,000 square feet of them. A 60-foot pool will be in the basement and a huge fitness center will have yoga studios.
The site, which was bought from Extell and Carlyle in 2012 for $70 million, will also have a public school, which Dermot was required to help build as part of the rezoning deal. About 700 students will enroll there for prekindergarten through fifth grades.
The school could better knit these blocks to the urban fabric; 21 West End’s stores, which will total 24,000 square feet across two levels, large for the area, may also help.
Mr. Spitler also wants to court a restaurant to introduce night life to an area that can be gated-community-quiet after the sun goes down. But any place that serves dinner would mark a major change; in recent years, some places wouldn’t even deliver food to Riverside Boulevard, according to some residents.
“What has lagged a bit has been the retail, supermarkets, restaurants,” Mr. Spitler said, “but they are coming.” Even as they brighten the area’s corners, the pair of new towers will still be somewhat marooned at the site, which will not be completed until it has a total of five towers, a three-acre park and an extension of Riverside Boulevard connecting to West 59th Street, according to the master plan.
The three last building sites are now in contract to be sold by Extell and Carlyle to the General Investment and Development Companies, which is based in Boston, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. A spokesman for Extell had no comment; phone messages left with GID officials, including James E. Linsley, the president of the development group, were not returned.
GID has already been active in the area. In 2013, it teamed with a California pension fund to buy the Aldyn and Ashley, a connected condo-rental complex a few blocks away, from Extell and Carlyle.
When this last parcel of Riverside South is built out, a long, controversy-laden saga may finally come to a close.
That story began in the 1960s, as freight train traffic ebbed and development schemes began to surface. The developer Donald Trump first began trying to develop the 13-block site in the 1970s, but some of his proposals met with fierce community resistance, including a pitch to erect the world’s tallest building there.
Eventually, teamed with Asian investors, he built a string of condos and rentals along Riverside Boulevard, some of which are trimmed in gold metal and emblazoned with the address “Trump Place,” even though Mr. Trump no longer owns them.
In 2005, he and his investors sold the Riverside South parcel to Extell and Carlyle, who have built some condos of their own, including the Rushmore and One Riverside Park, at 50 Riverside Boulevard, which is 85 percent sold after a year.
Extell’s initial efforts to rezone the Riverside Center parcel were denounced by some elected officials and Manhattan Community Board 7, over both the lack of affordable housing and a school, aspects that were subsequently added.
Still, veterans of these fights are predicting the project will fail because it’s too isolated from the rest of the city.
“It will never be a destination — no one will go there,” said Batya Lewton, who in 1982, to oppose a Riverside South project of that era, co-founded what today is known as the Coalition for a Livable West Side.
“In order for stores to do well, you really have to have a lot of transient traffic,” said Ms. Lewton, 83, who has lived on the Upper West Side for her entire life, “and people aren’t walking there.”
But Kelly Kennedy Mack, the president of the Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group, which is consulting on One West End and has handled sales at many of the area’s condos, said that prices have climbed 66 percent in a decade on Riverside Boulevard, versus 43 percent on the Upper West Side as a whole. The current average sale price is $1,851 a foot, she said.
“People are willing to spend big dollars to be over there,” Ms. Mack said.