Robert A.M. Stern Has Plans for TriBeCa

The New York TimesApril 22, 2016

Robert A. M. Stern may be best known in certain New York circles for the high-end “apartment houses” that his firm, Robert A. M. Stern Architects, has designed uptown in the manner of the city’s grand and gracious prewar residences.

 

But the firm is also making its mark downtown with buildings like Abington House, a rental building in Chelsea, and Superior Ink, a condominium in the West Village. Another condo it designed, 30 Park Place, an 82-story tower in the Financial District, is expected to begin welcoming residents in a few months.

 

Now comes 70 Vestry in TriBeCa. It’s still a hole in the ground — a big one, stretching along West Street between Vestry and Desbrosses Streets, with backhoes busily digging in the dirt. But the site would be hard to beat — directly across from Hudson River Park, offering unobstructed views of the water. And the building’s developer, the Related Companies, has now opened a sales gallery a couple of blocks east, at 50 Vestry Street, that showcases the condo’s design and model rooms by the architect Daniel Romualdez, who took charge of 70 Vestry’s interiors.

 

For the exterior, the architects found inspiration not in the low-rise brick buildings in the immediate vicinity of the site — the sales gallery, in fact, is housed in a single-story 1920 structure that was previously an auto repair shop — but from the handsome warehouses from the turn of the 20th century that Mr. Stern and his team encountered as they wandered farther inland. He described these buildings in a phone interview as “both gutsy and refined.”

 

Stepping back from a six-story base, 70 Vestry will rise 13 stories. Smaller setbacks will provide terraces off many apartments on upper floors, offering views up and down the Hudson.

 

Like many of the firm’s New York buildings, 70 Vestry will be clad in limestone — in this case, honey-colored Beaumanière limestone quarried in France. The building’s ample casement windows will be detailed with dark metal spandrels with decorative rivets evoking New York’s gritty industrial past.

 

The building will wrap around a private courtyard with a cobblestone drive. Residents will enter the building from the courtyard after arriving via a portal on Vestry Street. Sheets of water coursing down a courtyard wall will create a calming hush. An automated system will whisk cars down to a parking level under the building.

 

Mr. Romualdez, a former member of Mr. Stern’s firm who is known for designing homes for Tory Burch and Aerin Lauder, said he chose to panel the lobby in flat-cut white oak threaded with bands of brushed brass to create “a cozy cocoon.”

 

The 46 apartments will range from 1,900 square feet to more than 7,000 square feet, with ceilings rising more than 12 feet in some units. Kitchens will feature four ovens: steam, convection, traditional and speed. Most apartments will also have two washers and two dryers. Honed marble master baths will have nickel-framed fluted-glass doors and large side-by-side medicine cabinets. Prices will start at $6.25 million.

 

According to Related, the building will top out by the beginning of next year, and is expected to open in early 2018.

 

Mr. Stern, 76, looks forward to it. “In the afternoon when the sun comes off the river, you’ll get fabulous colors on this facade,” he said. “The building will cast a glow back.”

 

The architect will retire from the deanship at the Yale School of Architecture — a position he has held since 1998 — at the end of the current term. He said he would return to teaching at Yale after taking a year off from academic life.

 

In the meantime, even though he had sworn he would never write another book about New York architecture — he and his collaborators have already produced five — he recently embarked on a sixth, covering the city’s buildings from 2000, where the last installment left off, to 2020.

 

Of course, 70 Vestry is expected to appear in it.

ARCHIVES