By Holly Dutton
In a post-Sandy world, designers of waterfront communities had to get creative and be smart about the way they would build along bodies of water.
Three companies building projects along very different parts of the waterfront shared details on the design process at a recent panel on housing after Hurricane Sandy hosted by the American Institute of Architects.
For all three projects, developers had to address climate change and the recent release of the projected 100-year floodplain, which reports that 400,000 New York City residents are living within the floodplain, a number that is expected to double by 2050, said Bonnie Harken, president of Nautilus International Development Consulting and co-chair of the AIA’s Post-Sandy Initiative’s Waterfront Working Group.
One of the most highly-publicized and hotly-anticipated waterfront projects is Two Trees’ $1.5 billion re-development of the former Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg into a mixed-use community.
After purchasing the site in 2012, Two Trees approached SHoP Architects with the idea of “re-thinking” the already-approved plans from the previous owners.
“It was the first time a developer ever said they wanted to go through the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) process again,” said Lisa Schwert, a project architect at SHoP Architects who is working on the Domino Sugar project.
Three months into the design process, Hurricane Sandy hit NYC.
With planned buildings right on the newly-drawn out floodplain, the original plans had to be changed, and the buildings were pulled further from the waterfront.
Changes also included pulling River Street through the site (it currently dead ends in the site) and connecting it to South 5th Street.
The conceptual design, the renderings of which have raised eyebrows, show at least three towers with rectangular holes in the middle of them, which Schwert said would “bring light and air back into the neighborhood,” and minimize potential blocked views of lower-height buildings.
Two Trees wanted to re-visit the original plans to make sure the project was “truly” mixed-use. That led the company to decrease the residential footprint from 87 percent in 2010 plans to 75 percent in the newest plans, and add 400,000 more square feet of office space.
The company is looking to bring 2,700 new jobs to the neighborhood and put retail “in every location possible.”
However, Two Trees “was very clear that they do not want big box stores,” said Schwert.
About 3.5 miles north of the Domino site, an affordable housing development sponsored by the city is taking shape in Hunter’s Point South, a waterfront area of Long Island City, Queens.
Eran Chen, a principal at ODA, the firm that won the city’s competition to design the area as an affordable housing community, heavily researched ways to prevent and mitigate damage in the case of another storm like Sandy.
That resulted in raising the development (which is in hurricane evacuation Zone 1)above parking level with no basement, and bringing mechanical equipment to the second floor.
“We asked ourselves, is there a way to design structures that accommodate the risk of flood but new types of architecture that are useful and creative and create new opportunities,” said Chen. One idea was based on the Thames River Flood Barrier in London, a series of hydraulic steel gates, which has been hugely successful for that city but would be a huge financial undertaking in New York City.
Developer TF Cornerstone, which has been instrumental in transforming Long Island City, will build phase two of the Hunter’s Point project.
The development will have 1.2 million s/f of residential space, with 1,000-1,200 units, 12,000 s/f of amenities, 30,000 s/f of commercial space, and a 60,000 s/f commercial facility.
The design idea merges a courtyard with two New York towers as a hybrid, and slices it into two modules, while adding a sequence of outdoor spaces accessible to everyone and with a variety of outdoor experiences.
Out in the Rockaways near the Beach 44th Street station, an 80-acre span of abandoned oceanfront property that was being primed for development before the credit crisis, is now in the process of becoming a new beachfront community.
Along with the city’s Department of Housing Preservation & Development, developers L&M Development Partners, Triangle Equities and the Bluestone Organization launched a competition for a mixed-use, sustainable, mixed-income design for the site, dubbed Arverne East.
The winners were Swedish design firm White Arkitekter, which worked with NYC-based firms ARUP and Gensler on their design titled “Far Roc.”
It was important in the design process to keep in mind the people who would be living in the development, said Oliver Schaper of Gensler.
“The project is a holistic approach to resiliency,” said Schaper. “We believe we can address and facilitate interaction with natural reaction with relatively little means. We can’t protect nature anymore by building a fence around it.”
Schaper and the design team focused on design that would reduce and control damage, maintain access and operation, ensure quick recovery and empower the community.
Continuing on the street grid that already exists, the team focused on public spaces — a community center, nature preserve, large pier reaching out into the ocean, two landscaped wetland parks and a train station near ps 106.
The landscaped parks are designed to direct storm water away from homes and other essential facilities.
Single-family home designs and streets with small business interspersed are part of the plans, as well as opportunities for small businesses and retail.
The number of units and square footage for the site have not been released as of yet.