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JDS showing its mettle with new Copper Tower Buildings

When JDS Development began constructing the dual towers that make up the massive American Copper Buildingsʼ luxury rental project in Midtown East, it became a cause for concern.

In a short video, architects at SHoP, the firm designing the building, discussed how the design of the buildings, both of which have distinctive bends in the middle, was initially a startling sight for pedestrians, who didn’t realize it was planned, and alerted the police.

“They told the police they looked like they were falling over,” the architects recalled in the video, which documented the exhaustive planning and preparation that went into the ambitious design of the towers.

The unique design has already turned heads, and it’s about to get a lot more interesting.

JDS opened the two towers — formerly known as 626 First Avenue — to media for the first time last week, with a presentation and viewing from the skybridge between the two properties thatʼs located between the 27th and 29th floors and offers sweeping views of Brooklyn and the Long Island City waterfront, as well as views west towards Manhattan and the Empire State Building.

With 900,000 s/f total, the 48-story buildings are a sleek, modern addition to the skyline, connecting in the middle in a style that JDS and SHoP describe as “dancing” with each other.

SkyBridge lap pool
SkyBridge lap pool

The three-level skybridge is the first major skybridge to be built in New York in 80 years. The bridge will house some of the building’s 60,000 s/f of amenities, which include a 75-foot lap pool, a bar residents’ bar and lounge.

The East Tower will also have rooftop amenities like an infinity view pool with outdoor shower as well as a rooftop dining and grilling.

“The East Tower is going to be Soho House but 400 feet in the air,” said Michael Stern, CEO of JDS Development, referring to the swanky members-only club near the Highline.

The rentals’ exhaustive list of amenities reads like offerings from a condo building: a yoga and Pilates studio, private spa and treatment rooms, juice and health bar, personalized training services, dynamic-energy studio, private locker rooms, children’s play room, catering kitchen, private event space, landscaped park and fountain, concierge service, sheltered porte cochere and underground parking.

The American Copper Buildings site was originally a 6.4 acre lot that housed a power plant. Owner, Sheldon Solow, sold the plot to JDS in 2013 for $172 million. Solow’s original plans for the site involved construction of a seven-tower, $4 billion complex designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. That plan would also have included a park and a public school, and an adjacent public space designed by Richard Meier.

Solow eventually changed his plans to a dual-tower complex, which JDS kept, but with a new architect.
With the far west side of Manhattan experiencing a flurry of construction, from the Hudson Yards to The Moinian Group’s massive SKY rental building, Stern is looking to bring the same kind of vibrancy to the other side of town, an area he said has been playing “catch up” for some time.

“This neighborhood needed a shot of adrenaline, something refreshing,” said Stern. “We’re bringing a dynamic piece of architecture.”

Michael Stern
Michael Stern

He pointed out two nearby rental buildings that are under construction just blocks from the American Copper Buildings, as a sign of the area’s changing profile.

Simon Koster, a principal at JDS, said the project is the “darling” of the office, because of how smoothly the project has gone. They’ve only been working on it for the past two years, and are expecting residents to move in by the fourth quarter of this year.

“There have been no hiccups from the beginning, it’s right on schedule,” said Koster. “It’s remarkable for a project of this size.”

American Copper Buildings
American Copper Buildings

Another remarkable aspect of the towers is their appearance — the 5,000 copper panels that make up the façade will eventually oxidize over time, forming a patina that will turn mint green, similar to the color of the Statue of Liberty.

“It’s almost a kind of performance art piece,” said Koster.

Due to the towers’ location just off of FDR Drive, construction included literally re-routing the East River, since JDS had to build two full levels below grade to make way for underground parking.
The buildings, part of the now-expired 421a program, will have 20 percent affordable units mixed in with the market rate units.

“421a is really critical to build here,” said Stern. His added that his firm has a other 421a rental buildings in the pipeline, but once those are built, without 421a or another similar program, he doesn’t foresee doing any more rentals.

Citi Habitats New Developments is heading up leasing for the towers, and pricing for the units, which will range from studio to three-bedrooms, has not yet been announced. There will be retail at the base of the building.

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