Live, work, play, a catch-all buzzword that describes places with a wealth of housing, employment and entertainment options, has become a moving target for developers.
Eager to appease the ever-expanding millennial workforce, developers are building gigantic monuments of convenience, with whole sections of Manhattan and Brooklyn morphing into mixed-use complexes designed to accommodate a self-contained existence.
According to Raizy Haas, the senior vice president of development for Extell, live work play development is not a reaction to the movement of companies and employees. At least in Extell’s case, some of their projects resulted from exploiting holes in areas that their competitors mostly ignored.
“Sometimes, we find opportunity and we just build on that. It’s not because tech companies have moved in and we want to make it more of a live-work-play kind of situation. Sometimes, it’s just ripe for development. Maybe people haven’t paid attention,” she said during a panel discussion at the Real Estate Weekly Women’s Forum last week.
“Sometimes, the opportunity presents itself to say, ‘Look, there is an environment there that it could turn into a live, work, play. We’ve been fortunate to go into neighborhoods in the past 20 or so years where people wouldn’t have gone previously. We feel like we have put down our boots there. We’ve created an anchor.”
Jessica Lappin, the president of the Alliance for Downtown New York, offered a different theory.
She attributed the rise of live, work, play development to transportation options, regardless of whether there is a causal effect or not.
“I think one of the constants when you look at these neighborhoods, it’s infrastructure and transportation,” she said.
“Hudson Yards having a new subway station. Now, the entire city-wide ferry service comes to Pier 11 in Manhattan on the East Side. So I think when you look at the neighborhoods where there is a lot of development taking place, for sure, having access to transportation is a big piece of that.”
Extell has heavily invested in the live, work play model. It is building a 68-story condo building inside City Point Brooklyn. The mixed-use megaproject bills itself as the “largest, food, shopping and entertainment destination in Downtown Brooklyn.”
It contains a Target mini-mall, an Alamo Drafthouse cinema, a Century 21 store and a Trader’s Joe’s outlet. The Extell development, designed by Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, is expected to be one of Brooklyn’s tallest residential buildings. The tower is scheduled for completion in 2020.
While the live, work, play projects aim to be somewhat self-sufficient, it is not entirely divorced from its surroundings. According to Nancy Ruddy, a founding principal at architecture firm CetraRuddy, the design for such complexes must still be contextual.
“I think everyone, in every age group, is really looking for this 24-7 live-work-play area. And so I think we, as architects, working with developers and the planners; everyone has to realize that to be successful, you don’t build a single glass building that stands alone,” she said.
“You build something that is of the neighborhood, that is respectful of the traditions, and respectful of the context of the architecture and then bring in all sorts of activities that all of us want to be close to.”
However, Haas said that they always assume a defensive stance when they enter a neighborhood.“Nobody likes construction in their backyard, whether you’re coming into a neighborhood that’s established or not,” she said.
One of Extell’s most contentious projects is One Manhattan Square at 225 South Street in the Lower East Side. The project has been controversial since Extell bought the property in 2013. Critics say that the tower, which is planned to be 823 feet tall, will stick out next to its mid-rise neighbors. Extell also didn’t endear itself to residents after it demolished the Pathmark supermarket that occupied the property.
Nonetheless, Haas said that they start each project with community outreach, adding that they always aim to be a good neighbor. “You have to know who your neighbors are and understand what their issues are. I think communication is key. That goes for anything, not just construction in someone’s backyard. We try to make sure that we have good communication with the adjacent owners, buildings and tenants. That really important to us. It’s just good practice,” she said.
“You’ve got to understand what kind of neighborhood you’re coming into. You also want to make sure that you blend into the neighborhood, whether it’s the infrastructure that’s being impacted, schools or transportation. You want to make sure that you’re a good neighbor as well. All these are taken into consideration as we plan our developments and as we reach out to locals.”
Haas said that she prefers to target underdeveloped neighborhoods because they offer a “clean slate.”
“I think that in emerging neighborhoods, we have a unique opportunity, not just a development opportunity. Because it’s an emerging neighborhood, we have a clean slate. What can we do here that will add to the vibrancy of the neighborhood and the vibrancy of the residents? Not just to the neghborhoods, but also to the residents living there, and to the surrounding environments as well,” she said.
Currently, some of the biggest mixed-use projects are underway in Manhattan. Hudson Yards has transformed the rail yards on the west side of Manhattan. The city’s biggest real estate firms like Extell, Related and Tishman Speyer all have a portion of the 28-acre development.
Meanwhile, Brookfield’s Manhattan West development will contain six buildings with seven million s/f of mixed-use space once it is completed. The complex includes a hotel, office and retail outlets. The Eugene, a luxury rental tower in the complex, opened earlier this year.