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New York developers building wrong type of towers

By Konrad Putzier

Are New York’s developers building the wrong kinds of office towers? In real estate circles this question amounts to blasphemy – which is perhaps why it takes two academics to ask it.

“We’re not building the stuff that the workers of the future want to be in,” said Vishaan Chakrabarti, director of the Center for Urban Real Estate (CURE) at Columbia University.

“That whole Mad Men idea of building these big, tall, glass skyscrapers, you know, most young workers don’t want to work in that kind of environment.”

Chakrabarti was speaking at the 2014 Verge Salon co-hosted by GreenBiz and the Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute at Baruch College yesterday (Tuesday), where he shared the stage with Constantine Kontokosta, deputy director of NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP).

The discussion — like the entire conference — revolved around designing the city of the future.

Some experts say glass and steel are not what tenants want
Some experts say glass and steel are not what tenants want

Chakrabarti and Kontokosta argued that New York and its developers are not paying enough attention to the needs of workers and residents, possibly leaving the city with flawed designs.

According to Chakrabarti, 70 percent of the tech jobs added in New York City over the past decade are located in landmarked buildings and 85 percent are in buildings built before World War II, indicating that tech firms have little interest in the kind of skyscrapers dominating new development.

His comment didn’t provoke much of a response from the audience, but it is an explosive one. After all, builders like Larry Silverstein tend to justify their uber-expensive, sky-high office developments by pointing to the perceived demands of tech tenants.

But if tech employment grows as projected and tech firms continue to shun glass towers, the city could be building millions of square feet of increasingly undesirable office space.

NYU’s Kontokosta didn’t go as far as suggesting developers have the wrong idea, but he urged them to build flexibly. “We don’t necessarily know what the built environment should look like 20 years from now, what people will want at that given time,” he said. “So we really need to think about flexibility (…) and design buildings that can be adapted to changes we aren’t even conceiving right now.”

At CUSP, Kontokosta is currently running a project to quantify urban life. By using data from cell phones and other devices, he hopes to determine how urban dwellers live, how they move or how much trash they produce in order to design buildings and infrastructure more effectively.

NYU recently reached an agreement with the Related Companies to collect data at the Hudson Yards mixed-use project, making it the city’s “first quantified community”.

Kontokosta hopes that other projects will follow suit and leave the city with a better understanding of what its residents want.

“Urban design has largely been guided by rules of thumb. We are still designing our cities based on what we think of the 1950s and 60s, to some degree,” he said. “We can use (data) to design more effectively and move away from a corporate definition of what is a good city.” взять деньги в долг на карту

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