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New Trends in Luxury High-Rise Residential Architecture
“It’s certainly not your grandparents’ or even your parents’ commuter town,” said Christian Giordano, Principal and Director of Architectural Design, who is based in HLW’s New York office. For secondary cities in close proximity to large cities, like New York City, HLW is designing for a new population of young professionals looking for options in luxury high-rise residences within an easy commuting distance of where they work. Unlike residents of the bedroom suburbs (or “dormitory towns” in the UK) of years past, these buyers and renters want the urban experience 24/7. They want the nightlife and the community. They want the benefits of living in an urban neighborhood but without the hassle, fast pace and price tag, which typically accompany living in a large city. They want the pedestrian-friendly streets and immediate access to retail, cultural activities, parking and services. Significantly, if these amenities don’t exist on their block (yet), they want them in their building.
Although young and typically unmarried professionals, what Giordano refers to as the “one-bedroom crowd looking for a bigger place,” continue to be a target demographic, this is changing. Families are moving into these new high-rise developments, as exemplified by demands for daycare facilities and kid-friendly features, such as play areas, located in the building. Traditionally, renters and buyers are in their transitional housing years, with expectations to move to the suburbs to raise a family within five to ten years, but this, too, is no longer a given. “People seem to want to stay and grow with their neighborhood, provided the infrastructure and services grow with them,” said Giordano.
Waterfront developments, such as Jersey City, New Jersey, where HLW is currently involved with several high-profile multi-family developments, provide a number of advantages when it comes to creating a new residential development. When manufacturing fled US cities in the 1950s through 1970s, many urban waterfronts were left with vacant factories and yards, or a blank slate of valuable, undeveloped land. Cities and private developers often need to start from scratch—from infrastructure to neighborhoods to building stock.
“Designing high-rise residences for burgeoning urban redevelopment projects necessitates a lot of close coordination with the local authorities,” said Ed Shim, HLW Principal in New York and the lead designer in the next phase of design for a 45-story tower located in the Liberty Harbor North section of Jersey City. “These are commuter transit-oriented developments, optimally positioned on the water’s edge with views of an iconic skyline. They are focused outward, but also focused inward (sometimes even more so) on creating something new, vibrant and fiscally sustainable.” Shim goes on to explain how important it is to the city planning agencies to create a new community without negatively impacting existing surrounding neighborhoods. High-quality architecture should benefit the entire city, helping to raise property values and generate tax revenue. “Much of our initial planning and design efforts are about integrating the building into the street and the street into the city grid so that we avoid creating a gated, totally insular ‘bubble’ community, which is the opposite of what residents want now.”
Ground floor retail, pedestrian and bicycle paths, and internalized or hidden parking structures are just a few of the New Urbanism principles employed in recent years in urban redevelopment districts. These neighborhoods are designed to be walkable, but, more importantly, they support a more relaxed, less hectic interpretation of urban living.
“HLW has been lucky to work with clients, like Mack-Cali Realty Corporation, Ironstate Development, and Kushner Real Estate Group, developers who have a long history of investing in smaller cities, like Jersey City,” said Shim. “These developers also recognized early on how their target home buyers or renters have evolved in their thinking.” A luxury residential unit just outside of Manhattan was primarily perceived as a good economic alternative; you could get more personal space for your buck. This is still true, but now residents who are committed to living an urban lifestyle are also, literally, buying into the idea that shared amenities in their building are an extension of their personal living space. Living in a city should come with a high-quality housing experience. Whether amenities are integrated into living spaces or just outside one’s door appears to be less of a concern. In addition to world-class architecture, residents expect fully equipped fitness centers with full-sized pools and spas, double-height lobbies, recreational facilities, such as billiards rooms and event spaces, plus business and conferencing capabilities, to name just a few “standard” amenities. Significantly, to have such luxuries available in-house, residents are increasingly willing to sacrifice on individual unit square footage.
Increased amenities and increased demand, in general, have contributed to taller and increasingly more complex residential high-rise architecture. “Building Information Modeling (BIM) has played a huge role in recent years in enabling HLW to design and coordinate innovative solutions to accommodate new and more complex configurations,” says Shim. HLW is now applying in Asia many of the lessons learned working with American developers. Clients in Shanghai are experiencing similar challenges and opportunities inherent in creating new residential and mixed-use developments located on previously undeveloped land. We have become a global community with similar high expectations for our living arrangements. Apparently, to “make oneself at home” now involves more than a few considerations.
Harborside Plaza 6 & 7, Jersey City (Exchange Place), NJ. The first phase of this joint venture between Mack-Cali Realty Corporation, and Ironstate Development Co. involves a waterfront tower with approximately 760 units. HLW is serving as Executive Architect and Architect of Record and collaborating with the designer, Concrete Architectural Associates. Construction is imminent.
225 Grand, Jersey City (Liberty Harbor North Redevelopment District), NJ. “225 Grand” is a multi-family project in this high-density, infill redevelopment district, which encompasses 80 acres and a 28-block neighborhood planned around mass transit.
225 Grand, Jersey City, NJ. Developed by Ironstate Development Co. and Kushner Real Estate Group and designed by HLW, the 15-story, 348-unit multi-family building was leased-up, just 10 months after its May 2010 completion.
Tower at Liberty Harbor North, Jersey City, NJ. The two rental towers (45 stories and 10 stories) were conceived and developed by Ironstate Development Co. and Kushner Real Estate Group as one residential complex and key components in the neighborhood’s revitalization. HLW is the designer. Construction is imminent.