Distinctive Designs Are Key to Boutique Office Buildings

By Keiko MorrisFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

Distinctive designs, outdoor spaces and connections to the neighborhood and its past are essential elements in the allure of upscale boutique office buildings rising in Manhattan's Midtown South market, developers and real-estate brokers said.

"You have to have smart design, something special," said Aby Rosen, principal of RFR Holding LLC, which has restored and leased several historic commercial buildings, including a historic bank building at 190 Bowery. "If you are cookie-cutter, it's never going to work. It has to have architectural importance."

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Whether these office projects incorporate modern adaptation of materials used in historic and older buildings, highlight historic restorations or meld multiple outdoor spaces with interiors, the overriding goal is to signal a break with run-of-the-mill office spaces.

When planning its two Chelsea boutique office buildings now under construction, Vornado Realty Trust's executives brought experience working with major tech firms in its broader office portfolio as well as ideas gleaned on tours of Silicon Valley corporate campuses, said David Greenbaum, president of Vornado's New York division.

At 512 W. 22nd St., the 11-story building developed by Vornado and the Albanese Organization features outdoor spaces on every floor, in some cases two terraces. Designed by COOKFOX Architects, the building features rising steps and terraces between the second and fourth floors, running alongside the elevated High Line Park. The building's exterior incorporates curved, dark terra-cotta bands, a nod to some of the industrial buildings of the neighborhood's past.

Vornado also brought in Richard Rogers to tie together the historic Otis Elevator Building at 260 11th Ave. with an adjacent building and another planned for nearby vacant parking lot. The project is in the landmark alteration approval process.

The seven-story SoHo development at 300 Lafayette, developed by Related Cos. and Larga Vista Cos. and designed by COOKFOX Architects, features multiple terraces, indoor and outdoor fireplaces and uses terra-cotta and limestone materials.

The chiseled, 10-story glass office development at 40 Tenth Ave., developed by Aurora Capital Associates and William Gottlieb Real Estate, also boasts connections to the natural world with its outdoor terraces, views of the Hudson River and proximity to the High Line in the Meatpacking District.

Corporations gravitating to the area are recognizing "that in order to attract best in class talent, ordinary offices in large traditional submarkets just won't do," said Jared Epstein, vice president and principal of Aurora Capital Associates.

Write to Keiko Morris at Keiko.Morris@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 08, 2017 21:53 ET (01:53 GMT)