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‘COVID-19-proof’ office towers coming to NYC?

One of the biggest challenges commercial real estate owners are facing amid the COVID-19 pandemic is convincing tenants it is safe to return to their office buildings. Now there are a number of New York City developers ready to help CRE owners address this challenge with buildings designed with COVID-19 and future pandemics in mind, The New York Post reports. These new and redeveloped buildings include One Madison Ave., 561 Greenwich St., Zero Irving, 799 Broadway, 106 W. 56th St., the Terminal Warehouse at 261 11th Ave. in Chelsea and the nearby 610 W. 26th St. Additionally, the GM Building on 767 Fifth Avenue is getting a new amenity center.

“There is no question the buildings provisioned for the 21st century-plus are going to be in a better position to cash in on the leasing opportunities ahead,” David Goldstein, vice chairman of real estate services provider Savills told the Post. “It could be an older building reimagined, or a new one under construction or in planning stages.”

How developers will “pandemic proof” their CRE buildings

Some of the suggested COVID-19-inspired changes include bigger stairwells, separate restrooms, numerous outdoor terraces, larger elevators and floor-to-ceiling windows. The 561 Greenwich Street building in Hudson Square is being combined with the next-door 345 Hudson Street in order to create bigger floor plates—as soon as floors are available.

Tommy Craig, 561 Greenwich’s development manager, noted the COVID-19 pandemic got his team to start thinking about things like elevator banks again, which are currently being redesigned to help with social distancing. The building will also use a hydronic air heat pumps to cut carbon emissions in half. The project is expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2022, the Post reports.

“No fossil fuel or natural gas is used,” Craig said.

Zero Irving, which is located on East 14th Street on the former PC Richards’ site, has been designed to host a tech hub and learning center. “The Tech Hub at Zero Irving” will comprise the building’s second through seventh floors while floors eight through 21 are being pitched to companies that could help teach the technology courses or employ the trainees.

The building has two separate lobbies that will decrease crowding at the elevator banks. Zero Irving is also expected to have a “touchless experience” coming into the rotunda that will include personal phone apps that serve was elevator keys. Also, every floor will have an isolated VRF (variable refrigerant flow) system so air isn’t circulated among other floors. Tenants will have the option to upgrade their filters or add their own bipolar ionization system.

The upcoming 182,000 square foot 799 Broadway at East 11th Street will have its curtain wall, elevators and other systems delivered later this summer. Multiple touchless doors, destination elevators and an upgraded air filtration system will be part of the building’s pandemic-proofing measures.

“It’s a special property in a great location built with modern construction and integrated indoor-outdoor space, which is more important now,” Columbia Property Trust’s Nelson Mills told the Post.

Meanwhile, SL Green Realty Corp. and the National Pension Service of Korea and Hines are redeveloping One Madison Avenue. A new glass tower will bring the building to 1.4 million square feet. It will also feature an outdoor air system HVAC unit that will bring in 100% outside air for tenants. One Madison Avenue will also comprise an 800-person event space, 9,000 square foot club-style tenant lounge and full-service fitness center. Completion is projected for 2023.

“The smart money is on companies who can repurpose and create an exciting communal space that people want to come to, and that will be the draw that gets them back in the office,” said Goldstein.

Joe Dyton can be reached at

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