Behind the Megaproject That Completes the Riverside South Master Plan

James Linsley explains the vision and the strategy underlying Manhattan’s Waterline Square development.

James Linsley, President, GID Development Group. Image courtesy of GID Development Group

James Linsley, President, GID Development Group. Image courtesy of GID Development Group

GID Development Group has officially completed Waterline Square, Manhattan’s Upper West Side megadevelopment which consists of three residential towers. The gateway project is a transformational development that links the Upper West Side, Midtown West and the Hudson River together for the first time. Each building was designed by a prominent architectural firm: One Waterline Square by Richard Meier & Partners with interiors by Champalimaud Design, Two Waterline Square by Kohn Pedersen Fox with interiors by Yabu Pushelberg and Three Waterline Square by Rafael Viñoly Architects with interiors by Groves & Co.

One Waterline Square stands 36 stories high and is the tallest of the three. The structure spans roughly 530,000 square feet and contains 288 apartments. Two Waterline Square is the largest in terms of volume, yielding 1.12 million square feet with 656 residential units spread across the 25 levels. Three Waterline Square tops out at 391 feet tall, spans 443,000 square feet and contains 244 residences. In the interview below, James Linsley, president of GID, shares many more insights about the project including its Waterline Club and Waterline Square Park, and how the company has dealt with opening a development that was meant to bring people together in times of health crises.

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When we last interviewed you in 2017, you were optimistic about the luxury market for that year. How have things changed since then?

Linsley: This year has been challenging on many levels, but it has also illustrated the strength of New York and the people who live here. People will always be drawn to this great city for its diversity, vibrancy and opportunity, and the pandemic hasn’t changed that. Over the past few weeks, the luxury market in New York has had its strongest showing since March. Buoyed by the election and the promising vaccine news, luxury buyers are making notable purchases, illustrating the resiliency and continued appeal of New York. We are continuing to see activity for the condos and rental residences at Waterline Square as people look to trade up for more spacious homes with quality design, access to private amenities and park space.

What was the vision behind Waterline Square? How does the project blend into the waterfront area?  

Linsley: Waterline Square is transforming the New York City skyline and completing one of the last remaining waterfront development sites on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, as well as one of the borough’s most important master plans along Riverside Boulevard. Waterline Square creates a one-of-a-kind lifestyle experience by blending world-class architecture, well-designed homes, unparalleled amenities, a dynamic park space and unique retail and restaurant offerings. Our vision was to create the most innovative, comprehensive and cohesive residential experience in New York, and we did just that. 

To achieve this vision, our team assembled an amazing collection of world-famous architects and designers who are not only recognized on a global scale but are also based in New York and understand how to craft an authentic, compelling New York City neighborhood. With the expert architecture of Rafael Viñoly Architects, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates and Richard Meier & Partners Architects—coupled with the interior design talents of Champalimaud Design, Yabu Pushelberg and Groves & Co.— we have created three buildings that each have their own identities, yet work together to create a beautiful and cohesive development. We arranged the three residential buildings around a park to unite the development while opening up the waterfront to the city, which seamlessly created an axis that connects the city grid to the adjacent Hudson River Greenway. Waterline Square is a gateway project and a transformational development that links the Upper West Side, Midtown West and the Hudson River together for the first time.

What is your favorite part of the megaproject?

Linsley: The cohesive nature of Waterline Square is unlike any other project in New York. This is a project that is not just about constructing space, it is about creating a sense of place. This is not merely a real estate exercise, but ultimately it is a development about people and the ways in which they can live their lives in a more fulfilling way within a dynamic mixed-use environment. Ultimately, Waterline Square is about forming a sense of community.

I have loved watching Waterline Square Park come to life alongside the three towers of the development. The verdant space serves as a backyard for our residents and as a much-needed oasis for the surrounding community. Full of lush plantings, manicured lawns, water features and winding paths, the park—elegantly designed by Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects—is the perfect respite from the busy city. I’ve enjoyed seeing families flock to the playground this summer, people walking their dogs around the paths and residents gathering on the lawn this fall for our socially-distant outdoor music series and fitness classes. We are organizing more programming to keep our community engaged this winter.

Waterline Square Park. Image courtesy of Elizabeth Felicella

Waterline Square Park. Image courtesy of Elizabeth Felicella

Developing a project of this magnitude can’t be an easy task. Please tell us a few details about the challenges you had to overcome along the way. 

Linsley: In addition to creating a visually appealing development, it was crucial for us to establish a home and a lifestyle for our residents. Waterline Square is so much more than its beautiful architecture. Its character centers on the kids who splash in the park’s fountain on a hot summer day, the empty-nesters who find a new community playing tennis in the Waterline Club, the young professional who watches the sunset over the Hudson River while biking down the greenway, and the couple who shares a hand-selected bottle of wine from Somm Cellars, a meal at Cipriani, or an outdoor drink at Empellón. We wanted to offer residents a full neighborhood with a comprehensive lifestyle catering to all aspects of a vibrant and exciting New York City experience.

The project includes three distinct luxury condo towers. What makes each building unique?   

Linsley: We selected Rafael Viñoly Architects, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates and Richard Meier & Partners Architects to design the three towers of Waterline Square because we knew they could bring their own sophisticated design aesthetic to the architecture while still operating as part of a larger whole. For the buildings at Waterline Square, each firm took cues from the surroundings and embraced the overall vision for Waterline Square to exist as a cohesive development, while employing their individual architectural vision and talents to make each building unique and reflective of their design philosophy.

The three buildings feature articulated glass facades and dynamic, faceted crowns that exist as distinct architectural gems yet also create a bold collective statement against the backdrop of the New York City skyline and the Hudson River. The buildings weave in gradient shades of white, silver, gray and black to create a striking composition with the sparkling Hudson River and lush park at the heart of the development.

How is Waterline Square adapting to the new lifestyle New Yorkers are looking for today?

Linsley: Waterline Square offers the ideal well-rounded residential experience, one where you can go from a sunlit home with space for an office, to relaxing on a private terrace, to exercising on a tennis court that’s only accessible to residents of your building, to picking up provisions from a variety of restaurant choices downstairs. Our three dynamic retail partners—a full-service restaurant, bar and food market by Cipriani, acclaimed Mexican restaurant Empellón and Somm Cellars Wine & Spirits, a sommelier-founded wine store—supplement our residential offering. This is the kind of live-work-play experience that people are looking for today, and we’ve created an extremely sophisticated version of this lifestyle at Waterline Square.

Taking things a step further, we’ve supplemented this living experience with a dynamic programming calendar. We have a wonderful in-house lifestyle director who plans activities and events (virtual and in-person, when possible) for residents, as well as a dedicated Waterline Square app to manage everything from communication with management, to reserving a spot at yoga in the park, to booking a hair appointment in the Waterline Club salon.

In addition to the desirable lifestyle experience, Waterline Square’s residences also reflect the preferences that buyers and renters are looking for today. The development has been designed with state-of-the-art air filtration and water filtration systems, bike storage and spacious homes with room for a home office and high-speed Wi-Fi. While these are features we had in place long before the onset of COVID-19, we’re seeing these qualities resonate more deeply with buyers today as they spend more time at home.

Waterline Square features a diverse amenity collection, including an indoor tennis court and skate park. How can residents use all these indoor common spaces in a safe and healthy manner, considering the current context? 

Linsley: We opened our amenity center, known as the Waterline Club, earlier this fall. The dynamic space, designed in collaboration with esteemed architecture and design firm Rockwell Group, provides residents with 100,000 square feet of space and nearly every sport, fitness, creative and leisure amenity you could imagine.

We designed Waterline Square with a long-term vision of how people will want to live their lives within a sophisticated urban high-rise environment. Though it would have been impossible to predict the COVID-19 crisis, Waterline Square includes a variety of features that are particularly appealing during the pandemic. We incorporated many enhanced building systems that help create a seamless, comfortable lifestyle experience for residents. The Waterline Club is equipped with one of the highest-caliber air filtration systems in the marketplace to ensure air comes directly from outdoors and does not re-circulate throughout the building. We also have touchless entrances that minimize contact on door handles and elevators, follow rigorous cleaning protocols and use our in-house app to manage reservations for the Waterline Club.

How did you adjust your protocols to prepare for the new project to open amid these challenging times?

Linsley: We had originally planned to open the Waterline Club earlier this year, right around when the city first shut down in March. After the onset of COVID-19, our dedicated team immediately switched gears to offer creative solutions and programming for residents in lieu of access to the Waterline Club. Instead of our anticipated in-person programming, we began offering dynamic virtual classes, from fitness classes to wine tastings to storytime for kids. With the Waterline Club, it was important to create a space for residents of every age—from adults to kids to teens—and to mirror that ethos, our virtual programming was innovatively designed to appeal to residents of all ages, while fostering a sense of community among residents.

Waterline Square Club. Image courtesy of Evan Joseph

Waterline Square Club. Image courtesy of Evan Joseph

Before opening the Waterline Club, we made sure we were able to do so safely. We follow all city and state guidelines for indoor activities and have very high standards for cleaning and management of the amenities, just as we do for all of our spaces throughout the development.

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Tell us your predictions for the future of the condominium market in New York City.

Linsley: As people reassess their lifestyles as a result of the pandemic, developments like Waterline Square—with a comprehensive combination of well-designed homes, private amenities and access to clean air and green space—represent the future of residential development in major cities. While people will always be drawn to New York’s diversity, creativity and world-class lifestyle opportunities, they’re increasingly seeking out well-rounded residential experiences that provide all of their needs in one place. Sophisticated mixed-use projects like Waterline Square will continue to thrive well beyond the pandemic. We continue to see new condo residents move in and close on residences, and our rentals are incredibly active as well.

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