Blumenfeld Brings ‘Starchitect’ to Harlem

Danish star architect Bjarke Ingels supplies a signature design for a burgeoning Upper Manhattan corridor.
Gotham Residential in East Harlem. Image courtesy of Blumenfeld Development/Bjark Ingels Group

Gotham Residential in East Harlem. Image courtesy of Blumenfeld Development/Bjark Ingels Group

New York—When it was planning its new residential project in East Harlem, The Blumenfeld Development Group was determined to bring something truly distinctive to the neighborhood’s burgeoning 125th Street corridor.

“We said we needed to do something different—we just could not build a brick building,” said David Blumenfeld, vice president of the Syosset, N.Y.-based development and investment firm. “We came up with an idea and said ‘Let’s hire a powerful architect, someone that can change the face of this project and create something the community can be proud of.”

So they turned to a rising star of the design world, the innovative Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. The resulting project, a striking black concave structure dubbed Gotham Residential, was showcased at a groundbreaking Oct. 26.

Interior view of Gotham Residential (Image courtesy of Blumenfeld Development/Bjarke Ingels Group

Interior view of Gotham Residential (Image courtesy of Blumenfeld Development/Bjarke Ingels Group

The 233-unit, 22,000-square-foot community, which is Blumenfeld’s first residential project, will comprise studios, one- and two-bedrooms units, as well as an art studio for local talent, a lounge and fitness center. The project will also offer an affordable housing component. The lower two thirds of the building is scheduled to be completed in 20 months, and the entire project is slated to wrap up in two years.

Ingels, founder of Copenhagen-based Bjarke Ingels Group, discussed the thought process that shaped the building’s design. “We had this idea of gently draping the façade between the two neighbors, leaning back to allow sunlight to reach the street and meet the setback requirements, ”he explained.

“The building sort of moves from 126th to 125th St. and the roof of this part of the building that peaks over to the neighboring street becomes this amazing roof garden for the inhabitants to enjoy the views of the developing neighborhood.” The exterior’s black satin-like finish will blend with the brick and colors of neighboring structures. Interiors will feature bright Carribbean-inspired color schemes.

The building is BDG’s third in East Harlem. Gotham Plaza, a 90,000-square-foot office/retail property located Gotham Residential on 125th Street. BDG also developed East River Plaza, which replaced an abandoned factory with a 48,000-square-foot retail complex anchored by Costco and Target.

Development team members, elected officials and community leaders break ground on Gotham Residential project.  (Image courtesy of Blumenfeld Development)

Development team members, elected officials and community leaders break ground on Gotham Residential project. (Image courtesy of Blumenfeld Development)

“Being a part of the community has always been important to us,” said Blumenfeld. “We continue to support various charities, programs, and are very focused on making sure the construction jobs—even the ones on this project—will employ people from this community.”

The groundbreaking drew an assortment of elected officials and community leaders, who noted that the design was shaped by community input during its 10-month review period.  “One of the recommendations was to preserve vacant, underutilized, and distressed properties for affordable housing,” said Diane Collier, chair of the local community board that advises city officials, “How perfect is it today that you are converting a parking garage to what will soon be a 233-residential unit (community).”

Gotham Residential will rise on a corridor that is becoming a hot spot for residential and retail. “The east side only now became one of these popular areas of development, but we have been preaching this vision for the last 10 years,” said Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez, who represents the neighborhood in the New York state legislature. “One Hundred Twenty-Fifth Street should be a tremendously revitalized area, and the Blumenfelds are the first to take a chance on investing in the east side of Harlem and are committed to the community.”