February 24, 2016 12:10PM
By EB Solomont
From the outset, Trinity Church’s decision to develop a luxury condominium in Lower Manhattan seemed at odds with its commitment to community service and low-income housing. Now, the Episcopal church has quietly scrapped plans for a residential tower at the site of its 90-year-old parish building, where it will instead build a community center and offices.
Gone are the condos. New plans call for a 145,000-square-foot mixed-use building at 74 Trinity Place, church officials and architects disclosed during a community meeting held on Feb. 21. The building will house more than 98,000 square feet of community space, including classrooms, gym facilities, a café and a formal meeting room with floor-to-ceiling windows that face the historic Trinity Church directly across the street at 75 Broadway.
“Trinity’s Vestry determined that a commercial tower… is better suited to supporting the important mission-focused work that is the basis for the new building,” the Rev. Dr. William Lupfer, rector of Trinity Wall Street, told The Real Deal in a statement Wednesday. “Considering our numerous ministries in Lower Manhattan and our close ties to the community, a flexible office component makes more sense.”
Throughout its planning process for the site, the church has sought community input via a series of “charettes,” a term for design meetings with community stakeholders.
“Without the charette process… we might have built the wrong building,” architect Fred Clarke of Pelli Clarke Pelli said at the Feb. 21 meeting.
The offices, which will start on the 10th floor of the 25-story building, will be the “right size for smaller startup companies,” he said. “It’s a highly-efficient office tower.”
Early plans called for a nearly 300,000-square-foot tower with six or seven stories reserved for the church’s offices, topped by a 25-story residential portion. In 2013, Trinity tapped Pelli Clarke Pelli to design the building, and said it was seeking a development partner to execute plans for the residential component.
But local residents opposed the residential portion, saying it looked out of place. They also expressed concern over an onslaught of residential development in the area, including Time Equities’ 50 West Street and 125 Greenwich Street, being co-developed by Bizzi & Partners, Michael Shvo and Howard Lorber’s New Valley.
Last year, Trinity commissioned the GillWright Group to conduct a community study, which contributed to its decision to retool its plans.
Church officials first signaled plans to scrap condos at a Nov. 21 charette, when Lupfer referenced the influx of residential development in Lower Manhattan. “We have not found a crystal ball to project the future… so we want to have the kind of space and finishes that can be changed over time,” he said.
To that end, he said the church vestry – already a major landlord in Hudson Square – decided over the summer to build offices atop a community center. “The offices are investment,” Lupfer said. “If we thought we could invest better somewhere else, we would have done it.”
The Hudson Square/West Village submarket commanded asking rents of $69.75 per square foot during the fourth quarter, with a 6.7 vacancy rate, according to Cushman & Wakefield.
Trinity – whose ownership of more than 200 acres of Manhattan real estate dates back to the 1700s – is one of Hudson Square’s major office landlords. Last year, the church sold a stake in its 5 million-square-foot portfolio to Norway’s sovereign wealth fund for $1.56 billion. The deal valued 11 of Trinity’s buildings at $3.55 billion, as TRD reported.
Trinity officials said at the time that diversifying the church’s assets was “critical” to sustaining the ministry’s operations.