The Plan: 275 South Street’s New Landscaped Roof Deck
After teaming up with L+M Development Partners to acquire 275 South Street in 2015, Nelson Management Group President Robert Nelson knew that the hulking 19-story, 256-unit apartment building would need a makeover for its next act as a 21st century, mixed-income rental property.
Adjacent to the FDR Drive and just steps away from the East River in the Lower East Side neighborhood known as Two Bridges, the building was developed in the late-1970s through the Mitchell-Lama affordable housing program. But with the neighborhood now becoming a destination for market-rate residential development—as evidenced by Extell Development Company’s massive One Manhattan Square condominium tower rising just two blocks to the west—Nelson and his partners were set on putting in the work to ensure their new asset was up to snuff.
“A lot of these Mitchell-Lama [developments], there’s not a lot of money invested into amenities and curb appeal; you’re talking about the original lobbies, the original hallways, the apartments hadn’t been touched,” Nelson said. “This was the perfect opportunity for us to go in and really speak to the marketplace, from an amenity standpoint, for all the different income classes we’d be servicing.”
So Nelson and L+M tapped architecture and interior design firm Ore Design + Technology to helm a sizable overhaul of the property—a process that yielded a revamped lobby, renovated hallways and elevators, a new ground-floor live-work lounge and community room and a new fitness center (interior design firm ASH NYC redesigned the apartment interiors). Ore also jazzed up the facade, installing cylindrical LED lights under the balconies at angles meant to evoke the “pattern flow” of the East River’s currents, according to Ore Principal Thomas Kosbau.
But the centerpiece of 275 South Street’s overhaul is its Ore-designed rooftop common area, which opened to tenants in August. The space not only provides stunning views of the surrounding skylines of Manhattan and Brooklyn and the iconic bridges that connect the two boroughs over the East River, but is also landscaped with lush greenery—trees and plants that Kosbau noted are naturally indigenous to the Northeastern region—and contemporary wood finishes that provide an air of serenity amid the bustling surrounding cityscape. (There’s also a brightly colored mural, designed by California-based street artist Madsteez, that bears the building’s address and makes its brand visible to East River ferry riders, Manhattan Bridge passersby and those on the opposing Brooklyn waterfront.)
“We were aiming for contemporary—clean lines and a very simple palate of materials,” Kosbau said of the roof deck’s naturalistic design, which uses sustainably harvested wood and low-water plants. He noted that the building’s bunker-like structural integrity and the rooftop’s exceptional bearing capacity enabled Ore to landscape the space like a “big planter box” where they had “the unique ability to provide a forest as an amenity for the tenants.”
Nelson described the process of overhauling 275 South Street for the building’s existing tenants as “gratifying” and said the work had helped drive “brisk” leasing for the property’s available units.
“I get nothing but compliments from the residents,” he said. “The proof is in the pudding.”