Why is NYU building 181 Mercer St?
When complete, the building will be NYU’s largest classroom building, meeting a pressing need for general purpose classrooms and specialized educational spaces for performing arts students and serve as a new gateway to the south between the city and University; accordingly, it will include spaces for teaching, learning, performing, rehearsing, practicing, studying, and collaborating, as well as a new gym and student and faculty housing. Its inclusive programming and open design bring together diverse groups of faculty, students, and community members in a building that represents the creativity and energy that defines both the University and New York City.
When will construction start? And how long will it last?
Decommissioning of the Coles building began in February 2016, and project site mobilization and demolition commenced in October 2016. The new multi-use building is expected to be complete in 2022 and open in spring 2023.
How is construction of 181 Mercer Street phased?
- Decommissioning of the Coles building began in February 2016.
- Project site mobilization and demolition of the Coles building commenced in October 2016 and continued through February 2017.
- Excavation, which includes the removal of the existing foundation, rock, and soil, began in May 2017 and continued through winter 2018.
- Foundation work began in fall 2017 and continued through early 2019.
- Core and Shell work includes the construction of the building structure and façade. Steel work began in February 2019 and the installation of facade panels began in summer 2020. Enclosure of the building is scheduled to be complete in spring 2022.
- The landscaping of the Greene Street Walk and Play Garden began in spring 2021.
- The final fit out phase includes interior construction of the building.
- The project is scheduled to be complete in 2022 and open in 2023.
What will be in the building?
181 Mercer is a 735,000-square-foot, multipurpose structure designed to house classrooms, informal study spaces, performing arts theaters, rehearsal and practice rooms, varsity sports arenas, a recreational sports gymnasium, and a café at its base, as well as faculty and first-year student housing within its upper floors. Each of these different spaces will be organized into unique “neighborhoods” whose specific users will add to the vibrancy and diversity of the building.
Classrooms and Study Space | 58-60 general purpose classrooms and a variety of study environments, including active, quiet, group study spaces.
Performing Arts Education and Training Spaces | 350 seat Proscenium Theatre complete with a fly tower, an end stage theatre, a warehouse theatre, 8 studio classrooms, theatre production shops , an orchestra rehearsal room, a percussion suite, orchestral ensemble classrooms, group and individual instruction rooms, specialty spaces including harp, double-bass and reed instruction rooms, over 50 individual practice rooms, and an orchestral library.
Community and Dining | a publicly accessible atrium space with an entrance from Bleecker Street, a University Commons with a café on the 2nd level, a sky lobby with a café and an outdoor terrace, and a dedicated community room off the Greene Street Walk.
Athletics and Recreation | a four-court gym with a running track, a six-lane lap pool, a wrestling room, a fencing/multi-use room, two squash courts, cardio and weight training rooms (for varsity athletics and for all gym users), lockers, stretch zones, and open work-out areas. As a place of assembly, it can accommodate up to 2,700 people.
Student Residential | freshman student housing with 415-425 beds in a residential college model, with resident advisor beds, faculty-in-residence apartments; and staff apartments.
Faculty Apartments | a range of 2-, 3-, and 4-bedroom units with a private lobby and outdoor terrace.
How big will the building be and how does its size compare to what was approved by the City?
181 Mercer is 735,000-square-foot multi-purpose building, about 20% less in terms of square footage than was approved by the City. 181 Mercer’s height and massing fits with its surrounding neighborhood, with the faculty housing tower located on Houston Street set at the height of Silver Towers, and the student housing tower located towards the north side of the building somewhat taller than Washington Square Village. At the end of schematic design phase, the building heights are designed as follows:
- The Faculty Housing Tower on Houston Street is designed as 275-feet.
- The taller Student Housing Towers are designed at 225-feet.
- The shorter student housing tower has been designed at 187-feet.
- The Orchestra Rehearsal Room Tower is designed at 119-feet.
- The Podium is designed as 85-feet.
What materials will be used for the building façade?
The design process has resulted in the development of several different insulating glass unit types customized to meet performance criteria on different portions of the building. Low-emissive coatings applied to the surface of the clear glass panels within the insulated glass units have been selected to optimize thermal and solar heat gain performance without being overly reflective. Interwoven among its transparent façade are subtly angled glass panels, or wedge panels that extend across the building’s façade. Environmentally, these panels are responsive in that their shape and placement have been tailored to the building’s unique sun exposure. Consequently, each wedge panel reduces glare while allowing for an abundance of natural light.
How will light pollution from the building be mitigated?
The design team has paid special attention to the design of indoor lighting and associated lighting controls so that the building does not appear to be over lit. All visible fixtures used at the perimeter of the lower floors are considered low glare with a regressed light source. Light levels will be programmed to automatically dim down after hours. The strategy for the podium perimeter will be to primarily light the interior wall directly and rely on second bounce light to illuminate the floor surface. The goal will be to minimize directly visible luminaires in the ceiling plane from the street, and not have any light sources aimed directly to the exterior, unless required by building code. Also, since circulation is located at the perimeter, light levels can be naturally lower than they would need to be for instructional spaces, while still remaining safe and accessible.
Will the building have sustainable design features?
Designed in support of the NYU Climate Action Plan, 181 Mercer is committed to environmental responsibility, and the building takes advantage of sustainable design strategies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, and the amount of waste generated during both construction and the building’s everyday use. We will pursue LEED v4 Silver at a minimum, and target certification as Gold. As part of this commitment, the building will be connected to NYU’s existing Co-Generation (CoGen) facility, a highly efficient, natural gas-fueled power plant that simultaneously produces electricity, heat, and chilled water; this will substantially reduce the building’s greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants compared to conventional sources.
In addition to using cleaner energy, the building’s design itself minimizes its carbon footprint. The transparent façade and wedge panels, for example, reduce energy requirements by allowing the building to rely primarily on natural light during the day. Similarly, 181 Mercer’s series of green roofs and outdoor terraces naturally cool the building and its surrounding landscape and — with the assistance of a retention tank — help to manage rainwater runoff while also creating valuable outdoor green space that serves as a kind of elevated campus quad. This green space will be an attractive amenity for the NYU community and the building’s neighbors who will be able to view the landscape from above.
What types of public open spaces and landscaping will be included in the 181 Mercer Street project?
The design of the building’s perimeter landscape and public open spaces is currently underway. These include:
Greene Street Walk | The Greene Street Walk will run along the west side of 181 Mercer Street at ground level, from West Houston Street to Bleecker Street. The Walk is intended as a physical and visual link connecting Soho to Greenwich Village and NYU. The façade treatment and building uses of 181 Mercer Street at the ground level (i.e., building entries, amount of transparency, interior public spaces), along with landscaping and the provision of outdoor seating, will activate and enliven the Walk. The new Greene Street Walk is expected to be about 60 feet wide.
Greene Street Play Garden | The play garden is expected to encompass almost 11,000 square feet and contain a variety of play equipment, landscaping, and seating, which will incorporate the existing circular concrete seating south of 100 Bleecker Street, just north of the Mercer-Houston Dog Run.
Public Atrium and Community Room | NYU will include approximately 7,500 square feet of community facility space on the ground floor level of 181 Mercer Street. A public atrium will be accessible via the building’s open and inviting northern entrance at Mercer, Greene, and Bleecker Streets, spanning the entire width of the building. Through the programming and design, 181 Mercer hopes to create a neighborhood amenity that further connects the community and the University. The community room is expected to be accessible via an entrance off the Greene Street Walk.
What is the Restrictive Declaration?
The Restrictive Declaration is a legally binding document generated by City Planning during the land use approvals process. NYU’s mitigation requirements as well as commitments to the community are memorialized in this agreement between NYU and the City.
Is there an independent monitor to ensure NYU’s compliance with implementation of the required mitigation plans?
Yes. Henningson, Durham & Richardson Architecture and Engineering, P.C. (HDR) has been retained at NYU’s expense as an independent third party monitor reporting to the Department of City Planning. Through a combination of field inspections, review of relevant project documentation and ongoing communication with NYU and the Department of City Planning, HDR will monitor project-related construction activities as specified in the Restrictive Declaration. HDR will provide regular reports to City Planning, on NYU’s compliance with the mitigation measures.
Are there any other oversight committees monitoring the construction?
Yes, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer formed a Construction Committee on July 15, 2016 and selected members from the community to serve on it. This Committee exists independently from the University and in addition to the Department of City Planning’s independent monitor. The committee is a vehicle to address construction concerns and to provide a forum for the University to provide construction updates and answer questions. The Committee will stay in existence throughout the construction of 181 Mercer Street.
Is there any commercial space in the building?
There is no commercial space planned for the building.
Will community members have access to the 181 Mercer Street athletics and recreation spaces?
Pending COVID-related reopening protocols residents of the Community Board 2 catchment area will be welcome to continue purchasing 12-use passes to both 404 Fitness and the new athletic facility, under the same terms as was the case with the former Coles Sports and Recreation Center.
Will there be a public school on the Bleecker Street site?
The NYC School Construction Authority (SCA) has an option to build a school on the Bleecker Street site. At the request of local elected officials, NYU extended the SCA notice deadline to December 31, 2021. If the SCA indicates to the University that it intends to move forward with the project, construction must commence by December 31, 2023.
Can construction of two buildings happen at the same time?
No. As part of the approvals process, the University is prohibited from conducting major construction on two superblock sites at the same time. Construction can only begin on a new building once the construction on the previous building is far enough along so that it is essentially being internally fitted-out.
When will construction on the Washington Square Village block begin?
Any construction on the Washington Square Village block is not anticipated until 2022 at the earliest. No plans have been started.
NYU’s Office of Community Engagement maintains a 181 Mercer Street construction webpage, which includes FAQs about mitigation, project background and timeline. Anyone can sign up to receive email updates on the site by visiting nyu.edu/construction.
Programming and Design
More information about the building can be found at nyu.edu/181mercer.