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.
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 substantially complete in late 2021 and the building is scheduled to open in fall 2022.
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.
The 181 Mercer Street architecture team has completed the programming, schematic design and design development phases and are now preparing construction documents for the project. During this phase, all aspects of the building design will be further advanced, ranging from items such as the type of door and hardware to the final selection of materials. The continuing development of these details may result in some refinement of the renderings and floor plans included in the current website.
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:
While the selection of the specific façade materials will take place during the design development phase of the project, the transparent façade will feature angled glass panels, or wedge panels, that extend across the building’s façade. Architecturally, the wedge panels help distinguish 181 Mercer within a unique cityscape by creating a distinct and textured façade that changes the building’s flow depending on where observers are standing. Environmentally, these panels' 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.
Our 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. Our 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, because we have circulation at the perimeter, light levels can be naturally lower than they would need to be for instructional spaces, while still remaining safe, accessible, comfortable, and pleasant. Residential units will be furnished with shades for privacy.
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.
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.
The total project cost (including all costs associated with improvements to the Superblocks (PDF) being made as part of the overall plan) is projected at $1.285 billion.
The University has made no changes to the tuition projections over the next 10 years in response to the project's financial impact. In fact, the University has successfully been able to reduce the expected tuition increase in the 2016-17 academic year, and is planning to do so again next year.
NYU's long term budget planning process provides for an operating margin that can pay for capital projects and also contribute to School and University operating reserves. This is prudent long-term budgetary planning. Over the past ten years, the University expended about $3.9 billion on capital projects to construct, acquire, or upgrade and improve classrooms, laboratories, other academic facilitates, student and faculty housing, and infrastructure such as our Co-Gen energy plant. Over the next ten years, University capital spending — including the 181 Mercer project — will be below that amount. Therefore, the 181 Mercer project does not present a new incremental financial burden in the context of NYU's historic and projected spending plans.
The financial plan providing the detailed answer to this question is available here (PDF).
Yes. Approximately $150 million of fundraising pledges have been made towards the project, including a nine-figure gift.
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.
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.
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.
There is no commercial space planned for the building.
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.
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.
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.
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 and the site, as well as project background and timeline. Anyone can sign up to receive email updates on the site by visiting nyu.edu/construction.
More information about the building can be found at nyu.edu/181mercer or the 181 Mercer Street Open House Space at the NYU Gould Welcome Center at 50 West 4th Street, between LaGuardia Place and Mercer Street. The Open House Space is open to the public and the NYU community the first Wednesday of each month from 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm and by appointment.