Construction remains on hold at the six-story townhouse at 210 East 52nd Street in East Midtown. The single-unit property measures less than 10 feet wide, putting it in contention with 75½ Bedford Street for the title of Manhattan’s narrowest building. Developer Sam Chang split the 10-by-100 foot parcel from a larger lot at 206 East 52nd Street in 2009, where the prolific hotelier erected a 29-story Hilton Garden Inn. Gene Kaufman Architect PC is behind the design for both buildings.
Prior to redevelopment, a five-story, postwar office building stood at the approximately 40-foot-wide site. Sam Chang bought the property in 2008 along with a three-story townhouse next door at 206 East 52nd Street. The combined lot was cleared by next summer. A permit application described a 31-story, 98,135-square-foot hotel proposal, designed by Peter Poon. After the architect switch, the hotel was scaled down to 29 stories and erected between 2011 and 2013.
The townhouse started rising the following year from the leftover lot. The slender steel frame topped out in 2016, and has remained virtually unchanged during the past six months. The Department of Buildings indicates that the project has been under a stop work order since March 2017.
75½ Bedford Street, located in the West Village Historic District and notable for housing several prominent tenants over its 144-year lifespan, measures nine-and-a-half feet wide. The steel frame of 210 East 52nd Street leaves space for a construction fence next to the hotel, so even once the curtain wall rises, the building would likely measure at least a few inches narrower than its West Village counterpart, while rising twice as high.
The construction permit lists the main roof height at 68 feet, and the bulkhead shown on the rendering adds about seven to 10 feet. The slenderness ratio, determined by dividing width by height, would surpass 1:7, the minimum required for a structure to be classified as slender. Ultra-thin proportions are becoming increasingly common among the city’s luxury residential skyscrapers, and 210 East 52nd Street is the first townhouse to fit the category. (Despite its narrow width, 75½ Bedford Street is not tall enough to qualify as slender.) Notably, 210 East 52nd Street’s record as the city’s shortest slender building is unlikely to be surpassed, as a shorter structure of similar proportions would have to be even narrower.
A single row of large casement windows, ornamented with plain stone sills and lintels, would grace the traditionally-styled façade. Gentle arches adorn the entrance and the sixth floor window. White horizontal bands at the street façade and windowless lot walls balance the elongated structure with a horizontal theme. The parapet height, street wall alignment, and beige façade palette are contextual with mid-rise apartment buildings to the east.
210 East 52nd Street stands close to modernist landmarks such as the 1951 Lever House, the 1958 Seagram Building, the recently designated Citicorp Center at 601 Lexington Avenue, and Philip Johnson’s 1950 Rockefeller Guest House. The latter shares the block with 210 East 52nd Street. The two-story building is notable for exemplary modernist design as well as limited use of expensive Midtown real estate.
In contrast, 210 East 52nd Street stretches the potential of the 1,000-square-foot lot. The building’s approximately 70-foot length lends a total construction floor area of around 5,600 square feet, including the cellar. The usable floor area would measure somewhat less, with interiors spanning around eight feet at the widest point. The impractical-sounding dimensions feel roomier than they sound, according to the residents of 75½ Bedford Street.
Despite severe site constraints, 210 East 52nd Street makes efficient use of the lot, and we look forward to resumption of construction.