The folks from Spring Studios New York invited me to see the under-construction facility from the inside, and I accepted in a flash. But first, full disclosure: Months ago, Spring paid to send out two Tribeca Citizen email blasts announcing upcoming presentations to Community Board 1’s Tribeca Committee.
I went into the tour thinking Spring Studios was a fantastic next chapter for the top half of 50 Varick—the lower half will still be Verizon—and I left ready to double down. My initial concern—shared with others—had been that Spring might be unable to resist hosting one big event after another in such a juicy space. (There are nine photo studios total, but on the fifth and sixth floors, the walls can collapse to create spaces around 8,000 and 10,000 square feet, respectively.) In response, Spring is prepared to agree to various stipulations. I’ve posted the current list—it’s a work in progress—at the end of this post. But here are the ones that limit the number and size of events over the course of the two-year liquor license:
••• Spring agrees to have no more than 15 events/programs with 600 to 800 attendees. Of these 15 events/programs 5 will end no later than 6pm, 6 will end no later than 10pm and the final 4 will end no later than 11pm. [All of these end with “We anticipate that many of the events/programs slated to end at 6 will be luncheons that will end considerably earlier.”]
••• Spring agrees to have no more than 36 events/programs between 400 to 600 attendees. Of these 36 events/programs 10 will end no later than 6pm, 10 will end no later than 9pm, 8 will end no later than 10pm, 6 will end no later than 11pm and 2 will end no later than 12am.
••• Spring agrees to have no more than 60 events/programs with 200 to 400 attendees. Of these 60 events/programs 20 will end no later than 6pm, 18 will end no later than 9pm, 15 will end no later than 10pm, 5 will end no later than 11pm and 2 will end no later than 12am.
••• Spring agrees to have no more than 180 events/programs with 200 or fewer attendees. Of these 180 events/programs 80 will end no later than 6pm, 55 will end no later than 9pm, 28 will end no later than 10pm, 12 will end no later than 11pm and 5 will end no later than 12am.
At this point, I find the opposition bewildering. Will there be noise from inside? Not that anyone will hear—does any neighbor living alongside the Holland Tunnel offramp not have multi-paned, super-glazed windows? Will there be crowds? Does it matter? When was the last time you walked on that stretch of Varick? Will there be traffic? Possibly, but there already is, thanks to the tunnel entrance north of Canal. Then again, a lane of Varick outside 50 Varick has been closed for the building’s construction for 18 months now, and has anyone noticed worsened traffic? A business like Spring succeeds by thinking about clients’ needs before the clients do—and consequently, it has probably already considered (and acted on) any objection you can come up with. Such as parking: Spring has been talking with the three Icon lots in the area to rent spaces on a daily, monthly, and by-event basis, as an amenity for its clients.
Construction should be done in July, and the first shoots will happen in September. Spring plans on starting out with 200 staffers, possibly going as high as 350 in the first quarter of operation. Anyone want to ask Aamanns-Copenhagen if it’s excited about that influx? Or Barry’s Bootcamp? Or AOA Bar & Grill? Or Pécan, Brandy Library, Pepolino, Café Clementine, Maslow 6, or Cercle Rouge? With the exception of Locanda Verde, every single shop and restaurant in Tribeca would prefer more foot traffic. Sure, Spring will have a commissary inside—possibly with a well-known Tribeca figure at the helm—but let’s not understate the economic impact of 350-plus new black-collar workers. And that doesn’t even factor in Spring using Tribeca’s Olivier Cheng to cater photo shoots and Tribeca’s Laughing Man (they’re in talks) to run a café, or working with Tribeca Film, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and other area groups on programming, or creating a hiring program with Henry Street Settlement. Spring managing director David Hemphill also told me that they’ll also be bringing in food on a rotating basis from small, neighborhood vendors from all around New York, because that’s what they do—because that’s what their stylish, high-end clients expect.
And now, the photos. The day-to-day entrance will be on rarely used St. John’s Lane; for events, they’ll use Varick (and there’s a big space on the ground floor for red-carpet step-and-repeats, checking in, and so on). From there, we went to the fifth floor, shown below; the photo studios will be on the western side, with offices on the east. You can (and should) click on the photos to enlarge them.
The sixth floor is similar to the fifth, in that its photo studios break down into one big space—in fact, the wall at the far end of the photo directly below is part of an old design and will be taken down, so the space is even bigger than it looks here. The sixth floor is also home to the 150-seat restaurant (the final photo in this batch), which will be open to the public, despite previous reports.
Hemphill said that the ability to have huge spaces isn’t for events so much as for clients doing multiple types of shoots (print, online, film) at once. “There will be no personal events,” he said. “No birthday parties, no bar mitzvahs. It’s just for clients as an amenity.” During Fashion Week, he said, he could see one or two “decent-size” runway shows. And with the stipulations, Spring is handcuffed if it ever hoped to turn clubby. Not that it does. When I said that the company could probably go back before CB1 after a year or two and get some of the stipulations removed, Hemphill said, “But I don’t want to!”
Much of the seventh floor is given over to the sixth-floor’s high-ceilinged photo studios, but on the east side, there are green rooms for hair, makeup, and so on. I asked if the balconies would be open, and Hemphill said yes. “But won’t people smoke there?” I asked. He said that every client gets assigned an assistant, both to help the client but also to protect Spring property: “Would I make a client happy at the risk of alienating the neighbors we’ll have for at least the next 25 years?” (Also, I marveled aloud how the views from 1 York to inside 50 Varick would be a lot more attractive than whatever Verizon was serving up.)
On to the roof…. Spring isn’t taking the whole roof; in fact, the closest any guest could get to a residential neighbor is 65 feet (and the closest a guest could get to 1 York is 110 feet). Verizon will keep much of the perimeter for its equipment, and Spring is planting huge swaths. The only edge that anyone can approach is the western one, overlooking the Holland Tunnel offramp. On the 1 York side, Spring is building a sound-mitigating wall and planting evergreens, and it’s considering limiting smoking to the northwest corner. (Is smoking on the sidewalk preferable?) Meanwhile, it was so windy up there yesterday that I wondered how often the roof would really be viable anyway. Below, from top: The part of the roof that would be open to guests; the potential smoking section (on the far side of the skylight); the architect’s floor plan (which I annotated) for the roof; and a great view of the Holland Tunnel offramp. The roof, naturally, has its own stipulations, as you can see below.
Below are the types of events/programs Spring intends to host:
Commissary Hours & Stipulations
Roof Terrace Stipulations
General Sound Stipulations
Loading, Unloading & Collection
These stipulations shall be converted to a formalized writing that is recordable in the New York City Registrar’s Office.