Condo, Hotel, or School?

Last month, Mayor Bloomberg announced his intention to sell three city buildings (346 Broadway, 49-51 Chambers, and 22 Reade), possibly to developers who might convert them into condos or hotels. Local politicians, however, would like them to be used as schools or affordable housing. What exactly is at stake here? Let’s take a peek at 22 Reade.

(But first, read about 346 Broadway and 49-51 Chambers.)

According to the AIA Guide, 22 Reade (between Lafayette and Broadway) combines what used to be 14, 16, 18, 20, and 22 Reade. (Look at the photo above: The buildings go to the far end of the scaffolding.) 14 Reade was built in 1878, and the rest around 1858; they were restored in 1987. The building is home to the NYC Department of City Planning: “After a quarter century next door, in the undistinguished Court Square Building—more familiarly known simply as 2 Lafayette Street (1927, Buchman & Kahn), the Planning Department and its commissioners took up residence in this once-again distinguished row of 6-story, 19th-century business buildings. Though they’re not designated landmarks, preservation certainly did prevail.”

I noticed on the Planning Department’s website that a meeting was scheduled for the other morning, so I popped by early to get a good seat snoop around. Security is far less intense than at 346 Broadway and 49-51 Chambers—you have to show ID, but there’s no metal detector. I asked where Spector Hall (site of the meeting) was, and I was told it was on the ground floor, so I went and checked it out.

Not to cast a pall over this post, but those cast-iron columns might be the sole remaining bit of character inside the building. I doubled back to the elevator, and when it took too long to come—I was feeling conspicuous—I hiked the stairs to the 6th floor.

The windows are nice (if short, this being the top floor), but I couldn’t poke around more because I heard voices. As I soon discovered, the floors’ lobbies were pretty much the same.

The photo above is the fourth floor, I think. From what I could tell, the floors all have an East, West, and North wing. While the building wasn’t exactly a hive of activity, there seemed to always be someone lurking around. On the fourth floor, I was able to shoot a glimpse of the East and West wings. (It’s sort of funny they’re all labeled: The building isn’t that big or confusing.)

I had peeked in other floors, and they looked like that—cubicle farms and filing cabinets. I think the AIA Guide folks never went inside the building, because the interior was about as undistinguished as you can get. Anyway, I seem to have skipped the third floor—there are only so many times one can claim to be lost—because here’s the second. At least the windows are lengthening.

I figured I’d take the elevator down, since I hadn’t been inside it (no big loss, it turned out). I went one floor too far, and a maintenance guy got in—he was headed to the sub-basement, so I got a peek at it. (Nothing remarkable there.)

Somehow I ended up back in the stairwell—amazing how something from a few days ago can become so blurry—when I saw this sign.

I tried to check it out, but (a) I ran into yet another maintenance person, and (b) it was like 1000 degrees down there. Maybe they’re training to rezone the Middle East?

The bottom line: The outside is great, and the inside is a blank slate. Condos strike me as most likely, if only because the Civic Center-y location isn’t hotel-friendly and 49-51 Chambers makes a better school. The old 22 Reade part is more imaginable as condos—thanks to the windows along the east side—but it’s not as if this area doesn’t already have many long apartments with windows only in the front and back.



  1. These buildings should only be sold as condos if the developers build a school as part of the development. Not give money towards a fund to build a school – actually build a school.

    How much more residential do we need down here without providing the infrastructure to accomodate it?

  2. Don’t be surprised tah government offices are plain and functional. If they were anything but, the backlash would be incredible.