DDG and Hudson Companies have partnered with architecture students at the University of Virginia, who will put together plans for one of each developer’s residential sites in New York City. UVA’s “vertical neighborhoods” undergraduate class met the developers for the first time Sunday night at a cocktail party hosted by The Real Deal’s Amir Korangy, who put the companies in contact with the class.
Hudson and DDG each chose one of their sites to show the students — DDG’s 325 West Broadway, a former Tootsie Roll factory in Soho that is being converted into luxury condominiums, and Hudson’s new 23-story rental building at 626 Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn. The 25 students will tour the development sites today.
David Kramer, a principal at Hudson, explained to the students at The Real Deal-sponsored event just how different the two projects are — one being in the center of Manhattan, the other in a “transitional” neighborhood of Brooklyn — and emphasized that the difference affects how developers tackle projects.
“What does a developer do? A developer says, ‘I think I can make this work. I think that with these land prices and with these construction costs and these kinds of rents I can make a decent return,’” Kramer told the students, their two professors and other guests gathered at Korangy’s loft in Midtown West.
“I’m a wahoo!” declared Joe McMillan, CEO of DDG and a UVA alum, referring to a nickname for the Virginia Cavalier, the school’s mascot.
Although it won’t be possible for the developers to actually use the students’ completed designs (due to timing and the myriad of hoops that architects and developers have to jump through to get certain regulations approved), Ghazal Abbasy-Asbagh, the students’ architecture professor at UVA, still hopes to provide something of a real-world experience.
“It is really important to make this as real as possible, so that is why we thought it was important to work with the developers,” she said. “It’s a great teaching tool,” especially the “comparison and analysis” of the two different projects, Abbasy-Asbagh noted.
The students had spent the weekend exploring Soho and Prospect Lefferts Gardens ahead of their formal tours of the two sites—“hardhats” and all, McMillan said.
“It was cool to go to the neighborhoods and imagine yourself in the site, and what different opportunities and things you could do,” Alejandro Garrido Perez, a UVA student, said. “One was in Manhattan, so obviously there was a lot of hustle and bustle. And the other one was in Brooklyn, so it was different.”
The students plan to complete the plans by early May, when their semester ends. McMillan and Kramer hope to visit the campus in Charlottesville, Va., for the students’ presentations.
“They don’t have a lot of time, so it’ll be interesting to see what they come up with,” McMillan said. “The [Tootsie Roll] site will pose some interesting challenges to the students” because of its two-building structure and unique history, he explained. The site was acquired by DDG from Lehman Brothers and once owned by Tootsie Roll Industries, the maker of the famous chewy candy.
Matt Himes, another UVA student, said his peers in “studio” courses often design for real development sites, such as in Charlottesville.
However, “It’s always nice to come to New York,” Himes said. “We’re all architecture majors, so we love New York; we love seeing all the buildings.”