In New York, where real-estate costs are at a premium, it’s practically criminal to waste space—even the subterranean kind. One underutilized site was a block-long passage below street level that leads from the Columbus Circle subway station to West 57th Street. In 2014, local firm Architecture Outfit began working with Oases Development to devise a plan for the Metropolitan Transit Authority to transform it into a flexible underground food-and-shopping pedestrian street named Turnstyle.
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The business opportunity was huge in a place traversed daily by 80,000 people, so the architects maximized the number of tenants—initially 34—giving them room to breathe. Two rows of small shops flank the corridor, the scale aimed at varying vendor types and minimizing vacancy periods. Large vendors can remove partitions to merge two or three shops.
The team visually opened and polished the site. Transoms above fixed- or foldingglass storefronts create the illusion of a lofty environment despite low beams. Mirrored panels and white-painted surfaces help distribute light. Perforated metal screens conceal overhead conduits, pipes, and HVAC equipment. Blackened-steel signage adds an urban vibe, as do black pavers arranged in the same pattern as Rafael Guastavino’s tile vaults at Grand Central Terminal. Elsewhere on the floor, additional kiosks sit on islands of light or multicolored tiles.
Still popular nearly three years in, the 30,000-plus-square-foot Turnstyle has managed to procure rents at market rates comparable to street-level retail and maintain 90 percent occupancy since opening. It has also generated more than 600 jobs. The project demonstrates how good design can engage the public and boost the business of shopkeepers.
Video © Ty Cole
Architecture Outfit PLLC
211 Centre Street, Floor 3
New York, NY 10013
917 513 0793
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Marta Sanders AIA and Thaddeus Briner, Principals
Stephen Nielson, Project Manager
Architect of record: Architecture Outfit PLLC
100 Broadway #23
New York, NY 10005
Urban Projects Collaborative
51-02 21st Street, 7th Floor
Long Island City, NY 11101
20 Jay Street #504
Brooklyn, NY 11201
192 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10016
30,000 square feet
Entrances: Aluminum Storefront: Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope, FG 2000
Sliding doors: Interior Folding Glass Storefront, Dorma HSW-G
Floor tile: Porcelain Floor Tile: CSI / Neolith, Megaker, custom sizes/pattern
Special interior finishes unique to this project: Custom illuminated blackened steel signs and custom perforated aluminum spine enclosure, Kammetal
Interior ambient lighting: Linear surface mounted fluorescent strip, Apogee
Downlights: Surface mounted LED accent, Luraline