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


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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



M/E/P/FP Engineer

Buro Happold

100 Broadway #23

New York, NY  10005



Project Manager

Urban Projects Collaborative

51-02 21st Street, 7th Floor

Long Island City, NY 11101


Lighting Designer

Lighting Workshop

20 Jay Street #504

Brooklyn, NY  11201


General contractor:


192 Lexington Avenue

New York, NY 10016



Ty Cole



Oases Development



30,000 square feet





Completion date:

April 2016




Entrances: Aluminum Storefront: Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope, FG 2000

Sliding doors: Interior Folding Glass Storefront, Dorma HSW-G


Interior Finishes

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