Glass Industry

White Plains Adds a New Glass-Faced, Two-Tower Complex

One developer’s belief that White Plains is a city on the rebound has led to the construction of Westchester County’s tallest buildings and first Ritz-Carlton.

"We see the city emerging as a destination – as a great place to live, work, and play," says Bruce Berg, executive vice president of Cappelli Enterprises of Valhalla, N.Y., which is building the new Renaissance Square complex in the heart of White Plains. "It’s becoming a 24-7 city."

Cappelli had previously built the $350 million, 1.1-million-sq-ft City Center at White Plains in 2005. That complex, across the street from Renaissance Square, contains two 35-story towers with rental apartments and residential condominiums, a parking garage, and a retail and entertainment complex.

"City Center was a catalyst for the revitalization of White Plains," Berg says.

Now, Cappelli and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. of Chevy Chase, Md., are co-developing the $500 million, 950,000-sq-ft Renaissance Square, which will have two towers linked by a low-rise component.

The new development includes the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton, Westchester, a 44-story residential tower with 181 condominium units and 32 suites furnished in the Ritz’s signature Atelier style; a 123-room Ritz-Carlton hotel in the 10-story low-rise component; retail on the first floor; a 1,000-space, below-grade parking garage; and the second tower, which is expected to also be 44 stories and have a mix of commercial office space on the first 10 floors and residential units above.

“[With a high-end hotel], it’s the first of its kind in terms of type of development in White Plains,” says Peter Palazzo, president of George A. Fuller Co., Cappelli’s general contractor subsidiary.

Fuller broke ground on the complex in mid-2005. Work began first on the residential tower, which topped out in October and is slated for completion this year. The second tower topped out in February and will wrap up in 2008. The 10-story hotel would also open next year, as will a 42nd-floor restaurant.

Cappelli announced in February that it had sold 70 percent of the first tower’s units in 16 weeks. The 1,200- to 5,200-sq-ft units are listed at prices ranging from $750,000 to more than $10 million.

Costas Kondylis and Partners of New York, which designed the complex, placed the towers at angles to each other to create a contrast and allow expansive views from both structures. The illuminated tops of the wedge-shaped buildings will distinguish Renaissance Square and serve as a beacon for the city, while recesses will give the building a more slender appearance, Kondylis says.

“We were conscious that we were to design a centerpiece of the development of White Plains,” he adds. “It will mark the skyline.” 

Construction of the complex has proven to be a large effort in coordination. Fuller assigned seven different teams to the hotel rooms; the garage; each of the towers; pool deck, spa and fitness center; ballrooms; and back-of-house spaces.

“There’s a difficult challenge of manpower and materials availabilities for each of these areas,” Palazzo says.

The complex, which sits on a conventional spread-footing foundation on bearing rock, has a reinforced concrete superstructure and will consume more than 60,000 cu. yd. of concrete.

Further evidence of the compartmentalized nature of construction on the complex is that Cappelli signed a comprehensive safety agreement with the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration for work on the second tower of Renaissance Square. Palazzo says the agreement was developed only for the second tower because it had begun research on the process after work on the first tower was already under way.

While it has not changed Fuller’s normal safety practices, workers have received additional training in hopes of creating a safety-first mindset, he adds.

“The agreement highlights and focuses everyone on the importance of safety and running a safe project,” Palazzo says. “We’re trying to be as proactive as possible to avoid unsafe conditions.”

On the interiors, Ritz-Carlton sought specific interior touches, Berg says.

“Ritz-Carlton had input on all of the finishes to make sure that they are consistent with the brand standard,” he adds.

 Harvey Kaufman Architect of New Canaan, Conn., designed the Ritz-Carlton residences, while Frank Nicholson of Acton, Mass., handled the interiors.

Each of the residential units comes with a control system in the foyer that lets the homeowner adjust the lights, air conditioning, and window treatments. A remote control provides portability within the unit. The system also enables owners to request services from the hotel.

On the exterior, the buildings have a glass curtain wall. Palazzo says it is the first such glass façade for a residential building in the city.

“[The decision to use curtain wall] was driven in part by the desire to build something sleek and luxurious,” he adds. “Curtain wall has a cleaner appearance than precast and, typically, connotes a different type of dwelling.”

Kondylis says the crystalline design also transforms the interior spaces.

“There’s nothing like a bright, sun-filled room,” he adds.

Capping the project is a winter garden by Thomas Balsley Associates, a New York landscape architect. Framed by split-faced slabs of granite at the entrance to the towers, the garden evokes the countryside and has large pine trees and low-canopy deciduous trees in an outdoor plaza.

In addition, illuminated wall panes of translucent glass set in a shallow pool, with fog and lights, separate the arrival space from the street. Outdoor restaurant cafés will surround the water.

“We wanted to import a metaphorical slice of the rugged nature that is part of the heritage of Westchester,” says Thomas Balsley, principal of his namesake firm. “We wanted this landscape to have a deeper meaning than just trees and shrubs.”

Source: New York Construction