NYU has unveiled the long-awaited design of its forthcoming building on the corner of Mercer and Houston. The $1.2 billion, 735,000-square-foot, multi-tower behemoth will include faculty and student housing, performance spaces, classrooms, and a sports center. It will “shift the center of gravity” of the school’s campus toward Soho when it’s completed in 2021, according to one of the architects.

The building, called 181 Mercer Street, will exist on the block encompassed by Bleecker and Houston, and Mercer and Greene. According to a pair of NYU announcements and an architectural presentation, it’ll house 58 classrooms, a 350-seat proscenium theater and two other theaters, nearly 60 new classrooms, practice and rehearsal spaces for the music and theater programs, two cafes, 30 to 60 faculty apartments, up to 425 freshmen beds, a publicly accessible lobby atrium, and a second-floor commons, among other things.


The gym, which replaces the bygone Jerome S. Coles Sports Center, will consist of a six-lane pool, running track, four basketball courts, wrestling and fencing facilities, cardio and weight training rooms, and two squash courts (a relief for squash players, whose hopes for facilities at NYU’s interim gym were, well, squashed).

Model for the new NYU building at Mercer & Houston

A photo posted by Anne Ruthmann (@anneruthmann) on

NYU’s Greenwich Village expansion was fought inside and outside of court (as in, legal court) by local groups working with celebrities like Mark Ruffalo, Padma Lakshmi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and even the dancers from Stomp!. But the school’s announcement insists this is “a building of which NYU can be proud,” and notes that it’s “slimmer and 20% smaller than allowed by City approvals process.” At the same time, according to a summary of the financial plan, the project’s price tag of $1.2 billion is above the $727 million that was originally estimated. The university assures it can pay for this via $947 million in loans, $300 million in fundraising, and $38 million in cash on hand.


Still, at least one of the preservationists who fought the expansion is unhappy about the design. “The notion that covering a 300-foot-long building in glass is going to make it less intrusive is ridiculous and sounds like the proverbial lipstick on a pig,” Andrew Berman told the Wall Street Journal. His organization, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, issued a statement saying that it “vigorously disputes” the school’s claims that the glass-walled design promotes “transparency” and “connectivity.”


Others chimed in:

But the design, by Davis Brody Bond and KieranTimberlake, has at least one fan:

NYU is also touting environmental measures such as “green roofs and outdoor terraces with low-irrigation plants,” which look nice and lush in the renderings. But let’s face it, anyone who ever went to Coles (including myself, as an NYU employee) will miss the rooftop jogging track, tennis courts, and batting cages.

(Photo: Daniel Maurer)

(Photo: Daniel Maurer)

Sigh. This used to be my playground. Now all we have left of this open-air sports facility is these clips from the 1986 comedy The Money Pit. This is the scene where the Tom Hanks character’s realtor sells him on buying the place that ends up being a financial nightmare. Enjoy.