View Full Version : Meier's Bronx Developmental Center Becomes Office Park

February 1st, 2002, 11:08 AM
An Architectural Milestone Loses Its Pedigree

The Bronx Developmental Center, a complex of buildings that has drawn global praise as a masterpiece of Modernism, is being partly demolished, significantly changed and expanded by its new owner.

Architectural purists are aghast, but are helpless to stop it.

The new owner, Joseph Simone, who bought the complex from the state in May, is making what he hopes will be the largest office building in the Bronx out of the complex, a former center for the mentally retarded that is visible from the Hutchinson River Parkway. In the process, Mr. Simone is replacing the elongated portholes with conventional office windows and peeling off the buildings' celebrated aluminum-colored skin and replacing it with white aluminum. Most significant, he plans to enlarge the 330,000-square-foot complex to as much as one million square feet.

"We're on the cusp of signing the first big lease," said Mr. Simone, the president of the Simone Development Companies in New Rochelle, N.Y., which paid the state $3.7 million for the property. "This is the biggest thing to hit the Bronx in decades."

The company has both demolition and building permits and work has begun. The goal is to take what everyone admits has become a decrepit, outmoded treatment center and turn it into premier office space. Fernando Ferrer, the former Bronx borough president, said in 1999 that a transformation similar to the one actually being done could ultimately generate 6,000 jobs.

The casualty is one of the treasures of late 20th-century architecture, in the judgment of many architects and preservationists. After Richard Meier, the architect of such celebrated buildings as the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Museum for the Decorative Arts in Frankfurt, Germany, and numerous distinctive white houses, finished the Bronx Developmental Center in 1977, Ada Louise Huxtable, the architecture critic for The New York Times, called it "the cynosure of the architectural world."

The AIA Guide to New York City says, "A consummate work of architecture, it is among the great complexes of its time."

Mr. Meier, who is attending the World Economic Forum in Manhattan, said yesterday that the news of the demolition was upsetting. He said preservation laws in Europe, particularly in France, would have prevented such a change.

"I hope that what he's replacing it with has the quality of what we built there," Mr. Meier said. "It's interesting to me that they never come back to the original architect."

Robert A. M. Stern, the architect and historian, called the news "a shocker," saying he felt as if he were losing a familiar acquaintance. "And, my God, we've lost the trade center," he said. "This is a monument of exactly the same period. This is serious."

There seems to be little that preservationists can do. The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission can confer landmark status only on buildings that are at least 30 years old. To qualify for the federal and state historical registries, buildings generally must be at least 50 years old.

Sherida E. Paulsen, chairwoman of the commission and an architect, said she was sad that she seemed powerless to help. She lived in the Bronx when her husband was going to medical school there, Ms. Paulsen said, and she remembered how much she loved to look out her window at Mr. Meier's creation.

"This is a tragic loss," she said. "This is one of the first buildings by one of the pre-eminent architects of the late 20th century, and it's gone."

Preservationists were particularly disappointed that the buildings just missed being old enough to be protected by the city. "It's almost at the eligibility age for landmark protection, and yet it isn't," said Frank E. Sanchis III, executive director of the Municipal Art Society.

Roger P. Lang, director of public affairs for the New York Landmarks Conservancy, a private advocacy group, said, "This is one of the handful of works of modern architecture that deserved care and protection. And it's apparently been lost, and there's no recourse."

In "New York 1960" (Monacelli Press, 1995), the authors Mr. Stern, Thomas Mellins and David Fishman said the idea of the complex was to convey a comfortable ambience, despite the slick aluminum panels. They called it "rationally planned and utterly logical," but also "dauntingly abstract in form."

But from the beginning, the buildings had critics who insisted the effect was far from inviting. Mark Stevens said in his review in Newsweek, "Architecture is art's ambassador to the real world, but some psychologists and parents of retarded people think Meier has forced an unhomelike art upon the lives of his patients."

He suggested that the architect's hand might have been too visible. "Great buildings seem given, not designed," he wrote.

The book authors suggest that for many people who are not students of design, the buildings may have been a bit unsettling, much like the Guggenheim Museum remains for some. The "symbol of Modernism," they acknowledge, may also have served as "the butt of jokes."

Dean Bender, a spokesman for Mr. Simone, said the buildings had fallen into serious disrepair well before the state put it and four other mental health centers up for sale in 1999. The first step in converting the complex to a new use will be to rip out the interior space. "It really was in a very rundown condition, the building, the grounds," Mr. Bender said. Referring to Mr. Simone, he said, "He's really cleaned up the site."

Plans call for a first phase in which the complex's size will increase to 450,000 square feet. A second phase may increase the total to one million. The interior courtyards, praised by architecture critics, will be preserved.

The pace of development will depend on how quickly tenants sign leases. Several are negotiating for large amounts of office space.

Whatever happens, the edifice will never look the same. But there is a scale model available: it was shown at the Jeu de Paume in Paris in 1999 in a major retrospective of Mr. Meier's work.

February 1st, 2002, 12:49 PM


How much more damage before this city learns to respect architecture?

February 1st, 2002, 03:02 PM
its ben both a good and a bad year for NY:

Foster, Piano

and a bad one:
Bronx Mental, and TWA

The Bronx Menal has always ben one of my favorite outter-borough buildings. It predates citicorp, modern and undeniably cool. Its calm but fresh, a perfect combination for its use.

June 7th, 2003, 01:06 PM
Follow-up. From Meier to mock-Meier, or Meier on the cheap.




June 7th, 2003, 01:37 PM

July 2nd, 2003, 09:08 AM
July 2, 2003

Bronx Complex Occupies Site of Former Hospital


The initial section of the Hutchinson Metro Center, on the site of an old mental hospital in the Bronx, will have its first tenant next month.

A gleaming white Class A office complex is nearing completion just off the Hutchinson River Parkway in the Pelham Bay section of the Bronx, part of it built on the foundation of what had been a state mental health facility, the Bronx Developmental Center.

Construction began last August on what is now called the Hutchinson Metro Center, envisioned by its developers as the first stage of what will be a complex with a million square feet.

The first tenant, the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, has signed a 12-year lease for 50,000 square feet, and expects to move about 825 employees into the offices in mid-August.

Mercy College, which already has five campuses and four extension centers throughout New York City and Westchester County, has signed a 20-year lease for 130,000 square feet. It plans to move in beginning in January.

Joseph Simone, whose family-owned Simone Development Company of New Rochelle bought the 18.5 acre site at auction for $3.7 million from the State of New York in May 2001, said that three other tenants have signed commitment letters but no leases yet for an additional 100,000 square feet. The 460,000-square-foot complex is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2004, Mr. Simone said, and it is expected to create about 2,000 white collar and service jobs.

The developer plans to provide security around the clock and parking space for about 1,400 cars. Those who drive to and from the Metro Center on the Hutchinson River Parkway will eventually be able to do so using a ramp that the city and state departments of transportation have approved, and which Mr. Simone said is expected to be ready in 20 months.

Commuters will also be able to use M.T.A. buses or the No. 6 subway to the Westchester Square station, which is a shuttle bus ride away. Buses will run between the station and the Metro Center from 7:30 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Also planned for the complex is a teleconference center, a cafeteria, a health club, a bank, a dry cleaner and a convenience store. The interior courtyards that were there when the state owned the site were recently landscaped, and will double as alfresco dining areas.

Construction at the Metro Center appears to have be proceeding smoothly, despite a controversy that surrounded the state's auction of the property in 2001.

Although the Bronx Developmental Center was already regarded as obsolete, several architects, preservationists and environmental advocates objected to plans to partly demolish the building and then expand it by 40 percent. The building, which was designed by the renowned architect Richard Meier, was noted for its elongated portholes, which have been replaced by conventional office windows.

The most difficult part of the new design, said its architect, Mitchell D. Newman, the principal of the Newman Design Group in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., had to do with the outline of the foundation of the old building.

"The original footprint," Mr. Newman said, "didn't lend itself to modern large footprint office space, which was required by the tenants."

Mr. Simone said the million-square-foot size of the full complex would be allowed by present zoning regulations.

"Our intention is to create an environment with a biotechnology and medical cluster," Mr. Simone said, "a cluster where lots of scientists can work and study everything from ideas to research."

Mr. Simone expressed confidence that the Hutchinson Metro Center will be a good location for biotechnology and medical offices, since it is within a mile and a quarter of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center, Calvary Hospital and Jacobi Medical Center.

He said his company is talking with the New York City Investment Fund, a private organization that supports job creation and business development in New York City, in hopes of bringing biomedical companies to the Metro Center.

Mr. Simone also plans to develop a 150-room hotel and conference center.

A hotel could accommodate visitors to the nearby health care centers, Mr. Simone said, as well as Fordham University, Lehman College and Manhattan College; and out-of-towners having business at the Bronx Criminal Court complex. In addition, he said, the planned hotel would be used by visitors to attractions in the Bronx, like the Bronx Zoo, the New York Botanical Garden and Yankee Stadium.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

July 2nd, 2003, 09:35 AM


July 2nd, 2003, 11:59 AM
I passed by that complex several times when I took a US Mail entrance exam in Westchester last month. I personally don't care much for that building, and I'm satisfied that it's now being used for something much better. Those 60's style mental hospital were hell-holes for those confined to them, I'm certain.

July 2nd, 2003, 12:45 PM
You're certain but in fact you really don't know at all. The change of use was a given anyway; it was the architecture that was at stake. Last month the original complex was long gone.

July 2nd, 2003, 02:20 PM
The architecture of the place was good but the function they had there was anything but. I've read some reports on the many inadequacies and outright abuses of the mental health system. With due respect I can't get into them, but they occured in those days and are still occuring now. I believe that if not for the sad function of these kinds of buildings there would have been a lot more sympathy for the BDC's architecture and much more determination to preserve it. Form defines landmark buildings, but so does function. Still, I understand how pissed off you are about the original facade being dismantled.

(Edited by Agglomeration at 2:33 pm on July 2, 2003)

TLOZ Link5
July 2nd, 2003, 04:47 PM
Holy moly, it's an office park.

The Bronx has been revived, restored, and remade...as a groundscraping, pseudo San Jose.

July 2nd, 2003, 05:48 PM
I've read about the state's dysfunctional mental health care. The value of the architecture was independent from that of the institution and the latter does not make such institutions any less necessary.

The building was ruined only because the city's preservation laws favor age over quality and maybe also because Modernism is not the favorite style of preservationists.

July 3rd, 2003, 10:14 PM
World Architecture, April 2002

Meier mourns loss of Bronx centre

Richard Meier has spoken of his 'sadness' as partial demolition work began on his Bronx Developmental Center in New York his first building to face the wrecker's ball.

By Kieran Long

The 1977 complex, which is too young to be protected by heritage laws, has been stripped back to its structural frame in parts. The interior has been torn out and the anodised aluminium panels on the exterior have been removed to make way for conventional office windows. The work is being carried out by Simone Development Company, which is converting the building to office space and expanding its capacity from 31,000 to 42,000m2.

Meier told World Architecture: 'I went by the other day and I wish I hadn't. They are already taking the facade away, the structure is exposed and you can see that the interior has been demolished.'

The building won a clutch of architectural awards when it opened but was also accused of being inhuman and forbidding for inhabitants. The AIA guide to New York City said of it: 'It is a consummate work of architecture. It is among the great complexes of its time.'

Meier said he had not known about the plan to alter the building until work had already begun. 'It is the first building of mine [to be demolished] and I guess it makes me feel older. It never even occurred to me that they would do that. There is no question that it could certainly have been adapted.'

The centre is one of only three Meier buildings in his hometown. The architect has called for reform of the heritage system in New York, which only protects buildings more than 30 years old. He said: 'There should be a different classification for modern buildings, without question. I hope this will increase awareness of this problem. Historically, New York is not a city known for good architecture. All of us who live here only get rare opportunities to build here.'

A spokesperson for Simone Development Company defended its scheme (pictured above), which will house some firms displaced by the World Trade Center disaster. He said: 'A small but vocal group of critics has come out against the plan. Where were these people over the past three decades while the state of New York allowed this architectural gem to deteriorate before their eyes?'

The developer paid US$3.7m for the building and expects work to be completed in 18 months.

James Kovata
July 4th, 2003, 06:56 AM
Altering this complex in a manner inconsistent with Richard Meier's wishes in a travesty. *It's a beautiful complex.

May 28th, 2006, 12:41 AM
$62M office towers are in the works


With a new Yankee Stadium complex and a huge shopping mall set to rise in the South Bronx, a new office park on the other side of the borough is in for a growth spurt of its own.

The developer of Hutchinson Metro Center in Pelham Bay is planning to more than double the space available with two new office towers.

Tower One, a 10-story, 260,000-square-foot office block, will break ground this fall, and the project is expected to create 500 construction jobs. Plans for the second tower are still in the works. Together, The Towers at Hutchinson Metro Center will cost $62 million and add 520,000 square feet of space to the 460,000-square-foot office park.

"With a wave of new office and residential projects under way as well as plans moving ahead for a new Yankee Stadium, the Bronx economy is currently enjoying an unprecedented renaissance," said Hutchinson Metro Center developer Joseph Simone.

The $60 million first phase of development at 1200 Waters Place - the largest Class A office park in the borough - was nearly 100% leased within two years of the start of construction in 2001, making Hutchinson Metro Center one of the most successful new office projects in the New York metropolitan area.

The Visiting Nurse Service was the first to move in, in 2003. It was followed by the Internal Revenue Service, the New York City Housing Authority and the new Bronx campus of Mercy College.

Simone Development Cos. acquired the original 18.2-acre site of the decrepit Bronx Developmental Center from the state in 2001 and has expanded the site to 42.5 acres through a succession of acquisitions. The company plans to develop the entire site, creating a total of 1.8 million square feet of office space.

Although the East Bronx may sound like a remote spot for Manhattan-quality office space, Hutchinson Metro Center's location - near most of the region's major highways, including the Hutchinson River Parkway, I-95, the Bronx River Parkway, New York State Thruway and the Cross Bronx Expressway, and just a few minutes from LaGuardia Airport - makes the office park more accessible than many other parts of the city.

Hutchinson Metro Center also runs its own private shuttle bus service linking workers to city subways.

Tara Stacom of Cushman & Wakefield, which handles leasing for the office complex, said that although the first phase of development attracted mostly businesses connected with Westchester, rising Manhattan rents will make The Towers more attractive to expanding businesses priced out of midtown.

Originally published on May 22, 2006


Also, you can download the brochure to view the future site plan, which entails six new buildings.

May 28th, 2006, 01:15 AM
I'm happy to see that satelite cities are developing within New York state.

May 28th, 2006, 09:12 AM
Satellite City?

Suburban Office Park.

May 28th, 2006, 12:19 PM
I felt very sad reading this. So little respect. We are a civilization in decline, we have no respect even for our own history.

May 28th, 2006, 01:29 PM
Satellite City?

Suburban Office Park.

By definition its a satelite city. According to my old text-book on the subject Satelite Cities develop because of the rapid urbanization that occurs along commercial transportation corridors. Thats what's happening here. As I've already said I'm not a big fan of the design direction of this project. Hopefully though other commercial projects will follow in the Bronx with much nicer designs.

May 30th, 2006, 11:32 AM
That sure is a nice new parking lot for the Bronx.

May 31st, 2006, 07:02 PM
A city doesn't have parking lots. If it does, it's a damaged city. All American cities have damaged areas, though some much more than others.

Suburbs have parking lots.

May 31st, 2006, 11:37 PM

June 1st, 2006, 01:38 AM
Even though the old Bronx Centre was lauded by architecture critics, the new Hutchinson Metro Center is very good for the Bronx.

The fact that phase I sold so quickly shows how much Class A office space is needed in the Bronx. We are often overlooked for a quality development like this for other boroughs like Queens and Brooklyn.

The fact that it is a suburban office park-style of development is because of the property it is located on. The parcel is located at least a fifteen hundred feet from the complex's main entrance on Waters Place.

The surrounding area is fully built out. It's not a part of the Bronx that's undergoing rapid urbanization. Most of the land uses to the south and west are medical, like Albert Einstein Hospital, Montefiore Medical Center and the Jacobi Medical Center.

I see the HMC as further development in one of the Bronx's few "business districts."

Bring on the Class A office space, even if it is in the form of an office park. Maybe soon we'll get quality housing instead of these three story brick boxes all these tasteless devleopers keep putting up.