Construction Update: 218 West 35th Street

218 West 35th Street218 West 35th Street

The new hotel at 218 West 35th Street is becoming a visible presence from the Penn Station vicinity, and is just beginning to rise above the average neighborhood building. At twenty stories, the tower is just half of its eventual forty floors, which will make it 432 feet tall.

Though the tower’s height renders its breakage of the street wall less offensive, it is withdrawn from the predominating neighborhood styling. Nonetheless, the tower will be a major contribution of density, as the hotel is set to contain 342 total rooms. 218 West 35th Street’s impact is particularly visible from the northern side, where the urban canyon now stretches a solid 200 feet into the air on both sides – the ‘verticality’ of the project is already apparent.

218 West 35th Street is part of a larger boom across Manhattan that is adding thousands of new rooms. Comparing the growth in Manhattan and Brooklyn is interesting given the contrast between the two boroughs when it comes to new hotel additions; The Real Deal reported on Brooklyn’s hospitality boom earlier this month, which will increase the number of hotel rooms in the borough from 4,000 to 5,000 by 2018.

Though 1,000 new hotel rooms sounds like a lot, the figure is actually quite low – especially when compared with the number of new hotel rooms under construction in Manhattan. NYC & Company’s summer report, which is an excellent read for data junkies, shows that Manhattan will house the bulk of 18,000 new hotel rooms expected in New York City through 2016. 218 West 35th Street and the new Hilton and Marriott-brand hotels on 37th Street will add a total of 840 new rooms, approaching the total number under construction in all of Brooklyn for the next five years.

If two blocks of Manhattan can provide nearly 1,000 new hotel rooms without major disruption, Brooklyn can definitely do better. It’s true that Midtown Manhattan is in a world of its own, but Brooklyn is in the same city – and with the amount of gentrification that has occurred across the borough, the notion that Williamsburg and Downtown Brooklyn couldn’t rival Manhattan in terms of hotel growth is ludicrous. Indeed, as mentioned, the projections for Brooklyn extend to 2018. Increasing Brooklyn’s supply from 4,000 to 5,000 rooms is a start, but when the total number of hotel rooms in Brooklyn is the same as the annual figures for new construction in Manhattan, it is obvious more could be done to spread the wealth.

Though 218 West 35th Street lacks renderings and any formal hotel commitment – and assuming it doesn’t have some horribly garish facade – the project shows how high-density hotel construction is preferable to buckshot 20-story buildings, which have been ruining vast sections of Chelsea and the Garment District. Smart zoning is necessary for the city to fully take advantage of its hospitality boom. Increasing FAR allowances for hotel projects in Midtown would be a start, but any real solution will have to incorporate Brooklyn and the outer boroughs, as well; demand is there, appropriate zoning is not.

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