Developer, an Affiliate of Silver Star Motors, Montroy DeMarco Architecture, and 1 Oak Contracting Complete 10-story, 135,000-square foot Mixed-use Residential/Mercedes-Benz Dealership Silver Star Building in Popular Long Island City Neighborhood of New York City’s Borough of Queens
The Silver Star is the first new high-rise mixed-use retail/residential building in Long Island City’s Dutch Kills section
Queens, NY – The developer, an affiliate of Silver Star Motors, the architectural firm of Montroy DeMarco Architecture LLP (MDALLP), and builder 1 Oak Contracting have completed 37-14 36th Street, a ground-up, mixed-use development in Long Island City, a section of Queens, NY. The 10-story property, known as The Silver Star, houses a Silver Star Motors Mercedes-Benz dealership on the first and second floors, and rental residential units on the upper floors.
The Silver Star is the first new high-rise mixed-use retail/residential building in east Long Island City/Dutch Kills section of New York City’s borough of Queens, located along a busy stretch of Northern Boulevard. The structure is the only new building with a significant residential component in the area. It is the harbinger of the new wave of mixed-use, commercial, and residential development in this section of Queens, which has not yet seen any major new projects, despite its proximity and easy public transportation commute to Manhattan.
The property is conveniently located directly above the Manhattan-bound “R” and “M” trains subway stop, next to the popular Paper Factory Hotel, and within a walking distance to the Kaufman Astoria Studios, the Museum of the Moving Image, and UA Kaufman Astoria Cinemas. The upscale rental apartments are marketed mainly to young professionals. The units comprise 30 studios, 27 one-bedroom units, 28 two-bedroom units, and two three-bedroom units. The structure is the only new residential building in the area and it sets the standard for attractive, modern units.
According to MDALLP Principal Richard J. DeMarco, AIA, “The 10-story, 135,000-square foot mixed-use structure features a 41,300-square foot Mercedes-Benz dealership on the first two stories and 85 rental apartments on the upper floors. This building is yet another prominent residential development in our firm’s extensive architectural portfolio of multi-family properties completed throughout New York City.”
MNS Real Estate is serving as a leasing broker and marketing agent for the property. “The building caters to the needs of young professionals, especially those working in the technology sector, both in Manhattan and Long Island City. The property offers extensive tenant amenities, great views, and a very convenient and brief commute to Manhattan,” said MNS CEO Andrew Barrocas.
The initial concept for the site’s development simply was to build a new pre-owned showroom for Silver Star Motors and expand the company’s existing pre-owned sales parking. Silver Star is a Mercedes-Benz dealership that has been selling new and pre-owned luxury automobiles to customers since 1972. The lot is located next to Silver Star’s new car dealership. During preliminary discussions about the design for an expanded dealership with Silver Star’s ownership, MADGI Principal Richard J. DeMarco recommended performing a residential test fit based on the property’s zoning. “Based on our experience in optimizing buildings’ size and revenue, while working within the complex New York City zoning regulations, we thought it best to maximize value for the owner and perform a test fit that would provide the highest return on investment. Our analysis showed that 85 apartments could be developed on the site within the local zoning guidelines. The owner/developer decided to go forward with the residential component, in addition to the originally planned pre-owned dealership section,” said DeMarco.
In addition to the building architect and the Mercedes-Benz dealership interior designer Montroy Demarco Architecture and contractor 1 Oak, the project team included several other prominent firms. The interior designer for the residential section was Fogarty Finger Architecture; Dealer Solutions and Design was the dealership operational design consultant; the structural engineer was Gilsanz Murray Steficek; the mechanical/electrical/plumbing engineer was Lilker Engineering; the geotechnical and S.O.E. engineer and environmental consultant was GZA GeoEnvironmental; the civil engineer was DeRosier Engineering; and the audiovisual/IT/security consultant was Sage Security.
Structure and Façade
The structural system is flat-plate concrete, or concrete floors with rebar. The cellar level houses residential parking spaces, residential storage, and utility systems. The first and second floors of the building are devoted to the pre-owned Mercedes-Benz dealership. The first floor is a double-height space with a mezzanine. A dedicated elevator, an architectural stainless-steel stair and glass, and a car ramp connect the floors. The client wanted an industrial loft-like feeling to the outside of the building. However, because of the need for large open spaces in the dealership on the lower floors, columns were not spaced regularly throughout the building, making it difficult to create large loft windows and spaces. MADGI solved this challenge by designing a façade in a manner that maximizes the alignment and size of the windows. The building’s exterior also features large horizontal, textured concrete prefabricated panels installed as a rain screen system. The panels are made from high-performance concrete in a grey gray finish that resembles stone.
The lower portion of the building – from the second floor slab edge down – is finished in aluminum panels, also as a rain screen. While this paneling is stipulated by Mercedes’ branding guidelines, MADGI called for increasing the spacing between the panels to provide an extra textural element. MADGI also specified a double-height entrance for the residential portion entry of the building, located between the dealership and the service facility entry. Overall, the façade’s design picks up on the use of the first two floors as a car dealership and the site’s heritage in luxury car sales. The building is very prominently visible to the passing car traffic and pedestrians.
The dealership window on Northern Boulevard is 17′ high and takes up the entire length of the south side of the building – approximately 110′. It is a curtain wall system with anodized aluminum mullions – a standard Mercedes configuration. Signage is on the windows between the first-floor columns. In keeping with the Mercedes aesthetic, decorative black columns are used on the façade. The designers created niches for the columns in the façade and stepped the columns out. Incorporating the columns into the building required both design creativity and experience in navigating complex New York City zoning regulations. Mercedes-Benz’s guidelines specify that columns needed to be set out, away from the building. However, the City’s zoning laws and lot-line regulations prohibited this. MADGI came up with the solution to set back the columns into the façade and create niches around them to satisfy the dealership design guidelines in a manner that complied with building regulations.
On the residential floors, windows features black anodized aluminum frames and traditional PTAC A/C units under the windows. Many of the apartments include private terraces that are as large as the apartments themselves.
The street-facing wall on the Northern Boulevard side features large dormers, which in accordance with the building code allow for additional height of this section of the building. MADGI took advantage of the dormer allowance to enlarge the footprint of the residential section of the building and maximize the design efficiency as well as to enlarge the floor height. A strongly defined dormer accentuates the sharp corner of the structure and creates a visual anchor for the building.
Interior – Residential
“In the residential portion of the building, the lobby has an industrial loft look – it is open, warm, and has an elegant feel,” said Elizabeth Zagarello, MADGI’s Project Manager. Floors are a finished clear-sealed concrete and walls have concrete paneling with wood planks on the ceilings. “A vertical metal band around the entry, off of 36th Street, differentiates the residential portion from the dealership and makes it look like the lobby space is taller than it actually is. It is a simple rectangular black zinc-framed canopy entrance with 30-foot-high glass curtain wall. The glass extends physically into the 2nd floor space but is still connected to the 1st floor lobby. It is backlit to highlight the wood interior. “It appears monumental and attracts attention from passersby,” she continued. The lobby has elevators, a reception desk, a package room, a mailroom, and a banquette sitting area. LED lighting is used throughout the lobby and rest of the residential portion of the space.
The third floor holds the residential amenities, including a 500-square foot gym with a 1,600-square foot outdoor barbeque area with a Zen yoga space, and an outdoor trellis seating area. The 700-square foot lounge on this floor has a pantry, a communal table, and a television lounge. Laundry facilities are also located on this floor for studio residents. The one-, two-, and three-bedroom units have their own laundry facilities. The outdoor space faces west toward Manhattan.
In the upper floors, carpeted hallways feature minimalistic downlights and accent sconces near the apartment doors. The apartments themselves feature floor-to-ceiling windows, hardwood floors, and modern, higher-end finishes. All one-, two-, and three-bedroom residences include washer/dryers. Kitchens are outfitted with White Quartz counter tops and stainless-steel GE appliances. Oversized bathrooms feature both white “subway” porcelain tiles and Danze fixtures.
High ceilings of 9’2″ are used in the lower-level apartments, and the penthouse-level apartments have ceiling heights of 10’6″, with those on the 10th floor having ceilings of 11’4″. Each 10th-floor unit has a private terrace. The 10th floor also features a 1,300-square foot public space with a fireplace and seating area, all with views of Manhattan. On the ninth floor, two units have private terraces. In fact, approximately 30% of the residential units have a large terrace, equivalent in size to the unit itself.
The 41,300-square foot car dealership is a modern, open space, fitting with Mercedes-Benz’s industrial aesthetic. On the first floor, the flooring is a gray porcelain tile that can withstand car traffic. The ceilings are 20′ high and are of flat-plate concrete. To reduce ambient noise in the expansive space, MDALLP used an acoustical baffle system that mimics the look of structural beams, which are required by Mercedes’ standards.
Ductwork is exposed half-round oval, and only partially hidden by baffles. Columns of smoothed concrete are exposed. The first floor features the showroom, a coffee station, and desks for sales associates. A stair with glass railing and treads connects the first floor to the mezzanine, where the executive offices are located.
The second floor is a parking area and secondary showroom. In the second floor’s showroom window, MDALLP chose linear lights set perpendicular to the Northern Boulevard façade, so passers-by can see cars parked against the window in a highlighted fashion. Both floors are well lit. The lights in the dealership had to be between 70 and 90 foot-candles, while installed at the 20-foot height on the first floor and mezzanine, and nine-foot height on the second floor. The design team selected Luminus Prisma, high-bay LED pendant fixtures that fit in the industrial style of the space and the Mercedes standards, but still have the required power and color spectrum to properly serve the retail purpose of the facility.
Design and Construction Challenges
The project called on the architectural, engineering, and construction team to showcase their creativity and expertise in addressing design, logistical, and technical challenges related to the location and mixed-use function of the building.
The architectural team had to experiment with several solutions in order to connect both floors of the dealership and the cellar level below. It was a challenge designing the two ramps in the building to function properly without taking too much space. MDALLP looked into car elevators, but they did not provide the desired functionality. Instead, the architects solved the design issue by stacking the two ramps, to save space. One ramp goes to the cellar where the apartment parking is, and circles around, while the other one, directly above, leads to the second floor. One entrance is on Northern Boulevard, into the dealership, and another entrance is into the service facilities on 36th Street. The service facility features three sprinter van service bays and four bays for other types of vehicles. This is in addition to Silver Star’s original service facility nearby.
In the pre-construction phase, 1 Oak coordinated closely with the design and engineering team, resulting in improved coordination of the structural and MEP engineering prior to the beginning of the project.
“The site had several geological challenges, one being a high water table. As a result, we encountered water flowing into the excavation,” said Benjamini. “We had to take extraordinary measures to maintain the schedule of the project, including 24/7 de-watering with pumps and overtime work to recover the time lost due to the water condition,” he continued. Coordinating the trades’ schedules and managing the speed of construction by the subcontractors also was a challenge due to the complexity of the project. The result of the proactive approach by the construction team was that the time was recovered.
Excavation went down 28 feet as part of the preparation for the foundation construction. “We installed multiple soldier soil retention piles on the south and east side of the site for temporary stabilization of the excavation walls,” added 1 Oak Contracting Head of Construction Charlie Frattini. The piles are hollow steel pipes that are drilled into the soil and subsequently filled with concrete. They are cantilevered (freestanding). The piles are 30 feet long, so they are imbedded two feet into the ground and stabilized with tiebacks that were drilled into the soil at a 30-degree angle and are 30 feet deep. Although the soldier piles’ function was temporary, and they play no structural function for the building above, they were left in place as the construction proceeded. The team underpinned the remainder of the site during the excavation phase.
Some logistical challenges proved formidable for the team, including a ban of performing any work or even making deliveries on the Northern Boulevard side, due to the subway line running underneath. Thus, all construction staging took place on 36th Street, where the team has a one-lane closure permit. For example, the crane was installed on the 36th Street side and all deliveries took place there, as well, behind the site fencing. “One of the more unusual logistical solutions was where we located the construction hoist, for both personnel and material,” explained 1 Oak Assistant Project Manager Rebecca Eaker. “Under normal circumstances, they hoists are installed on the exterior of the building. But, due to limited site access, we installed it inside the structure. Otherwise it would be in the way of deliveries and crane operation.” As construction proceeded, each floor was poured with an opening for the hoist. Once the need for the hoist was eliminated, the crews removed it and the open floor slabs were filled in with reinforced concrete to complete each floor plate.
The storage of equipment and materials such as elevator elements were something of a challenge as well. The elevators, for example, were long-lead items ordered 12 weeks in advance in order to be manufactured in and delivered from South Korea. They were stored inside the building in their crates on the first floor in a location that eliminated the risk of damage to the equipment. Other long-lead items included façade elements and windows as well as a stainless-steel and glass stair installed inside the dealership. The stair was custom designed and fabricated in the greater New York City area.
Montroy DeMarco Architecture LLP
Founded in 1990 and based in New York City, Montroy DeMarco Architecture LLP (MDALLP) is a prominent, cutting-edge architectural and planning firm predominantly serving the Greater New York area. MDALLP’s affiliate, Montroy Andersen DeMarco (MADGI) provides multi-family, commercial, and retail interior design services. Three principals lead the organization: Richard J. DeMarco, AIA; Daniel Montroy, AIA; and Steven Andersen. The firm employs 35 architects, interior designers, LEED professionals, project managers, and support staff. Building Design & Construction magazine ranks the studio as the 127th largest design and architectural firm in the United States.
The firm’s markets include retail, entertainment, residential and mixed-use new buildings (both market-rate and affordable housing); hospitality, office and corporate interiors; commercial building conversions and market re-positioning; landlord services; and sustainable/LEED design. Headed by principals, the specialized studios have served as either lead designer or architect of record for some of the most innovative – and challenging – projects in the city. The firm is known for its design quality and expertise in cost control, technology, and addressing complex zoning regulations.
The studio recently served as the architect for two of the most prominent restaurants and tourist attractions in Manhattan: One World Observatory – the 90,000-sq.-ft. observation deck and retail space atop the new World Trade Center, and the renovated landmark Rainbow Room on top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The firm’s retail projects include multiple store locations of U.S. Polo Assn., Camper, and Zara; two New York City locations of Bill’s Bar & Burger; the Rogue and Le Coq Rico restaurants in Manhattan; the Discovery TSX retail/entertainment space in Times Square; and showrooms of Jordache and Pem America.
MDALLP’s architectural, executive design, and design collaborations portfolio includes the 230-room citizenM New York hotel in Times Square; the 183,000-sq.-ft., 17-story 20 East End Avenue luxury condominium; The Dillon Townhouses and Condominiums, a 205,000-sq.-ft residential complex at 425 West 53rd Street that received an AIA New York State Award of Merit; the 11-story 560 West 24th Street luxury condominium; the 82,000-sq.-ft. Soori Highline luxury condominium on West 29th Street; and the market repositioning of the 100,000-sq.-ft. 160 Fifth Avenue office tower in Manhattan.
The firm was the design force behind the headquarters offices of a multitude of global corporate bluebloods and technology firms such as the Japanese advertising and digital marketing giant Dentsu, the Italian coffee brand Lavazza, National Futures Association, TravelClick, Mediabistro, and Mimeo, among others. MADGI’s recent corporate interior work also includes the 150,000-sq.-ft. East Hanover, N.J., U.S. headquarters and laboratories and the 75,000-sq.-ft. Manhattan offices and testing labs of Givaudan Fragrance.
1 Oak Contracting
Founded by Roni Benjamini, 1 Oak Contracting, LLC is a boutique general contracting and construction consulting firm specializing in mid-rise construction projects in New York City. The company has a strong project management focus with an emphasis on timely execution. It serves developers in the ground-up residential market as well as clients in the residential, office, and commercial renovation sector.
Roni Benjamini has twenty years of construction and project management experience. Before founding 1 Oak, he worked at Rockrose Construction as the lead project manager for a $110-million, 500-unit ground-up residential tower on the Queens waterfront. Prior to Rockrose, Benjamini worked at Turner Construction on the Goldman Sachs Office Tower in Jersey City and for Bovis Lend Lease on the Ben Gurion International Airport in Israel. Benjamini earned an MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business and holds both a Master and a Bachelor Degrees in Engineering from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art with concentrations in Geotechnical & Structural Engineering.
The company’s project portfolio includes numerous ground-up multi-family residential projects in Long Island City, including The Jackson, a 70,000-square foot condominium; the 20,000-square foot Kora; and the 76-unit Industry LIC; as well as The Art House, a 135,000 SF condominium in Jersey City, NJ. The firm’s commercial and corporate projects include the offices and jewelry showrooms of Lorraine Schwartz, Inc. and Hassenfeld Stein Diamonds, both in New York City; the offices of Metro Media Technologies in Manhattan; The Cliffs at Long Island City indoor rock climbing facility in Queens, N.Y.; and the Church Street Boxing athletic training center in New York City. More information: www.1oakgc.com