Rendering: Yuka Yoneda For some, 5 Pointz is that big, spray-painted building on the 7 line that makes for great Instagram photos, but for others, it's an indispensable monument to creative expression and New York City's largest piece of living art. Despite its global base of admirers and unofficial landmark status, the graffiti mecca was slated for demolition in 2012, and last month, the City Planning Commission voted to approve a permit that would allow developer David Wolkoff to build even larger residential condos on the site. 5 Pointz supporters, many of whom have worked out of the building for years, have organized petitions and are planning a rally, but up until now, nothing has swayed Wolkoff's resolve to tear the structure down as soon as possible. But what if a compromise could be reached that, at the very least, preserved 5 Pointz's legacy while also appealing to Wolkoff's business sense? What if the new residential towers planned for the site could somehow incorporate the famous graffitied yellow walls while boosting the artistic and monetary value of the new development?
This solution would of course require working around and inside of 5 Pointz’s existing facade and would likely be more complex than simply razing it to the ground and starting from scratch. But similar projects, like the new Kickstarter headquarters being built inside an old pencil factory in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, are quite common and (feel free to disagree in the comments below) the resulting structure would be a lot more visually appealing than the bland, lifeless towers depicted in the draft renderings of the planned development (shown below).
Rendering of the currently planned towers
It’s pretty clear that David Wolkoff’s primary concern here is about making money off of his property, and we can’t say that we blame him. That is what real estate is all about, after all. But even if Mr. Wolkoff doesn’t care about the history of the building or its cultural significance, perhaps he will entertain the notion of marrying 5 Pointz‘s facade into the design of his new towers as a way to capitalize on their appeal. Nowadays, young professionals (the audience Wolkoff will likely market his apartments to) are increasingly drawn to spaces that not only look nice, but also have a unique story to share. From the High Line to abandoned garages reborn as eateries to the redevelopment of DUMBO’s tobacco and coffee warehouses, the trend of resurrecting old structures and turning them into new destinations has been breathing life and money into many neighborhoods. In fact, other developers might jump at the chance to reinvent 5 Pointz as housing or even live/work spaces for artists keeping the emphasis on the history of the building. And from a marketing standpoint, wouldn’t renters find it way more appealing to be able to say that they live inside the former 5 Pointz graffiti mecca instead of “those tall nondescript buildings next to the Court Square train station”?
Wolkoff once said of the situation, “We’ve allowed them to have a safe haven to do their work, and now as a developer I have to be allowed to do the work I do, to create what I consider art, which is building buildings — which is an art form as well as an economic driver.”
But wouldn’t a development that celebrates the future while paying the proper respect to the past, while simultaneously making a buck be the most artistic achievement of all here? Just something to think about. Please feel free to tell us what you think in the poll below and if you have any advice or professional knowledge to share about the feasibility of this proposed solution, please share it with us in the comments below.