NYU Plans To Build A Brand New Tower Block As A Part Of Big Expansion

NYU students are getting top of the line classrooms, dorms and athletic facilities—but not until 2021.

By Annette Barlow November 16, 2016
NYU Expansion, rendering via Commercial Observer

Out with the old, in with the new. A sentiment NYU seems to have taken to heart, with the implementation of their latest—and hotly contested—project: a 23-story, high-tech, multi-purpose building, located on the site of the dated NYU athletic center, Coles Gym.

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As a part of the university’s expansion, NYU have filed plans with the city’s Department of Buildings for a brand new tower block which will not only house athletic facilities, replacing those lost with the demolition of Coles, but also classrooms, college dorms and community space. Standing at a mighty 275 feet tall, the new, yet unnamed, building will replace the dated 2-story gym, located at 181 Mercer Street, on the corner of Bleecker. The university began demolishing Coles—named after alumnus and benefactor of NYU, Jerome S. Coles—in August of this year, after years of legal wrangling with angry local residents. After winning its court battles in 2015, the university was able to put their plans into effect, commencing with on-the-ground work in early 2016.

But it’s not only locals who have contested the erection of the new building. University athletes and teams who have, until this point, trained at Coles are now having to relocate practices to a smaller, purpose-built gym on Lafayette Street and spaces leased from other schools.

Once the project has been completed, however, future university students might take a more favorable view of the project. Boasting a library, a café, classrooms and rehearsal spaces, the new building will also feature a 556-seat theater, spanning the cellar through to the 4th floor, and 587,943 square foot of community space.

The basement level will also house a full-size pool, indoor track and locker rooms, and additional gym space will be located on both the 5th and 6th floors. Not only that, but the 7th floor upwards will split into two towers, both of which will house university dorms.

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Sounds pretty impressive, right? Well, unfortunately, that’s as much as we know. According to the building’s architects—Davis Brody Bond, who have contributed to the 9/11 Memorial Museum and several Columbia University projects, and KieranTimberlake, who have worked on various initiatives with Harvard, Yale, Wellesley and Penn State—design details are still being ironed out, and NYU hasn’t released any new renderings of the projects since 2011, when its various expansion plans were outlined.

What we do know, however, is that these ambitious plans are unlikely to make an appearance anytime soon, and NYU students are going to have wait a fair while before this dream tower comes to fruition: The demolition of Coles is expected to continue through early 2017, and work on 181 Mercer is not scheduled to finish until 2021.


Annette Barlow



Annette is freelance editor, sub-editor, journalist and proofreader with a fierce love of all things feminist, food and music. She is a regular fixture on the arts, culture and feature desks at The Guardian, and her words have appeared on NME, Great British Chefs, The Fly, The Line of Best Fit and Australian Times.

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