Essex Crossing: An Interview With Taconic Partners’ Ben Baccash

By Published On: March 22, 20226 min read

When a giant developer comes into a historic neighborhood like New York City’s Lower East Side, it isn’t easy to blend into the area. In fact, in many cases, a luxury building sticks out like a monolithic block amid humble rows of old walkups (nothing screams “gentrification” quite like that).

That was not the goal of the entire block-wide Essex Crossing development comprised of nine different buildings. It includes the Market Line, the gourmet grocery and dining area, luxury condos at 242 Broome Street, an office, residential and retail space at 202 Broome Street and Essex Crossing offices, a workplace designed for what is hoped to be “post-pandemic life.”

For those office workers who are returning to the office, this space, set between Norfolk and Suffolk Streets just south of Delancey, there’s high tech-safety measures (including private elevators) at this amenity-rich workplace created by Taconic Partners, Handel Architects and CetraRuddy.

Taconic’s Vice President of Development, Ben Baccash told about the new office norm, thoughtful construction planning and working with the community in the Lower East Side.

A bridge is seen from a window.

The view from the 5th floor | Image provided by Moso Studio

What a building! What’s the address?

The building has many addresses. 145 Delancey Street is one of them. The building is a full block.

There is an “Amenities War” in New York City. What’s your thoughts on that?

This is at the Essex Crossing development which has nine buildings. It’s truly a mixed-use building. We have the brand-new Essex Market, which we built turnkey. We have cinemas, a market line, and a place to buy food you can prepare at home. There’s the International Center of Photography, we have a bowling alley called The Gutter. And plenty of other stuff. Our approach to amenity was this: Essex Crossing overall is truly mixed-use, it’s already located in an incredible neighborhood, the Lower East Side. All these things are at the tenant’s doorstep. They don’t have to worry about the kitchen, they can go to Essex Market, they have parks and interior gardens. It’s a different approach to amenities because we have this campus at the tenant’s disposal.

The evening is lively at the rooftop bar.

The rooftop bar | Image provided by Moso Studio

Do you feel this Essex Crossing campus helped fill something in the neighborhood?

Yeah, there’s a bit of something for everyone. One of my favorite parts in the Grand Delancey beer hall, is if you go with a friend, you could order tacos and your friend could order dumplings, and both could be delivered to the same table. It’s a very personalized experience. Which today is the expectation. We all want to be catered to, to some extent. That’s possible there. We have a key relationship to the community. If we are developing something in someone’s backyard, they are deserving of what’s going on every step of the way. We have maintained that. Planning construction thoughtfully and being receptive to problems as they arise, trying to mitigate those as we go has been critical to the development.

Sun shines through a plant filled terrace.

The 5th floor terrace | Image provided by Moso Studio

How did the idea for the block come about?

As part of our proposal to the City of New York when we were competing to be awarded this project included this site’s history. In post WWII, there were slum clearance programs championed by local governments, the idea being elimination of overly dense pockets of the urban neighborhood and building high rise buildings. That happened in parts of the lower east side, but not in these sites. Throughout the 1970s to 1990s there were plans to develop this area, but [because of] the neighborhood and political landscape, the plans failed.

Under New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, under a community-driven process, spearheaded by the city’s economic development program, the community came up with a plan of what they wanted to happen. That plan was specific to what the community needed, to specific design requirements like ‘no two same architects can design two adjacent buildings.’ The reason for that was so it didn’t look like this monolithic development had landed in a neighborhood. That approach influenced a lot of our decision making over time. The community doesn’t have a literal ownership stake, it certainly has a figuratively ownership stake in what happened here.

Dusk falls on a newly built building

A rendering of Essex Crossing at dusk | Image provided by Moso Studio

What makes the office space design here different?

What makes it different is that these are full New York City block floor plates which are rare, if not nonexistent in the midtown submarket. In a historic neighborhood. I can’t think of another location downtown that offers that. You have regular column spacing too, which is flexibility. If we’ve learned anything over the past two years, we don’t exactly know how preferences are going to evolve, but we need to be nimble. Planning and being flexible are the most important things we account for.

One of our main differentiators is our marketplace. It’s the lower level of three largest buildings, creating a unique amenity not only for the office user but surrounding neighborhood. It’s a remarkable volume of space. It’s rare in New York City, especially to develop such large spaces. The spaciousness here is incredible.

The interior of a building is busy with commerce.

The main staircase provides a mixed used space for new tenants | Image provided by Moso Studio

What is the “new office norm,” and how is that what we see here?

People are always going to want some level of person-to-person interaction. Employers are looking to make that happen for their employees. This area is where the talent pool lives, goes out to dinner, goes to art galleries. They’re going to want to work here, as well.

Essex Crossing is a sustainable development, and I say that environmentally but also in its mixed-use nature. From rental housing to home ownership opportunities, retail, office space, various income levels, typical now, and what the neighborhood has to offer, it plays into the ESG [Environmental, Social, and Governance] of the decision-making process, which is important. All of these sites were previously owned by the city of New York before.

How is sustainability playing an important role?

We participate in various sustainability efforts, as developers. Overall, it’s a LEED neighborhood development. It’s a LEED program geared towards sound space planning that’s enviro friendly. Buildings are designed based on New York’s active design guidelines, which is health and wellness. We are part of the multifamily property program.

Then there’s an Enterprise Green Community, a natural green building program, overlaid to that. There are several intersecting sustainability programs that overlap on various buildings. We have solar panels on one building at Essex Crossing. We try to implement those measures, it’s so important to the current landscape right now.

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