The raised plaza hidden away at 55 Water Street has existed since the building’s completion in 1972, but it remained closed off for decades until 2005. The office building at 55 Water Street was built under the Zoning Resolution of 1961, which encouraged the incorporation of plazas in order to create more space around the city open to the public. Under the new laws, a building that included a plaza was allowed to build 6-and-a-half extra floors. Though it was supposed to serve as a public space for neighborhood residents, the plaza at 55 Water Street was shut down soon after the building opened and was closed off entirely to the public, violating the terms of the Zoning Resolution. The space then became a hotspot for drug deals and other illegal activity.
What was originally built as a trade-off for a few extra storeys soon became the center of a debate between financial district residents and Goldman Sachs. In 2001, the Goldman Sachs Group controversially proposed to remove the plaza entirely and erect a 240-foot-high building in its place. In exchange for the new building space, the Group promised to build bike paths, walkways, and install seating around the neighborhood and to contribute to the renovation of Vietnam Veterans Plaza on the other side of the building. Despite these proposed improvements, the Community Board and residents rallied against the Group in order to preserve the plaza.
The community eventually won the battle, and in 2005, Rogers Marvel Architects redesigned the space, adding seating and gardens to the previously bare and bleak plaza. Today, the Elevated Acre is open to the public and serves as a site for weddings, concerts, and other events and fulfills the 1961 Zoning Resolution requirements.
|1961||Zoning Resolution of 1961 is passed|
|1972||55 Water Street is completed|
|2001||Goldman Sachs Group proposes to build a new building in place of the plaza|
|2005||Rogers Marvel Architects redesigns the space and opens it to the public|
|tidbit||1961 Zoning Ordinance|
|sight||Commercial Real Estate; A Plaza Few Use But Everyone Wants|
|wiki||55 Water Street|