The Lost Skyline

56 Leonard Street, Herzog & de Meuron for the Alexico Group. ANNOUNCED: September 2008. PLAN: A 56-story residential tower comprising 145 luxury residences, with occupancy originally expected in late 2010. STATUS: Louise Sunshine, a real-estate consultant working with Alexico, says the project “is awaiting the completion of its financing.” Meanwhile, construction is stalled and the developer admits the timeline has been changed. Photo: Connie Zhou for New York Magazine

by Daniel B. Smith
New York Real Estate

An entire counterfactual history of New York could be written simply from the stories of buildings that never got built. Even in flush times, ambitious projects are hard to incubate; they struggle to maturity against a tide of red tape, cost overruns, warring egos, and community sensitivities. In difficult times, when the market goes suddenly from strong to weak, the survival rate drops with the Dow. Plans are left out in the cold.

Only nine months ago, each of the buildings on the following pages stood a fighting chance of making the jump from architect’s drawings to glass, steel, concrete, and brick. Today, all are on indefinite, very costly hold. That doesn’t necessarily mean death; developers, with all they’ve invested monetarily and emotionally, routinely maintain that construction is poised to continue as soon as financing gets back on track. But as often as not, time passes them by, and the lots sit unchanged, waiting for new architects and developers to reimagine their future for a different, more modest world. In the meantime, we are left not with towers or spires or bold cantilevers, but snapshots, renderings. A portrait of a city that never was.

See a slide-show of "Ghost Buildings" here.

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