The owners of 64 New York City office buildings are eyeing a drastic transformation: turning their commercial properties into housing, according to fresh data from the Department of City Planning.

In an interview with Gothamist, City Planning Director Dan Garodnick revealed that these owners or their reps have reached out to the city’s Office Conversion Accelerator Program to do so.

This initiative aims to simplify the labyrinth of rules and building codes, assisting owners in repurposing their spaces. It’s a key part of Mayor Eric Adams’ bold plan to create 20,000 new apartments over the next decade, easing the Big Apple’s housing shortage.

At 55 Broad St. in the Financial District, developers Silverstein Properties and Metro Loft are also turning an office tower into 571 luxury units. Google Maps

So far, the accelerator program has seen some success, with four buildings either converted or under construction, adding around 2,100 new apartments. Notable projects include buildings at 650 First Ave. and 980 Sixth Ave., which have already secured renovation permits.

Garodnick hailed the conversions as a triple win: aiding the struggling commercial real estate sector, generating essential housing — and revitalizing central business districts into vibrant, round-the-clock neighborhoods.

But challenges remain. Manhattan’s office vacancy rate stood at 18% in the first quarter of this year, while city data showed a mere 1.4% vacancy rate in residential rentals last year. For apartments less than $2,400 a month, availability drops below 1%.

The conversion plan promises thousands of new apartments, yet affordability remains a concern.

At 100 John St., a newly converted building, studio apartments are listed at a steep $3,695 a month. At 55 Broad St., developers Silverstein Properties and Metro Loft are transforming an office tower into 571 luxury units, though they remain tight-lipped about rents. Median rent for a one-bedroom in the Financial District hovers around $5,000.

Architect John Cetra, showcasing 55 Broad St.’s unit configurations and roof deck, highlighted the complexities of fitting apartments into existing structures.

So far, four buildings involved with the accelerator program have successfully converted to residential apartments or begun construction, for a total of about 2,100 new apartments. Google Maps

“You can get totally wrapped up in the details,” Cetra told Gothamist, likening the process to a game of Tetris.

Its rooftop offers sweeping views of Brooklyn, Governors Island and another conversion project at 25 Water St., soon to reopen with more than 1,300 apartments — the largest office conversion in the nation.

Cetra anticipates new city and state regulations will pave the way for conversions beyond the Financial District, particularly in Midtown. “We’re already looking at some buildings that would have not been possible to be converted,” he said.

John Cetra, of CetraRuddy. Stefan Jeremiah
The owners of another pair of buildings at 650 First Ave. (pictured) and 980 Sixth Ave. have received permits to begin renovations. Google Maps

Garodnick remains hopeful that a substantial property tax break, recently greenlit in the state budget, will entice developers to allocate about 25% of units to individuals earning an average of $80,000 annually.

Additionally, proposed changes could enable office conversions anywhere residential development is permitted, lowering the eligibility age for buildings from 1961 (and 1977 in Lower Manhattan) to 1990 citywide.

A proposed rezoning in Midtown could unlock even more office space and mandate affordable housing components for new apartments, Garodnick added.

“Those are opportunities that would not exist without the changes that we’re talking about,” he told the outlet.

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