Amenities at 160 Water St. in lower Manhattan include a wraparound roof deck, a gym with a plunge pool, coworking spaces, and a bowling alley.
Gensler / Vanbarton Group Amenities at 160 Water St. in lower Manhattan include a wraparound roof deck, a gym with a plunge pool, coworking spaces, and a bowling alley.

The massive office building at 160 Water St. has more than a half-million square feet of space. The floors are more than 80 feet deep and 100 feet wide.

The 24-story tower is squeezed against sister building 180 Water St., filling a block in lower Manhattan. There’s no room between the two buildings for a developer to create new windows.

Giant office buildings like these are often difficult to convert to apartments. Most apartments only have about 30 or 40 feet from the front door to the windows. Deeper apartments can be more difficult to arrange.

The tower at 160 Water St. has about 65 feet between the 12 elevators in the core of the building and the nearest windows. It was built in the early 1970s and designed to hold row after row of office cubicles in cavernous spaces, brightly lit by fluorescent lights.

The apartments have 12-foot ceilings, and nearly half have space for a home office.
Gensler / Vanbarton Group The apartments have 12-foot ceilings, and nearly half have space for a home office.

“The largest challenge of the conversion was the depth of the floor plate,” says Robert Fuller, studio director and principal with Gensler, working in the architecture firm’s office in New York City.

Vanbarton Group, a developer based in New York City, found opportunities in the extra space. They added extra closets and amenities like bike storage. Almost half, 45%, of the new apartments under construction at 160 Water St. will have home-office space.

“You end up with some unique, interesting units,” says Fuller.

The giant building also has room for roughly 30,000 square feet of amenity space. That includes a wraparound roof deck, a gym with a plunge pool, more coworking space, and a bowling alley.

When it opens in September 2024, the massive building will include 588 apartments. New York City’s zoning ordinance often allows office buildings to be much larger than new residential buildings, relative to the size of their sites. But office buildings that are converted to apartments are allowed to stay gigantic.

Vanbarton even found a way under the rules to make 160 Water St. even bigger. The developer cut three voids—closed-off, empty spaces like mechanical shafts—through the middle of the building, far from the windows. These voids are not wide enough to function as light wells. Their only purpose is to reduce the size of the building as counted by the zoning rules.

That will allow Vanbarton to add five new floors of apartments to the top of the building, with generous terraces and big windows.