When City Room last visited the bulky old telephone switching station at 375 Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan, it was poised to emerge — like a chrysalis — from its limestone shell and turn into a sleek glass-skinned office tower, putting at risk its standing as one of the uglier skyscrapers in New York.
How the city looks and feels — and why it got that way.
That was early 2008, before the bottom fell out of the economy, the developers at Taconic Investment Partners lost control of the building and the M&T Bank sold it for $119 million to a group headed by the Sabey Corporation of Seattle.
Sabey is turning the 32-story structure into a commercial data center where tenants can house their servers with what Sabey says will be uninterrupted power, cooling and security. The first phase, now nearing completion, has the capacity to handle 5.4 megawatts of electrical demand, Tom Beckwith, a senior vice president at Sabey, said. Prospective tenants are typically in the market for 100 kilowatts to 2 megawatts of power. Six tenants have signed on, he said. The building could accommodate a total demand of up to 40 megawatts.
Construction is far enough along at the center, called Intergate Manhattan, to warrant a visit by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Verizon still uses three floors of the structure, which was built in 1975 by its corporate predecessor, the New York Telephone Company. It owns these floors outright as a condominium unit. Sabey owns the other 29 floors. Verizon pays rent to Sabey (Mr. Beckwith would not say how much) for the illuminated sign on the building’s east facade, which is highly visible from the Brooklyn Bridge.
Tenants in the data center are charged on the basis of energy demand rather than square footage. “They’re paying for capacity,” John Sasser, vice president for operations, said. “The space comes with it.” Leases typically run for 10 years.
Since acquiring the building in June 2011, Sabey has applied some hard-won knowledge to the project. For instance, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the company decided to install critical backup generators on the fourth floor, 69 feet above street level, rather than on the second floor, 23 feet above the street.
Though Sabey typically operates expansive, low-rise buildings, it found that 375 Pearl Street came with many built-in advantages, John Ford, the vice president for leasing, said. These included floors that were designed for much heavier loads than would be found in a typical office building and ample space at the north and south ends of the tower for vertical conduits and ductwork. As far as security goes, it does not hurt to have Police Department headquarters next door.
Today, there is little to record Taconic’s plan except the remnants of its marketing center on the 26th floor. There, a mock-up corner office was constructed with a glass wall facing a curved photo mural — almost like a cyclorama — depicting the Lower Manhattan skyline. It was meant to show how beautiful 375 Pearl Street would be with a new, transparent skin.
But the existing monolithic and inscrutable limestone facade suits the new owners just fine, Mr. Beckwith said. “We think it’s beautiful, as a data center.”