The Powerhouse


Located along the East River at 50-09 Second Street, The PowerHouse is situated one block from the waterfront and one subway stop from Manhattan on the 7 line (Long Island City, NY). The original PowerStation, built in 1906 was a part of the world’s most extensive power-generating system for the electrification and expansion of the Long Island and Pennsylvania Railroads.  The firm of McKim, Mead and White was the project architect, with the engineering firm of Westinghouse, Church, Kerr & Co. responsible for the building’s structural design. In the 1920’s, the building’s imposing structure caught the eye of famed artist Georgia O’Keefe, who made it the subject of her painting, across the East River.  

The station used steam turbines to boil water for steam power. Upon the opening of Penn Station, it was providing over 32,500 KW of energy into the train tunnels.  This grand structure was converted into the PowerHouse Condominium – a luxury building consisting of 427 residential units. 

The original proposal was to raze the historic PowerStation, which would have saved $40 million, but the community outcry convinced the developer into preserving at least some of the original building.  This $200 million project that is being developed by CGS Developers, renowned architect Karl Fischer and designer Andress Escobar is going up in two phases. 

Phase one, just recently completed, consists of 11-story, 240,000-sq-ft building and 177 residences.  Phase two will include 250 additional residences.  When completed by 2010, the project will have 340,000 square feet and include a Smithsonian-affiliated museum, a 168-room hotel and a conference facility, and the building, decommissioned in the 1980s, will retain some of its exterior architecture.

Using BIM simplified project delivery.  A 3-dimensional building model was created in house for the structural analysis, drafting and shop drawings preparation. It was then used for the automated fabrication of the structural steel. The advantage of BIM for renovation projects cannot be over emphasized. On large renovation projects where existing conditions are exposed during construction, hundreds, if not thousands of RFI’s may be required. With BIM, the RFI’s were almost eliminated.  All questions were taken and answered in house.

Wexler Associates services for the PowerHouse project included the following:

  • Demolition and structural stability, removal of existing chimneys, coal hoppers, cranes and other miscellaneous structures. Temporary bracing of tall masonry walls, was provided.
  • Evaluation and reuse of the existing pile and mat foundations. Limitation of column loads where needed due to foundation capacities.
  • Design of the new building addition.
  • Addition of floors and mezzanines within the existing envelope. 
  • Details and design of reinforcement, shoring, bracing, needling and reconstruction of existing masonry walls where new architecture was required.
  • Additional reinforcement for wind and seismic, to comply with New York City Building Code.
  • Obtaining needed approvals from the New York City Transit Authority. 
  • Observation of the construction progress and assistance with modified designs, as needed due to existing conditions.
  • 3D Modeling and preparation of Shop Drawings for Steel Fabrication (including redesign and revised shop drawings due to field conditions).