An architecturally ambitious skyscraper proposed for Manhattan’s West Side would be by one measure the tallest in the Western Hemisphere, and a property its Black developer hopes would be symbolic.

The project known as Affirmation Tower is a 2 million square-foot, $3.5 billion development planned for a 1.2-acre plot of state-owned land facing the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. It is one of a number of proposals that New York state’s Empire State Development Corporation is considering for the site.

Developer Don Peebles doesn’t expect anyone else to try to do ‘something of this magnitude and significance.’

PHOTO: NICOLE PEREIRA/THE PEEBLES CORPORATION
The project’s lead developer is Peebles Corp., a New York City-based real-estate company. Don Peebles, the company’s chief executive and one of the country’s most prominent Black developers, said he would like the tower to reflect New York’s post-pandemic recovery.
He said he also hopes the project provides an economic boost and new opportunities for minority- and female-owned businesses. “We want to make this a symbol of the great potential that America offers to all of us,” said Mr. Peebles in his first public interview on the project.
Designed by Sir David Adjaye, a Black Ghanaian-British architect, the tower would be developed, built and largely funded by a team of Black-owned companies. The partners said they would award a significant share of the construction work, exceeding the 30% suggested by the state, to minority- and female-owned contractors.
The office space could attract a mix of minority entrepreneurs and the global businesses that are increasingly seeking high-end office space on the city’s West Side, Mr. Peebles said. The local offices of the NAACP would be among the first tenants.

Architect Sir David Adjaye designed the building, which looks upside down.

PHOTO: TRISTAN FEWINGS/GETTY IMAGES FOR PACE GALLERY
At 1,663 feet, the 90-story building would be taller by floor height than One World Trade Center, but shorter by spire height. Mr. Peebles said this was done out of respect. “Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives there, so we have to be mindful of that,” he said.
Mr. Peebles’s partnership faces tough competition for the rights to the site. It occupies one of the few remaining parcels of undeveloped Manhattan land. The once-forlorn far West Side has been booming in recent years with huge office, retail and residential projects from the big real-estate companies Related Cos., Brookfield Properties and others.
The state’s call for proposals in March has sparked interest from major developers. Brookfield, Related, Rockrose Development Corp. and Tishman Speyer were among those sending representatives on a site tour, according to state documents. The Empire State Development Corporation declined to comment on when it expects to select a winner.
It is an attractive opportunity, said Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of Manhattan-based real estate appraisal and consulting firm Miller Samuel Inc. “It’s not an outlier, it’s the next location,” he said of the site.

A rendering of Affirmation Tower, the facade of which recalls pick combs that were tucked into Afros.

PHOTO: THE PEEBLES CORPORATION
Affirmation Tower’s unusual design features five boxlike structures that increase in size, from 15,000 to 30,000 square feet per floor, as they ascend. The building looks upside down.
The white terrazzo-clad facade pattern recalls the pick combs that Black people tucked into their Afros back in the day, said Mr. Peebles, adding “including me in the 1970s.”
The building would include a skating rink, at least two hotels, an entertainment complex and a rooftop restaurant and ballroom. The ground floor would house incubator space for local minority- and female-owned retailers and creators. The plaza garden would feature tributes to historically prominent Black New Yorkers, among others.
“I don’t anticipate anyone trying to do something of this magnitude and significance in terms of scale—and certainly in terms of vision,” Mr. Peebles said.
Peebles Corp. has overseen more than 10 million square feet of residential, hospitality, retail and mixed-use commercial properties since its founding in 1983, though it has never built a major skyscraper in New York City. Many Peebles projects have employed a public-private partnership arrangement similar to the West Side site, which will have the chosen developer leasing state-owned land for 99 years.
Other Affirmation Tower project partners include Exact Capital, Witkoff and McKissack & McKissack.
New York state indicated it would consider “diversity practices” when selecting a site winner. Mr. Peebles has a history of using construction projects to create economic opportunities for women and minorities, which he calls “Affirmative Development.” He has trademarked the term.
“We don’t want anyone to copy it,” he said. “We want them to emulate it.”

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