Hidden between two office buildings at 55 Water Street is an escalator which whisks you up to The Elevated Acre, an acre-size expanse of green on a lower-Manhattan rooftop. In a city where space is at a premium, a pleasant, quiet meadow and a lush garden of solitude in the busy Financial District in Lower Manhattan is a rare find.
The secretive urban oasis features a lawn, an amphitheater, a summer beer garden, winding paths of Brazilian hardwood, spectacular views of the East River, Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Bridge/
55 Water Street, the 53-story, 3.5-million-square-foot structure, a late example of the style called Brutalism, was completed in 1972. When it was completed it was the largest office building in the world, and is still the largest in New York by floor area. The new property regulations that were passed in 1961 (1961 Zoning Ordinance) limited the amount of space that a property owner could build within the footprint of the lot. If a developer agreed to include a plaza in their design, they were given extra space in return, adding an extra 6-and-a-half floors to the structure.
Emery Roth & Sons designed the building and built a 15-story wing with a sloping facade and terraces facing the river оn the north side of the tower. The largest terrace forms a privately owned public space known as the "Elevated Acre", about 30 feet above street level. The creation of public space allowed the developers to increase the total square footage of 55 Water Street.
While this outdoor space was always there, the current design was just completed in 2005 by Rogers Marvel Architects.
The New Water Street Corp., the owners of the 56- and 15-story buildings, with the Municipal Art Society, staged a competition in 2002 for renovating and bringing attention to the site.
The six finalists’ designs were on display in “An Elevated Acre: 55 Water Street Design Competition” at the Urban Center Galleries in New York.
The firm won an international competition to transform this one acre from a barren deck to a vibrant public park. There is a dune-like garden planted with honey locust trees and sea grass, a wood-planked boardwalk, and a low-maintenance synthetic lawn.
The Elevated Acre is available for rental. Venue fee is $5,000.