It’s Not Just Kids Who Love Recess: New York’s Seagram Building Gets A ‘Playground’

The Playground, Seagram Building, New York

To ease employees’ transition back to the office, landlords and employers are looking for ways to improve the 9-to-5 experience. Many are offering new, unique amenities for office workers whose expectations have evolved during the past two years of working from home.

“[The] future office will transform into an environment where the distinction between amenities and workplace is blurred,” design firm Gensler wrote during the height of the pandemic. “The concept is based on the assumption that [the] mobile workforce will demand highly serviced spaces.”

Some landlords might attempt to meet this need by taking a piecemeal approach, such as by adding a small fitness room or by offering free beer on Fridays. There are others, however, who are prepared to take the idea of a highly serviced space much further.

“We went really overboard because we like to go overboard,” said Aby Rosen, co-founder and principal of Manhattan-based RFR.

Rosen was referring to The Playground and Conference Center, a 34K SF, multilevel and amenity-rich space his firm has built beneath the Seagram Plaza on Park Avenue in the revered Seagram Building. The Playground boasts numerous amenities designed to encourage wellness, fitness, social collaboration and business, and is open exclusively to the tenants of Seagram.

Scheduled to open in June, The Playground is less of a reaction to recent events than the culmination of RFR’s longstanding hospitality-oriented approach. The planning kicked off in 2019.

“I think amenities have always been important,” Rosen said. “I don’t want to pat myself on the back, but we have been offering amenities for almost 30 years in our buildings because I look at our buildings like a brand. And if you look at a hotel brand, for instance, it’s all about amenities. It’s about restaurants, it’s about parking, it’s about health and meditation rooms and you name it.”

It is a rare office landlord that embraces five-star hotel-quality amenities so completely, said Mike Flanagan, chief growth officer for Arch Amenities Group, which will manage The Playground and Conference Center for RFR.

“A lot of people don’t do that,” he said. “They’ll take that first step and create the lounges, conference centers and a fitness center. But it’s just another box for them to check. RFR, however, really thought this through and is taking it to the next level.”

RFR is taking this approach to multiple levels in an effort to maximize the functionality of the space. The main floor of The Playground is dominated by a sports court suitable for basketball, pickleball, volleyball and other team activities. The court also can be used to host town hall meetings of up to 240 people with arena-style seating.

Tenants can also take advantage of a rock climbing wall and areas dedicated to yoga, boxing, high-impact interval training, spinning, strength training and cardiovascular exercise.

Overlooking it all from one floor up is The Conference Center. It features a 40-person boardroom and flexible meeting rooms to accommodate classroom-style seminars and training, as well as other activities in line with the concept of play, such as music, art classes or even wine tastings.

The Playground will also house a lounge area with a hydration station, private phone booths and locker rooms with showers and changing rooms. A fitness and concierge team led by Arch Amenities Group will be available to work individually with The Playground’s users, who can schedule classes, personal training and other wellness services through a dedicated app.

“This is definitely unique,” Flanagan said. “The Playground will be the largest landlord-owned fitness center in New York.”

Paul Glickman, vice chairman and international director for JLL, said The Playground complements the Seagram Building’s myriad other amenities, including on-site parking, The Seagram Terrace Lounge, acclaimed restaurants The Grill and The Lobster Club, and what Glickman called New York City’s premier event space, The Pool and Pool Lounge.

“RFR has differentiated itself as a landlord from the C-suite on down,” said Glickman, whose firm is the leasing broker for the Seagram Building. “They own residential, they own hotels and they own offices, and they understand how they all intersect when it comes to services, amenities and lifestyle. They have their own unique look, feel and approach to how they curate things.”

What sets The Playground apart, he added, is that it creates “a sense of wow.” He credited this to RFR’s “very intentful approach to the look, feel and the vibe” of the space.

Considering the space was formerly used for parking and building services, its rebirth as The Playground and Conference Center required a great deal of thought and ingenuity.

“Lighting played a critical role in the design of this space,” said Thomas Zapoticzny, an associate at Studios Architecture. “We also punched through the slab and modified the structural steel to create some really impressive double-height moments for the sports court. The design really illuminates the space, complemented by the use of bold colors contrasted with darker colors that give you a bit of a separation in the individual areas.”

Rosen said that RFR has invested $25M in the space and added that he looks forward to joining other tenants in using The Playground, where he said he plans to work with a kickboxing trainer.

“I’m a big believer in that space and I think it was worth every penny,” Rosen said. “This was the greatest move on our part for this building and our tenants, and we have been getting a lot of positive feedback.”

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and RFR. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content. Studio B is Bisnow’s in-house content and design studio. To learn more about how Studio B can help your team, reach out to [email protected]. Contact John Krukowski at [email protected]