Posts tagged with "Midtown East Rezoning":

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405 Park Avenue buys St. Patrick’s air rights for a glassy upgrade

Only two days after AN reported that the owners of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in East Midtown, Manhattan, were planning on selling a portion of the venerable church’s air rights to an undisclosed buyer, Crain’s New York has reported that the transfer will go towards enlarging 405 Park Avenue. The 17-story, currently unassuming brick-and-glass office tower will grow another four stories and have its facade replaced with an all-glass curtainwall courtesy of global architecture firm Gensler. The office building was purchased by co-owners MRP Realty and Deutsche Bank Asset Management, an arm of the German bank, in early 2016, and will become the second building (after 270 Park Avenue) to expand under the East Midtown rezoning. MRP and Deutsche bank will be buying 30,000 square feet of the cathedral’s air rights–out of a total one million–which is expected to earn St Patrick’s around $7.2 million to use for maintaining the area around the church. As a result of the sale, 405 Park Ave. will undergo a gut renovation as well as the enlargement, bringing the total floor space up to 205,000 square feet. Crains also reports that the two owners will be charging a premium after the transformation, with prices north of $100 per square foot. The news comes on the heels of the highly contested announcement that the Union Carbide building down the street would be demolished, as owners JPMorgan Chase are seeking to replace the tower with an upgraded supertall. It seems unlikely that the same forces will mobilize to protest the changes at 405 Park Ave.; though the building was originallu designed by New York mainstays Cross & Cross as a neo-classical 12-story apartment building in 1915, a total renovation in 1957 left the location unrecognizable from its original incarnation. Now it seems that history will repeat itself as the office building builds even taller.
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Preservation groups protest Union Carbide demolition and appeal for its landmarking

Shortly after JPMorgan Chase announced that they would be demolishing their Midtown Manhattan headquarters at 270 Park Avenue, preservationists, architects and critics railed against the move on social media and through letters to the city. Now, the U.S. and New York/Tri-State chapters of non-profit preservation group Docomomo have teamed up for a joint effort to persuade New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to consider protecting the building. In a letter sent to LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan, both groups stressed the importance of the SOM-designed Union Carbide building in the canon of corporate architecture, and the role Natalie de Blois played in its design. Seeking to get ahead of the demolition, the letter states,
“As the agency charged with implementing the Landmarks law, we urge you--as the Chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission--to immediately calendar 270 Park Avenue for local designation. We appreciate the need to partner and work with other city agencies to advance the goals of the City on behalf of its citizens. However, the goals of one large corporation should not nullify or ignore the public interest, the law or the authority of one agency over another.”
Now that the tower is on the chopping block, calls for the building’s calendaring have intensified, as the New York-based Historic Districts Council has also advocated for the landmarking. It’s important to note that 270 Park Ave. had been identified as a potential landmark by the city once before, in 2013 ahead of the rezoning, and that 12 surrounding buildings were given protection. The city had also seemed on board at the time, saying in the Greater East Midtown Rezoning Final Environmental Impact Statement that, “One of the City’s greatest modern buildings, this 53-story [skyscraper] exudes strength and elegance in its protruding stainless steel mullions and simple but bold façade patterning created by the black matte metal spandrels...The ultimate pin-stripe building.” It remains to be seen whether these letters and lobbying will fall on deaf ears, as Chase is on track to raze the tower early next year, giving it the dubious distinction of being the largest voluntarily demolished building in history.
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St. Patrick’s Cathedral planning to sell its air rights

The owners of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City are positioning themselves to sell air rights associated with the landmark to permit construction of a high-rise building in the Midtown East rezoning district, where JPMorgan Chase is planning a 70-story tower to replace its current headquarters, the former Union Carbide building at 270 Park Avenue. Representatives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York are scheduled to present a “restoration and maintenance plan” to New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) on March 13 to show how proceeds from the sale of air rights would be used to improve spaces in and around the church property at 625 Fifth Avenue, which has been designated a city landmark. According to an agenda item listing the meeting, the commission will review a program “for the continuing maintenance of the complex in connection with future development right transfers” pursuant to applicable provisions of the Midtown East zoning resolution. A second midtown landmark, Grand Central Terminal, also may be transferring air rights for the JPMorgan Chase project, according to Crain’s New York.  Two investment firms and a developer control a majority stake in up to 1.35 million square feet of transferrable air rights above the terminal, according to the publication, but the preservation commission has not scheduled any public meetings to review any transfers from there. The meeting involving St. Patrick’s is scheduled to take place less than a month after JPMorgan Chase and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the bank is planning to tear down its 52-story headquarters and build a much larger replacement. A representative for the Archdiocese declined to provide specifics about the air rights plan, but others with the city say it would, if approved, enable the transfer of development rights to the Park Avenue site controlled by JPMorgan Chase. The JPMorgan Chase project is the first major building to be announced for the East Midtown district since the city adopted new guidelines that address where owners of city landmarks can transfer development rights to construct larger buildings. Under previous guidelines, the development rights had to be transferred to sites close to the landmark that has them. Under the new guidelines, enacted in August 2017, the air rights can be transferred anywhere within the larger Midtown East rezoning district, giving owners of landmark properties more options for transferring air rights. The transfer is expected largely to benefit the cathedral, which underwent a $177 million restoration from 2013 to 2016, with Murphy Burnham & Buttrick as the architect. Besides the Gothic Revival cathedral designed by James Renwick Jr. and completed in 1880, the property includes the cardinal’s residence and a rectory designed by Renwick, a French Gothic style Lady Chapel designed by Charles Matthews and built in 1906, and the church grounds. According to preservationists, the cathedral property cannot be demolished without city approval, but it has transferrable air rights that could be used to build an estimated 1.1 million square feet of development elsewhere. The Archdiocese has made no secret about its desire to take advantage of the sale of air rights to benefit its property. The rezoning plan requires sellers of air rights to pay a share of the proceeds to the city to help improve sidewalks, plazas and streets. According to The New York Times, JPMorganChase is expected to buy up to one million square feet of air rights from other property owners, and its air rights purchase is expected to generate more than $40 million for public improvements. A 2017 analysis by The Real Deal indicated that the archdiocese and St. Patrick’s would receive $270.6 million if it sold all of its air rights, and the city would receive $67.6 million. Under the city’s Midtown East rezoning rules, development and approval of a continuing maintenance agreement is required before development rights can be transferred. The plan can involve both interiors and exteriors of the designated landmark. Although extensive restoration work has been completed at St. Patrick’s, the archdiocese still wants to upgrade building systems, including fire protection and roof drainage., and that is what the conservation plan is expected to address. The JP Morgan Chase project is controversial because it calls for the demolition of an office tower designed by Skidmore Owings and Merrill and opened in 1961. The tower was designed by Gordon Bunshaft and Natalie Griffin De Blois, one of the few women to design a midcentury office tower, but is not protected by landmark status. It would be the tallest building in the world demolished voluntarily. This month’s announcement of the JPMorgan Chase project drew criticism from architecture experts who say the SOM tower should be preserved. The scope of the March 13 Landmarks Preservation Commission does not specifically address the demolition proposal or the irony that a conservation plan that would help preserve the cathedral could be used to demolish the SOM tower. Preservationists have advocated that the preservation commission consider giving the Union Carbide building landmark designation, but no public meetings have been scheduled at this point to discuss such a designation.
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Natalie Griffin de Blois’s Union Carbide tower is slated for demolition by Chase

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s (SOM) 270 Park Avenue, an international-styled glass-and-steel tower in Midtown Manhattan that Ada Louis Huxtable once described as one of the “sleek and shiny temples” to business, is now scheduled for demolition. As first reported by the New York Times, the building’s current owner, JPMorgan Chase, will be tearing down the 52-story tower for a taller replacement. Completed in 1961, 270 Park Avenue, originally the headquarters for Union Carbide, was designed by SOM partner Natalie Griffin de Blois, one of the few women working in midcentury corporate architecture at the time. The 707-foot-tall, slab-shaped tower holds about 1.5 million usable square feet. Chase has called the tower its headquarters since 1996, but have claimed that with 6,000 employees in a building meant for 3,500, the location is now too small. To that end, the company will be tearing down the Union Carbide Building and replacing it with a new 70-story headquarters that could be up to 500 feet taller than the midcentury icon it would be replacing. The financial giant expects that the new tower will be about 1 million square feet larger than its predecessor, and will eventually house 15,000 employees. The expansion plan is only possible under the recently passed rezoning of Midtown East, which allows developers to build taller and denser in exchange for transportation improvements and buying the air rights of historic buildings (with proceeds going towards a public fund). The New York Times reports that Chase will be buying $40 million of air rights, with the money going towards improving Midtown East’s sidewalks, pedestrian plazas and streets. 270 Park Avenue doesn’t seem long for this world, as Chase wants to begin demolition early next year and have its replacement tower finished by 2024. Employees who currently work in the building will be relocated in the neighboring 390 Madison Avenue, as well as 237, 245 and 277 Park Avenue. The public reaction to the announcement has been pointedly critical, especially as Mayor de Blasio has expressed his satisfaction with the deal. Preservationists took to Twitter to bash Chase for tearing down an original tower in Park Avenue’s valley of international offices, and expressed hope that the building could get in front of the Landmarks Preservation Committee before its demolition. No architect for the replacement tower has been announced yet. AN will provide an update when we have more information on the project.
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Midtown East rezoning gets final approval from City Council

After five arduous years, New York City’s Midtown East rezoning proposal cleared City Council today, paving the way for new office towers to rise in the neighborhood.

The proposal, approved 42-0, updates the area’s zoning code to incentivize new, dense development and revitalize the flagging business area in order to compete with the Financial District and Hudson Yards. The 78 blocks in the area are currently home to more than 250,000 jobs and generate ten percent of the city’s property tax base, according toNew York Daily News article penned by Councilman Daniel Garodnick. The city anticipates 6.5 million square feet of office space being added to East Midtown.

Developers can build higher and gain more floor-area-ratio (FAR) by either buying landmarked air rights or making specific transit improvements (targeted mainly at subway stations). Several recent changes include the lowering of the air rights minimum: developers can purchase air rights at $61.49 per square foot, of which the proceeds will go toward a public realm fund. Developers are also required pay upfront for transit improvements if they choose to go that route; buildings will not be occupiable until those improvements are finished.

“The goal is to improve Midtown, not keep it as it is,” Councilman Garodnick said at the meeting.

The city has committed $50 million to start improving public spaces—before anything is built—and the first project includes a shared street on 43rd Street, near Grand Central Terminal. Over the next 20 years, the city estimates that up to 16 properties could take advantage of the rezoning.

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Midtown East rezoning gets unanimous approval from land use and zoning committees

Following several key revisions, Midtown East’s rezoning plan was unanimously approved by both the City Council Land Use Committee and the subcommittee on zoning and franchises today.

The rezoning of Greater East Midtown has been in the works for five years and has been making its way through the public review process. The plan, which hopes to rejuvenate and attract businesses back to the area, will pave the way for more than six million square feet of new office buildings. It allows developers to increase the floor-to-area ratio (FAR) of their buildings, provided that they either make specific transit infrastructure improvements or buy landmarked air rights.

Several amendments were made to the proposal during the zoning committee meeting before it was approved.

A hotly contested topic, the sale of air rights from landmarked buildings, was one of the main changes. The mandatory public contribution decreased to $61.49 per square foot, down from $78.60 since it was last presented to the City Council, according to The Real Deal. The money from those sales will go towards a public realm improvement fund that will deal with aboveground infrastructure, and the city has committed $50 million to kick-start the fund.

“This is what we call a fair compromise,” Councilman David Greenfield said at the land use meeting, defending the decision to lower the air rights minimum. “When everyone around the table is not happy, it means we probably got it right.” The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) had asked for a much lower minimum, claiming that even with the new minimum, the price point was too high to attract and induce deals.

Under the revised plan, five blocks from 46th to 51st streets along Third Avenue will be left out, following opposition from Turtle Bay residents who said that their neighborhood was mainly residential and should be excluded. Other changes include the requirement that for any building larger than 30,000 square feet, developers must improve Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS). This will bring an estimated 16 new POPS to the area.

Transit infrastructure improvements were specified in this new proposal as well—if developers choose to go this route, they will have to create new street-level exits and widen staircases for subway stations in the area. The city estimated that $500 million will go towards these improvements.

Councilman Daniel Gardodnick, one of the project’s main supporters, proclaimed “East Midtown is back,” on the steps of City Hall after the subcommittee approved the vote. "This is a plan that will re-establish East Midtown as the crown jewel of our business districts, as an economic engine for our city and and will strengthen its future for many years to come.”

The full council, which usually adheres to the committee’s decision, is expected to meet for the final vote on August 9.

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Midtown East rezoning proposal one step closer to final approval

The rezoning of Midtown East in New York City is one step closer to approval after the latest proposal was presented at yesterday’s City Council meeting, although not without significant opposition from the public. The rezoning proposal has made an arduous, five-year-long journey with support and roadblocks along the way. The Department of City Planning (DCP) has pushed the proposal forward, claiming that it will incentivize the development of new office buildings, preserve landmarked buildings, and improve the public realm in the area. The designated site runs from 39th Street to 57th Street and is bordered by Madison Avenue from the west and 3rd Avenue from the east. With Hudson Yards luring away businesses and the Financial District offering newer buildings with larger floor space, the DCP has primarily made it their goal to make the proposed Midtown East sub-district area a premier business area. If this latest proposal passes, it would add a potential 16 new developments in the area and allow developers to build up to 40 percent taller and bulkier than is currently permitted in Midtown. In exchange, they would be required to either complete improvements to below-grade transit infrastructure (i.e. improve major subway stations), rebuild legally overbuilt floor areas of pre-1961 buildings, or if they transfer landmark development rights, pay a minimum contribution ($78.60 per square foot) to a public realm fund. “We expect hundreds of millions of dollars to go into this fund,” DCP’s Director Edith Hsu-Chen said. The fund is expected to improve aboveground infrastructure, including widening pedestrian streets and creating shared streets. Another part of the proposal includes the Pfizer headquarters building. Since it was built before the 1961 Zoning plan, it will automatically get a free density boost of floor area ratio (FAR) 10 to FAR 15 and possibly incentivize the pharmaceutical company to sell the building and leave the city, as The Real Deal reports. While infrastructure improvements to subway stations were applauded (especially concerning the latest MTA woes), concerns were expressed from councilmembers about the transparency of the use of the public realm funds and whether developers could “game the system,” according to Councilman Daniel Garodnick, a long-time supporter of the proposal. Other questions raised included the potential—and highly likely—increased traffic in the 116 traffic intersections that will be affected, the increased shadows overcast, as well as the lack of new public space, which has been an issue for many of the proposal’s opponents. Since developers are already gaining extra FAR from contributing to the public fund, they do not have to take part in the POPS (Privately Owned Public Spaces) program, a voluntary zoning mechanism where developers get more floor space by building a public space. The meeting saw many community members pushback against rezoning without the mandatory inclusion of open, public space. “What remains to be determined, after all this time, is what the public will be receiving,” said a representative for Vikki Barbera, chair of Community Board 5. “Open space is not some optional amenity, it is essential for all good planning.” The City Council will meet later this month to vote on the latest proposal.
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Changes to this obscure rule could leave Midtown East streets shrouded in shadow

The streets of Midtown East could get a whole lot darker thanks to changes in a little-known equation (outside of architecture, anyway) used to calculate shadows cast by tall buildings.

The city is looking to change a method developers use to calculate how much sunlight a building will obscure once it tops off. Crain's reports that the Waldram diagram, as it's called, will be toggled to encourage taller buildings in Midtown East as part of that neighborhood's anticipated rezoning.

To illuminate city streets and sidewalks that snake through urban canyons, the formula dictates that building taper sharply as they reach towards the sky. Typically, when architects build tall, they are presented with two options: They can create classic, "wedding cake" style buildings with tiered setbacks aligned to the zoning, or they can use calculations like the Waldram formula to attain a smoother, graduated facade. Due to building codes that require multiple stairwells and additional smoke ventilation shafts, building tall becomes less efficient (i.e. more costly) as skyscrapers butt up against building codes and the formula, which applies in Midtown only.

The city is hoping that the rezoning will spur the development of more Class A office space in the 73-block district, which is losing potential tenants attracted to towers in the Financial District with larger floor plates. Consequently, proposed changes will permit towers up to 40 percent taller—and bulkier—than those currently allowed.

The Department of City Planning (DCP) estimated that the rezoning will lead to the construction of a few new towers, so it's unlikely that the entirety of Midtown East will be shrouded in perma-dusk in the future.

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Kohn Pedersen Fox Sprouting Glass Superlatives Around New York City

Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) is racking up an impressive collection of superlatives with a host of new glass towers in New York City. Of course there is Hudson Yards where a glossy KPF-designed building will become the tallest tower at the country's largest private development site, but that is just the start of it. In April, renderings appeared for the firm’s 64-story, cantilevering glass tower in Gramercy. The structure, which has a multi-story masonry facade, reaches 777 feet, making it the tallest residential building between Midtown and Downtown. Unsurprisingly, 45 East 22nd Street is going condo. Moving right along to 101 Tribeca, another all-glass condo building. NY YIMBY reported that this tower, which houses 129 units, rises from a more narrow base and then curves its way up to a pinnacle at 950 feet. At that height, 101 becomes the tallest residential building in Lower Manhattan...for now. Now back to Hudson Yards for a moment. As KPF's 30 Hudson Yards rises to 1,227 feet  and its more modest sibling, 10 Hudson Yards, climbs to a respectable 895, new renderings surfaced for 55 Hudson Yards. This tower, designed by KPF and Kevin Roche, is still glassy, but slightly less so thanks to a metallic grid that frames its 900 feet. According to the developer, Related, the 1.3-million-square-foot structure is inspired by early modernism and Soho commercial buildings. And then there is One Vanderbilt in Midtown. According to NY YIMBY, this glass giant reaches a pinnacle at 1,450 feet making it the second tallest tower in New York. But why stop there? If One Vandy gets approved to go just one foot higher it gains yet another superlative—topping Chicago's Willis Tower. And that, folks, makes it the second tallest tower in the Western Hemisphere. While not officially approved, the building has already become the glossy symbol of Midtown East Rezoning—a plan to upzone the area around Grand Central Terminal. That proposal died under Mayor Bloomberg, but has found new life under his successor. If the controversial rezoning ultimately does move forward, it likely won't take effect until 2016. Fear not One Vanderbilt, the city is expected to give this 1.6-million-square-foot tower a special permit to kick things off ahead of schedule.
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New York City Tweaks Midtown East Rezoning Plan to Allow More Residences

Since Mayor Bloomberg's plan to rezone midtown east was first announced, it has stirred debate among local stakeholders, preservationists, and advocacy groups. Now Department of City Planning has offered up a set of new amendments—in the "A Text" section of the proposal—that responds to some of these key concerns expressed by New Yorkers while also serving the primary goal of the rezoning:  To support and boost the growth of midtown's competitive office district. The most notable change is an added residential component. In the initial proposal, the zoning incentives were reserved for office, hotel, and retail, but now DCP will allow up to 20 percent of a new development's floor area to be occupied by residential as-of-right. A developer can bump up the percentage of residential up to 40 percent by undergoing the full Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). The same rules still apply to these mixed-use developments—in order to attain extra building height, developers are required to contribute to the District Improvement Fund. The exact rate for the contribution for residential will be set by a different criteria from that of commercial use. Hotels in new developments would also be limited to 20 percent of the floor area as-of-right. Through the ULURP process developers could turn the remainder of the building into a hotel. This rule wouldn't apply to existing hotels, however, which could be rebuilt fully on the site.
Some of New York City's critical historic landmarks—such St. Patrick’s cathedral, St. Bartholomew’s Church Central Synagogue, and Lever House—will also benefit from these amendment changes. The DCP has recommended establishing a Northern Landmark Transfer Area that would extend from 48th and 49th streets to 57th Street, and from Third Avenue to Fifth Avenue. Modeled after the Grand Central Subarea, this new district would allow landmarks to transfer unused air rights to adjacent sites. With this amended proposal, new rooftop restaurants or gardens could crop up around the area. One modification would alter the "stacking rules" to allow for top floors of mixed-use buildings to be activated by commercial use.
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Developers Banking on Midtown East Rezoning

Even though the Midtown East rezoning is still under consideration, SL Green Realty is counting on it becoming a reality. According to Curbed, the developer has tapped architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox to design an office tower at 1 Vanderbilt Street located a block from Grand Central Terminal. SL Green needs the rezoning to be approved to move forward with the construction of their 1.55-million-square-foot building. The proposed rezoning would allow for taller buildings to be built if developers make a contribution to a fund called a “District Improvement Bonus,” which would be used for area-wide pedestrian network improvements.