Posts tagged with "Vornado Realty Trust":

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Chicago’s Merchandise Mart to become “world’s largest” canvas for projected art

Chicago’s historic Merchandise Mart (rebranded as theMART), a massive art deco design center on the bend of the Chicago River, will play host to a 2.6-acre art installation come fall of 2018. At a press conference this Sunday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, city cultural officials, and representatives of building owners Vornado Realty Trust’s Chicago branch announced a plan to convert the front wall of The Mart into a canvas for large-scale, projected art. “Art on theMART” will paint the river-facing wall of the Mart with high-resolution images and videos, including indie works, through an open-source software. Mart Chief Operating Officer Myron Maurer has promised that the project would never be used to display ads. A curatorial board would be set up as early as this spring to select which works would be screened, including holiday-specific pieces and work from student art shows. First proposed in March of 2017 as a joint effort between the Mayor’s office and theMART, the project was envisioned as a “large-scale architectural projection” that would contribute to the ongoing revitalization of the Chicago waterfront. Vornado had reached out to New York City-based A+I Architects and San Francisco-based Obscura Digital to conduct the feasibility study and will be paying the $8 million installation cost and $500,000 yearly maintenance costs out of pocket. Obscura has worked on enormous projections and screen-related art projects at Grand Central Terminal, the Empire State Building, and at the Sydney Opera House. With the project moving forward, Mayor Emanuel is advancing an ordinance to the City Council that would allow for the installation of the 34 necessary projectors under a 30-year license. If the City Council approves, theMART’s light shows could begin by October of this year, and works would be projected for two hours a night, five days a week, for up to ten months a year. “It brings two great strands of the city of Chicago together,” Mayor Emanuel told reporters on Sunday. “What we all know as the Merchandise Mart will now become the largest canvas in the world.” Art on theMART is the latest in a continuing transformation for the building, which has recently shifted from housing wholesale retailers and showrooms into a tech hub and office building. A video mockup of the installation is available here, courtesy of The Chicago Sun Times.
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Zaha Hadid’s supertall Kushner Companies building thrown into uncertainty

The major redevelopment of the Kushner Companies' 666 Fifth Avenue building by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) may be stalled for good. According to Bloomberg, Kushner's partner on the project, Vornado Realty Trust, has decided to simply renovate the site's existing structure. Kushner's original plan, with designs by ZHA, was to strip the current building down to its steel core and extend it up into a 1,400-foot-tall slender cigarette of a tower. The building would have included luxury condos and office space as well as a five-story mall. Currently the property, a 1957 Carson & Lundin-designed aluminum panel building, is a sturdy 41 stories with its unforgettable address displayed in huge numerals at its peak. In ZHA's plan, the development would have been rechristened 660 Fifth Avenue, distancing itself a bit from the connotations of its current address. When the renderings for the new tower were released earlier this year, finding investors for the project proved difficult. Some were concerned by a potential conflict of interest as Kushner Companies' former director, Jared Kushner, left to serve as the senior advisor to his father-in-law, President Donald J. Trump. Anbang Insurance Group, a Chinese conglomerate, pulled out of investment negotiations with Kushner in late March, dealing a significant blow to the development's progress. Now that Vornado has refocused its attention as well, ZHA's design is on hold. Both of the partnering organizations have vastly different stakes. Vornado spent $80 million for its share of the project with money drawn from a secure portfolio of properties. Kushner Companies had to withdraw the costs for their share–$30 million–from the property itself, having struggled to find investors since the beginning of the Trump presidency. Politics aside, it looks for now like Midtown Manhattan won't be getting Hadid's steel-frame torpedo. Those interested in renting an apartment at 666 Fifth Avenue (which were estimated to go at $6,000 per square foot) can perhaps plead for a condo exchange at ZHA's new residences in Chelsea at 520 West 28th Street.
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Neighbors give mixed feedback on pedestrian plazas near Penn Station

Community Board 5 is experimenting with a temporary pedestrian plaza and sidewalk expansion around Penn Station to manage foot traffic around one of the busiest rail stations in the world. A guiding vision behind these projects is to link Penn Station and Madison Square Garden to the more pleasant Herald Square and Greeley Square area. Snøhetta designed the master plan for the area while Brooklyn's W Architecture & Landscape Architecture, working with Production Glue and in partnership with Vornado Realty Trust, designed Plaza33 on 33rd Street between 7th and 8th avenues. The plaza is intended to create a smoother gradient between the street and the sidewalk to streamline pedestrian flow. The trial period for Plaza33 began July 19th and runs through October 11th. So far, Plaza33 has received positive feedback from Community Board 5's constituents. Street furniture, including hybrid benches and planters, offers a place for pedestrians to relax and socialize. Public art by Keith Haring and Roy Lichtenstein enlivens the corridor, while community programming, including yoga and film screenings, are planned to activate the space. The West 32nd Street sidewalk expansion transforms the space more minimally but is far more controversial. In principle, residential and commercial stakeholders on the target blocks strongly support the plazas. In practice, however, the re-arrangement of space creates conflicts for users. Loading zones on 32nd Street were reduced by 500 feet. Trash collection, boarding for the M4 bus, and services for residential tenants compete for only 180 feet of loading space. Vornado is working with property owners and renters on the block to mitigate the impact of reduced street space. It remains to be seen whether these problems can be resolved to the satisfaction of all (or most) parties before the end of the trial period.  
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UPDATED: Snøhetta and W Architecture does the impossible: It makes the Penn Station area bearable

[Update: While Snøhetta is drawing up the master plan for the area around Penn Station, Brooklyn-based W Architecture and Landscape Architecture, working with Production Glue, designed the new Plaza33.] Turning the truly miserable blocks around New York City’s Penn Station into a pleasant and calming retreat would appear to be an impossible undertaking. But Vornado Realty Trust—the primary property owner around the station—believes it can do it with the help of some experienced, Norwegian architects. Enter: Snøhetta. In June, it was reported that Vornado tapped the Oslo- and New York–based firm, which is also sprucing up the pedestrian environment around Times Square, to revamp its building stock in the area and generally improve the street-level experience around the station. This undertaking would kick off with a temporary public plaza on a stretch of West 33rd Street, designed by W Architecture and Landscape Architecture. That plaza, called Plaza33, is now open, and to the designers' credit, people seem to be really enjoying it. (Again, remember that it is right next to Penn Station, a notoriously overcrowded and people-unfriendly part of New York City). "Long talked about as a vital yet underutilized and underdeveloped part of Manhattan, Plaza 33 reinvorgates the area around Penn Station and Madison Square Garden with public activities and a new food hall," said W Architecture in a statement. "The architectural and landscape interventions in the plaza are temporary, so the design and construction of the plaza employed very innovative techniques to both accommodate thousands of people per day and provide a respite in one of the busiest ares of Manhattan." The plaza features a stepped, wooden amphitheater with overflowing planters. These materials are repeated with benches that also function as flower boxes. The roadway has been painted blue with diagonal stripes cutting across it. The plaza also features sculptures by Roy Lichtenstein and Keith Haring. The move is part of the popular Tactical Urbanism movement that encourages experimenting with public space—in this case temporarily shutting down a street—to figure out new ways to interact with cities. The concept holds up short-term actions as a generator of long-term change. Times Square, years ago, underwent similar temporary transformations leading up to its ongoing permanent redesign. Plaza33 will be used to host concerts, fitness workshops, movie screenings, and games. (A full lineup of events is here.) But all good things apparently must come to an end. The plaza will be disassembled on October 11th. But could we see a more permanent solution in coming years? New Yorkers will likely vote with their feet. [h/t StreetsBlog]
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After redesigning Times Square, Snøhetta takes on crowded blocks around Penn Station

The frustratingly congested, obnoxiously loud, and aggressively dirty area around Penn Station is easily the worst part of Manhattan. It is the reason why tourists qualify their vacation stories about New York with "but I could never live there." Turning the dreadful area around the station (let's leave the hated station out of it for now) into a pleasant place where people want to spend time and not just push and shove their way through is a Herculean task, but one that Snøhetta has agreed to take on. Crain’s reported that Vornado Realty Trust, which owns most of the property around Penn Station, has tapped the high-profile firm to come up with a master plan to spruce up its adjacent buildings and street-level areas. Once that plan is finalized, Vornado may bring in other architecture firms to take on specific projects. But bottom line is that Vornado understands how miserable the area is right now. Mark Ricks, the company's senior vice president of development, called it the "collision of humanity." He gets it. To see how a more pedestrian-friendly transformation would shakeout, Vornado will be turning a one-block stretch of West 33rd Street into a public plaza from mid-July to mid-October. The new space could include tables and chairs, performances, and even yoga classes. StreetsBlog reported that other changes could be coming to 32nd Street as well including a sidewalk extension, planters, and eliminating one lane of traffic. Vornado will pay for all of the improvements, which should make the area a little less terrible and its property a little more marketable.
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Proposal Aims to Put Penn Station’s Move Back on Track

The plan to relocate Pennsylvania Station to the James Farley Post Office across the street has been slow in coming. The developers, Related Companies and Vornado Realty Trust, are now revisiting a previously-rejected proposal to move the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) to what will be Penn Station’s new home, called Moynihan Station—named after Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan who first introduced the idea in the 1990s. The New York Times reported that the college would theoretically occupy 1.1 million square feet of the building, and in return, the developer would take over BMCC’s campus downtown. But, it looks like government officials still have their reservations. Some progress has been made, however. The state has provided around $300 million for the construction of a new passageway and two new entrances leading to Penn’s train platforms. Skidmore, Owings and Merrill designed the plans for the renovation of the station.
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New York, Here is Your New Skyline

UPDATE: Council Speaker Christine Quinn, in whose district the project is located, gave her strong support for it at a press conference before today's meeting of the City Council. More below. The battle for the soul of New York—or at least for its skyline—was over before it even really began. The City Council Land Use Committee just voted in favor of Vornado's roughly 1,200-foot, Pelli Clarke Pelli-designed 15 Penn Plaza, apparently unswayed by complaints from the owner of the Empire State Building, Anthony Malkin, that it would ruin views of his iconic tower, and thus the city as a whole. In fact, the issue of the skyline barely even came up, and when it did, the council members, who voted 19-1 for the tower, essentially said New York must build to remain great. "I think it's a project the city needs," said Councilman Daniel Holleran, a Staten Island Republican. The bigger issue, by far, than the dueling towers was that of who would build 15 Penn Plaza, namely MWBEs. That's the policy shorthand for women- and minority-owned business enterprises. The council, like the city, is majority minority, and so ensuring employment for minorities, particularly in the notoriously cosseted construction industry is often a high priority. When Vornado showed up at Monday's hearings without a specific plan for how it would ensure a portion of the contractors on the project would be MWBEs, the committee members were displeased. Councilwoman Letitia James Albert Vann asked if the company even had any sort of minority hiring practices, to which the head of the New York Office, David Greenbaum, joked that he was not sure but had had a party recently at which there were many women, and his wife asked which were employs and which were spouses and he said, with a chuckle, that it was more of the former. James was not amused. Vornado proffered a last minute MWBE plan before today's vote, calling for at least 15 percent of all construction work to be done by MWBEs. Whether the project would have been torpedoed without it is hard to say, but it did little to assuage council members complaints at the same time they overwhelmingly voted for the project. James Saunders, one of the council's lions on MWBE issues, made his frustration known. "This is a tepid response to a need, a very tepid response," he said of the new MWBE plan. "We can't go on like this. That we even have to have this discussion shows that there needs to be some real dialogue here." Holleran expressed disappointment that the council does not use its limited leverage over such projects to extract more concessions early on than at the very end, when development projects have essentially reached the stage of fait accompli. Not that it would have mattered if there was any real opposition, as the mayor cast his considerable weight behind the project yesterday, according to the Wall Street Journal [sub. req.].
"I don't understand that. You know, anybody that builds a building in New York City changes its skyline. We don't have to run around to every other owner and apologize," he said. "This is something that's great for this city." "Competition's a wonderful thing. One guy owns a building. He'd like to have it be the only tall building," he added. "I'm sorry that's not the real world, nor should it be."
Malkin was not at today's vote. And perhaps its was with good reason that the council did not take up his position. As our colleague Eliot Brown points out over at the Observer, the skyline fight is not that disimilar to the one over the Ground Zero "Mosque," in that it's a supremely local issue that has been given over to if not irrational than at least emotional pleas for something locals could care less about. After all, we're only ruining the view from Jersey. Yet again, the debate surrounding this project was only nominally about the project at hand. UPDATE: When we asked Speaker Quinn about the merits of such a large, even overbuilt project—it's 42 percent larger than current zoning allows, going from a 12 FAR to an 18 (though mind you the Empire State Building is a whopping 35, so who's dwarfing whom exactly?)—she said she was fine with it. "I think given that this is 34th Street, 33rd Street, and 7th Avenue, one of the most commercial areas in the city of New York, this is an appropriate place for dense development." (The project is actually located between 33rd Street and 32nd Street.) Quinn even went so far as to compare the unbuilt 15 Penn Plaza to many of the city's other iconic office towers, calling it a modern day Rockefeller Center, something the city needs more of. "Our position is about Midtown business district expanding into the 21st Century," Quinn said. "As it is, we're not on par with some of our competitors, say London or Hong Kong. In the middle of this recession, what this say is New York is coming out of this, and coming out on top." Quinn said that she was happy with the MWBE agreement that had been reached with Vornado while also stressing that such matters were not technically under the purvey of the city's land-use review process. When we asked if they should be, Quinn demurred. On a less demure note, Curbed is reporting that the real reason Malkin is so opposed to 15 Penn Plaza is because it's potentially throwing off the feng shui of his tower, killing the "life force" of the Empire State Building and thus a deal with a business from Hong Kong to lease space in the tower. And now we've heard everything.
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Save Our Skyline, Begs Empire State Building

We know hackers and preservationists are staunchly opposed to Vornado's 15 Penn Plaza, because the 1,216-foot Pelli Clarke Pelli-designed tower would replace McKim Mead & White's notable-if-not-renowned Hotel Pennsylvania. Anthony Malkin, president of Malkin Holdings, is also not a fan for the simple reason that Malkin Holdings is holding the Empire State Building. And its views would most likely be compromised by 15 Penn Plaza. Malkin is now speaking out against the project, under the aegis of a group calling itself Friends of the New York City Skyline, a posse which also includes MAS, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Landmarks Conservancy. It may be too little, too late. Amanda Burden and the City Planning Commission already gave their approval in July, calling it "precisely the type of well-designed…office building that New York City needs to stay globally competitive." Still, hoping to head off a vote on Monday at the City Council, Malkin and his Friends have sent around mawkish renderings and a statement (below) about everything that's wrong with this building and how it could ruin the city. Currently 15 Penn Plaza is 42 percent bigger than current zoning allows, with no setbacks, but at the same time, as garish as it looks in these renderings, it also shows the dynamic way in which our iconic skyline is always changing. Just think of the thrill you get looking back at old pictures of the city and comparing them to today. Even monstrosities like the Trump Wold Tower across from the U.N. look half-decent in this context. To build is to survive as a city and it's good to know that, for better or worse, there are no sacred cows. After all, these were some of the same groups who complained when Burden cut Nouvel's MoMA Tower down to size. Significantly, the tower is in Council Speaker Christine Quinn's district, and she is an avowed friend to developers: Tenant or no tenant, building is in the cards. Malkin's statement:
"The Empire State Building is the internationally recognized icon on the skyline of New York City. We are its custodians, and must protect its place. Would a tower be allowed next to the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben’s clock tower? Just as the world will never tolerate a drilling rig next to The Statue of Liberty, why should governmental bonuses and waivers be granted to allow a structure as tall and bulky at 15 Penn Plaza to be built 900 feet away from New York City’s iconic landmark and beacon? We believe that the public approval process to date for the proposed 15 Penn Plaza has failed to address the interests of New Yorkers. The City Charter did not create the ULURP process so as to provide a speedy approval for a speculative office tower for which there is no planned commencement. The Developer’s Environmental Impact Statement at first ignored, and then (by last minute amendment) gratuitously denied, any impact on the largest landmark in New York City from the proposed 1,200 foot tower to rise at some unspecified future date on the present site of the Hotel Pennsylvania. The people of New York City have already made their sentiments clear: Community Board 5 voted down this proposal 36 to 1, so the only hope for protection of this public legacy now sits with the City Council. There may be buildings taller than the Empire State Building. But no building so close to the Empire State Building should be allowed through discretionary official exceptions to be as bulky and tall as 15 Penn Plaza. The height and bulk of 15 Penn Plaza are the result of waivers and bonuses greatly in excess of code. Another waiver granted 15 Penn Plaza the right to build without setbacks. At only 67 stories, 15 Penn Plaza would be as tall as the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building, and would, if built, be as much a scar on the complexion of New York City as the loss of Penn Station. We are working with other New Yorkers and concerned parties who care about this landmark to write and speak to the City Council and its Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises on August 23 in opposition to this effort to mar permanently the iconic signature which creates the world's most famous skyline."