The first renderings of New York's Otis Elevator building revamp have trickled out, and it appears that Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSH+P) will be preserving the historic far West Chelsea building while adding their own industrial flair. Developer and investor Vornado Realty Trust purchased the seven-story brick building at 260 11th Avenue in Manhattan in 2015, with plans to convert the former Otis Elevator headquarters into office space for new companies. The office market in New York is still going strong, particularly on Manhattan's lower west side, and Vornado revealed their plans for the building in the trust’s latest investor report. As CityRealty notes, Rogers has hearkened back to the “inside-out” style of his Centre Pompidou for 260 11th Ave, exposing the structural and HVAC elements, and including a freestanding, glass-clad circulation core. A 10,000-square-foot parking lot facing 27th Street currently sits behind the original Otis Elevator building, which Vornado will be developing into an eight-story, glass-fronted building with a structural steel facade. From the renderings, it appears that RSH+P will set back the new building at the sixth floor, and cantilever a two-story atrium over the roof of the neighboring 549 West 26th Street, with a connection to the new glassy topper at 260 West 11th. Both rooftops will also be converted into accessible green space. The new addition and any exterior changes to the 235,000 square-foot existing building will need to pass muster with the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. While the headquarters, built in 1911, has historical cachet (the Otis Elevator Company supplied elevators to some of N.Y.C.’s most famous buildings), it isn’t an individual landmark. Both lots fall inside the West Chelsea Historic District.
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Two years ago, BIG unveiled its proposed redesign of Two Penn Plaza: the complete recladding of the tower in glass, with an undulating ground-floor canopy that flared up and around the base of the building. However, on April 9, Vornado Realty Trust announced that it is considering scrapping those plans in favor of an entirely new tower. The developer has not yet announced whether BIG will be replaced by another firm or remain attached to the proposed project. Located atop Penn Station’s concourses and adjacent to Madison Square Garden, the 32-story glass and concrete tower was constructed in 1968 and contains 1.6-million-square-feet of office space. In lifting the curtain wall at street level, BIG’s design envisioned increased retail possibilities at the building’s base rather than its current status as a lobby for office spaces above. The Real Deal reports that demolishing Two Penn Plaza could allow Vornado to transfer five million square feet of air rights from neighboring Madison Square Garden. This transfer provides Vornado the means to effectively double the site’s footprint from 60,000 to 120,000 square feet, allowing for a large increase in height and square footage. The demolition of Two Penn Plaza would follow Governor Cuomo’s plans to provide New York State with development authority in the blocks surrounding Penn Station, potentially providing tail winds for Vornado's public space and development plans in and around Penn Plaza.
Vornado Realty Trust, one of New York City's biggest landlords, has just released renderings from New York–based Kenneth Park Architects (KPA) that reimagine the streets surrounding Penn Station and Madison Square Garden. While Snøhetta was tapped last year to master-plan the area, other firms have been hired to supplement Snøhetta's work. Vornado commissioned KPA to master plan the 1,270,000-square-foot area, which is now a chaotic blast of commuters, ambling tourists, vehicle traffic, and dense street-level retail that sees some of the heaviest pedestrian traffic in the city. Renderings suggest that redevelopment will reposition retail, bring the plaza improvements to-grade, and funnel foot traffic to and from Madison Square Garden at a diagonal midblock. The plaza is intended to compliment Vornado's One and Two Penn Plaza, the conjoined 4.2 million-square-foot office complex. Two Penn Plaza, with its frilly glass-and-steel petticoat, will be designed by BIG. Along with the city and the 34th Street Partnership, VNO is working to revamp public spaces. Last year, the developer brought in W Architecture & Landscape Architecture to design Plaza33 on 33rd Street between 7th and 8th avenues. The pilot was extended this year with new landscaping and a colorful painted street.
New York's affinity for Bjarke Ingels' work looks set to continue as images have appeared online by the Danes' firm, BIG, for Two Penn Plaza. The project, in collaboration with developer Vornado, appears to reclad the tower with an all-glass facade that fans out at ground level. Prior to this, Two Penn Plaza has had a stale existence, seen by some as all too willing to fade into the urban background and be forgotten. New York Yimby even went so far as to describe it as an "architectural failure," considering its proximity to Penn Station, on which it makes a "particularly negative impact." This isn't the first time Vornado has attempted to mix things up in the area, either. According to The Real Deal, the developer initially set out to combine One and Two Penn Plaza, merging them into one 4.2-million-square-foot complex. This scheme too involved re-cladding the facade. A plan to redress One Penn Plaza is also in the pipeline. BIG, it turns out, has come up with two proposals—albeit not drastically different—that both make use of a glass facade. The most significant changes, however, concern the retail aspect of Two Penn Plaza. In the lower levels, floorplates have been realigned to make way for more space. Aesthetic alterations affect the street level the most, allowing for increased visibility to passersby. In terms of structure, BIG has chosen to fan the glass facade out over the sidewalk, enabling the building to act as a threshold to the space while also providing cover for pedestrians.
The lead-up to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address feels like a government-backed encore of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Instead of lords a-leaping and swans a-swimming, Cuomo brings infrastructure upgrades a-plenty in his 2016 Agenda. The governor promised funds to the Gateway and East Side Access tunnels, the Javits Center, new Metro-North stations in the Bronx, the MTA (wi-fi a-comin'!), and an airport on Long Island. Arguably the biggest proposal is the Empire State Complex, a $3 billion redevelopment of New York City's Penn Station and its surroundings. The plan seeks to make Penn Station, which sits beneath Madison Square Garden, less of a hellhole—nice, even. Built to accommodate 200,000 daily riders, the station now serves 650,000 people per day. Channeling public sentiment, the governor ripped on Penn Station in his announcement. "Penn station is un-New York. It is dark, constrained, ugly, a lost opportunity, a bleak warren of corridors. [It's] a miserable experience and a terrible first impression." The governor's plan calls for enhancing connectivity between the station and the street; providing wi-fi; and reducing congestion by widening existing corridors, creating better wayfinding, and improving ticketing areas. As hinted at in previous proposals, the massive, neoclassical James A. Farley Post Office, at Eighth Avenue between 31st and 33rd streets, could be converted into the "Moynihan Train Hall," a sun-drenched waiting area for Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit, and MTA passengers. A pedestrian tunnel underneath Eighth Avenue will connect the train hall with the main station. With this 210,000-square-foot addition, the size of the station will increase by 50 percent. The governor reviewed possible redesign scenarios. In one, Madison Square Garden Theater would be demolished to make way for a block-long entrance to Penn Station, facing the post office. In another, a glassy entrance, with skylights, would be constructed on 33rd Street. The street would be closed and converted into a pedestrian plaza. A third, more minimal scenario would add entrances at street corners and mid-block. In 2013, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) hosted a competition to rethink Penn Station. MAS highlighted designs four firms—Diller Scofidio + Renfro, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, SHoP Architects, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)—for an improved Penn Station. In addition to improved passenger flow, each proposal imagined the station as a civic hub and neighborhood anchor. The governor said that this would phase of the project would be completed first. The rest of the overhaul could be complete by 2019, an amazing feat in a city where infrastructure improvements can drag on for decades. The Empire State Development Corporation, the MTA, Amtrak and the LIRR will parter with private developers to spearhead the project. $2 billion will go towards the Empire State Complex, while $1 billion will go towards "retail development" on 7th and 9th avenues. $325 million is expected to come from state and federal governments. The rest of the project will be privately funded, in exchange of revenue generated by commercial and retail rents. Cuomo will be issuing invitations to private developers, with an April 2016 due date. Currently, Vornado Realty Trust manages land around Penn Station, though it's unclear whether this relationship will continue.
[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]
The rumors about Gordon Bunshaft's landmarked Manufacturer's Hanover Trust Bank building being transformed into a big-box retail store have been flying around for a while now. In March, Vornado Realty Trust reportedly entered talks to buy the five-story building at 510 Fifth Avenue. Now, we've turned up a rendering by 3-D illustration firm Neoscape showing the building as the type of landmark only your high school daughter could love: a Forever 21. But wait, it gets worse. Until this month the building has been occupied by Chase Bank, and while the changes made to the building for security reasons were lamentable, at least we could rest easy knowing that its site-specific Harry Bertoia sculpture—a 70-foot screen composed of 800 bronze plates—was safe. But not anymore. An AN tipster clued us in today: "Half of it is laying on the otherwise vacant 2nd floor. So far, all I've got from Chase is an assurance 'it's not going in the dumpster.'" We confirmed the awful truth: Formerly mounted near the west interior wall, the sculpture now lies on the floor and can be seen from 43rd Street. Though Bertoia's metal mobile sculpture still hangs in the Fifth Ave.-facing windows, some of the space's luminous ceiling tiles have been removed, and its fate seems uncertain at best. Chatting up a lobby security guard yielded an interesting hypothesis—the sculptures would be moved to Chase's new location on 44th Street. Chase hasn't been able to give us an answer yet, but we're banking on one soon.
The battle for Midtown Manhattan has taken a new twist. Radio broadcasters located in the nearby Empire State Building have raised concerns that Vornado Realty Trust's proposed 15 Penn Plaza will swat their signals from the sky. Standing at over 1,200 feet tall, broadcasters worry the Pelli Clark Pelli designed 15 Penn Plaza could reflect or disrupt radio frequencies, causing a phenomenon known as multipath where multiple waves are sent to the same signal. Radio World reports that experts have been watching the proposed tower closely as it was recently given a thumbs up after a contentious approval process in which Empire owner Tony Malkin argued 15 Penn Plaza would diminish from the historic significance of his building. From Radio World:
"Vornado officials have not indicated an interest in building rooftop broadcast facilities atop the new tower, according to observers. "The Empire State Building is home to 19 FM stations and most of the city’s digital television transmitters. Many radio and television broadcasters migrated there after the collapse of the World Trade Center’s twin towers in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 (see sidebar). "Multipath issues are nothing new in the city because of its monstrously tall buildings, but the proximity of the skyscraper to the Empire State Building — approximately a quarter-mile — raises a red flag for some in the broadcast community."
Yesterday, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer gave his approval to 15 Penn Plaza, a nearly 1,200-square-foot tower designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli and proposed for a site across from Penn Station. The approval was conditional, as usually happens when a borough president puts the stamp on a land-use project, but what was surprising, perhaps, is that the size or scale of the building were not addressed. As we reported last month, the proposed project is 42.5 percent larger than current zoning allows, one of the chief reasons the local community board opposed the building 36-1, deeming the project too big. Such outsizing is usually a gripe for borough presidents, as well, but that was not the case here, as Stringer took issue with impacts on the open space, transportation, construction, and sidewalks, all of which are impacted by the projects size, though that itself was never an issue. This one, it appears, is all about mitigation and not reduction. That said, this is Midtown—a common refrain in support of the pre-shrunken MoMA tower, to which Stringer did object more strenuously—so maybe this fits after all.