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Glass Slipper Again Doesn't Fit for Vornado at 510 Fifth Avenue

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Vornado's proposal to reconfigure the landmarked (both inside and outside!) former bank at 510 Fifth Avenue again couldn't shatter the glass ceiling yesterday. The developer's revised plan failed to receive enough votes at the Landmarks Preservation Commission to move forward. The design team from SOM architects presented an extensive scheme in response to LPC remarks following the initial presentation last month, when the commission chided the creative crew over too many changes to the 1953 Gordon Bunshaft minimalist masterpiece and sent the team back to the drawing board.

Of particular concern is the news that Vornado and retailer Joe Fresh, which is leasing a portion of the main floor and the entire mezzanine for a new retail flagship, want to demolish nearly the entire mezzanine level in order to restructure that area so it can accommodate the reconfiguration of the original escalators that rise inside the Fifth Avenue facade.

SOM has dropped the previous idea of a scissor escalator, and now proposes a side-by-side setup to reach the mezzanine level. To do so they'd tear out most of the existing floor plate, add lots of steel for more support and rotate the escalators 90 degrees. The architects also hoped to insert a new doorway into the original Fifth Avenue facade near 43rd Street, leading shoppers in to those escalators, but the majority of commissioners saw that as too interruptive of the existing metal and glass facade fronting the avenue. Another concern is a new demising wall, separating the main floor and creating a separate 4,000 square foot retail space, as yet unleased, in the area where the iconic bank vault now stands. The existing black marble wall of the vault would be removed, to be replaced by a ghostly outline in stainless steel imbedded into the floor.

Vornado claims their scheme for division of the existing open space is necessary from a real estate perspective. But some commissioners questioned the need to reconfigure protected space based on the unspecified needs of an unsigned tenant and urged Vornado to consider alternatives that would be less destructive to the original structure of the building. Also on the table were the placement of a new metal art screen, a replacement for the original expressionistic screen by Henry Bertoia that was removed prior to landmark designation, and some shadowy glass that will replicate the planter boxes that used to ring the mezzanine. For now, Vornado will huddle up again with SOM, and the entire team will return to Landmarks with another revised plan sometime in the near future, with the aim of getting Joe Fresh into his new glassy emporium by fall.
· 510 Fifth Avenue coverage [Curbed]

510 Fifth Avenue

510 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY