The rumors were true. Developer SL Green will, in fact, go ahead with its proposal to build a 65-story tower just west of Grand Central stationone with up to 1.6 million square feet of office and retail space inside that would rise about 1,200 feet, which is 150 feet taller than the Chrysler Building, its Art Deco neighbor to the east. The Times and the Journal both reported SL Green's tower-tastic plans for 1 Vanderbilt Avenue, which looked very likely last year but were thrown into doubt after Midtown East rezoninga.k.a. that controversial piece of city legislation that would have allowed One Vandy to be so damn tallwasn't approved before the end of Bloomberg's tenure.
But the rezoning plan livesalbeit in another form. Today, Bill de Blasio and area councilmember Dan Garodnick announced preliminary plans for a reincarnated rezoning plan for the area.
As per a press release from the mayor's office, a short-term zoning change for the five-block stretch west of Grand Central that is Vanderbilt Avenue (between Park and Madison from 42nd to 47th streets) would allow SL Green to erect One Vanderbilt. (These could be approved as early as this fall.) Meanwhile, zoning amendments for the rest of the neighborhood would roll out over the longer term. In official jargon:
First, the department will advance a zoning proposal to allow for larger state-of-the-art buildings along Vanderbilt Avenue that would provide specific, significant and upfront public infrastructure upgrades. The initiative is designed to ensure that property owners provide for much-needed improvements at Grand Central Terminal to relieve subway station bottlenecks and create new public open space sought by local stakeholders. The changes will undergo a full public review. SL Green – the owner of a large site at Vanderbilt Avenue and East 42nd Street – will likely be the first applicant for this new zoning special permit, with a proposal to deliver vital pedestrian and subway improvements concurrent with the construction of a major new office building across from the Terminal. According to the Times, in exchange for being allowed to erect its lofty Kohn Pedersen Fox-designed tower, SL Green will be giving back to the community in the form of 1) an underground connection between the One Vanderbilt and the terminal; 2) a public "waiting room" in the lobby of the tower for commuters; and 3) a pedestrian plaza on Vanderbilt between 42nd and 43rd. SL Green's CEO also told the times it would spend $100 million on transit infrastructure, which would help alleviate congestion in an area mainly served by the overburdened 4/5/6 line.
And that's not all, folks. The rezoning of Vanderbilt Avenue leaves the door wide open for development beyond SL Green's. Namely, the Times points out, at two sites: "a Madison Avenue building owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority [at 341, 345 and 347 Madison Avenue], and the Roosevelt Hotel." WSJ adds the currently 22-story Yale Club into the mix of possible development sites. It's not like the owners of those have proposed anything yet, but the rezoning's allowances to build big in a time of real estate hot-ness, even if they have to pay out to improve the neighborhood's transit and infrastructure in return, will likely prove alluring.
All of these towers will have to pass through ULURP, the city's land-use review process, and all reports emphasize that the community (which has been rather outspoken against rezoning in the past) will be heavily consulted. Brace, Midtown East.
· 65-Story Tower Planned Near Grand Central Terminal [NYT]
· City Plans Midtown East Rezoning to Aid Tower [WSJ]
· All One Vanderbilt coverage [Curbed]
· All Midtown East rezoning coverage [Curbed]