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Sunken public plaza on Sixth Avenue to get a modern revamp

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It's the biggest change to the area since the tower opened in 1969

Rendering courtesy of Citterio-Viel & Partners

A renovation is planned for the outdoor space that fronts the former McGraw-Hill building located at 1221 Sixth Avenue between West 48th and 49th streets. According to the New York Post, it's "the most sweeping transformation since [the tower] opened in 1969."

Currently, the outdoor site is a sunken plaza with some seating and a large traingular sculpture. The metal triangle was designed by artist Athelstan Spilhaus in the 1960s, when the office building (designed by Wallace K. Harrison) first opened. The southwestern corner of the plaza also held a display of scale models of planets in the solar system. While that's no more, a mosaic map of the earth survives in the northwestern corner.

The plaza will be brought up to sidewalk level, with a large circular cutout in the center to bring natural light to 35,000 square feet of newly-created retail space on two below-grade levels. There will also be new staircases leading down from the outdoor plaza, an open circular portal between the two shopping levels, and plenty of public seating.

The current plaza, courtesy Municipal Art Society

According to Rockefeller Group's senior vice president, Bill Edwards, construction will kick off when an anchor tenant is signed for the retail space. The revamp, led by the Italian architecture firm Citterio-Viel & Partners, is expected to cost in the "mid-to-high eight digits,” and it’s expected to wrap in 2019.

The McGraw-Hill Building is one of several that was part of the Rockefeller Center complex expansion in the 1960s, known as the ‘XYZ’ buildings in Midtown. and this isn't the first time the building's sunken plaza has been re-imagined; a few years back, YIMBY published quite a futuristic rendering—obviously never realized—that proposed more pedestrian space underneath a swooping canopy.

An unrealized plaza proposal via YIMBY