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Midtown East POPS gets revamped with café, circadian lighting

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The privately owned public space of Olympic Tower creates a new place of respite in a busy neighborhood

Pavel Bendov

Those who find themselves in Midtown East in need of respite are in luck: Olympic Tower’s privately owned public space (or POPS) will officially reopen today after its $30 million overhaul by building owner Oxford Properties Group.

The corridor is in the base of the 1972 Skidmore Owings & Merrill tower that counts itself as the first mixed-use building on Fifth Avenue. It’s home to commercial and office space, including the headquarters of the NBA, as well as condos that have attracted the likes of the Gucci family.

The building is also near to the site where 432 Park Avenue developer Harry Macklowe aims to build a 1,551-foot office skyscraper, named Tower Fifth, using air rights from the neighboring St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The refurbished POPS was designed by MdeAS and includes fresh art and seating along with a new café concept by Ignazio Cipriani called Grano New York to the space. It also loops in circadian lighting and a green wall.

Artist Liam Gillick was commissioned to create Triangulated Passage Work, a series of multi-dimensional sculptural pieces, for the POPS. The installation consists of five different multicolored aluminum panels that are installed throughout the space.

Plans to remake two notable neighborhood POPS have come under scrutiny in recent months in the wake of Midtown East’s 2017 rezoning: In December, JP Morgan Chase unveiled a plan to reduce the POPS surrounding the base of its headquarters at 270 Park Avenue—where the not-long-for-this-world Union Carbide Building stands—from 10,000 feet to 7,000 feet. The plan failed to win over Community Board 5’s land use committee, and will be represented with a finessed concept in the coming months.

In its revamp of the former Sony headquarters at 550 Madison Avenue, Snøhetta is reimagining the building’s POPS by adding a glass canopy that would create an open feeling within the space as well as adding seating. Current plans for the POPS renovation also include removing some retail space and an annex Sony added when it purchased the building in the 1990s to create square footage and seating. The plan must be approved by the City Planning Commission before it can move forward.

Olympic Tower

645 5th Avenue, Manhattan, NY 10022