Earlier this month, RXR Realty and TF Cornerstone revealed plans for a new 1,646-foot, office-and-hotel tower at 175 Park Avenue. The supertall, intended to replace the foreboding Grand Hyatt Hotel, successfully passed Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) muster this afternoon, garnering two important advisory reports: the first, a favorable judgment concerning the "harmonious relationship" of the supertall to Grand Central Terminal; and the second, a motion supporting alterations to the terminal viaduct and 42nd Street passage.
Although the LPC has no formal jurisdiction over the project under current zoning, their reports will be utilized by the City Planning and Public Design commissions which do have authority over the design.
As Urbanize NYC previously reported, the new Skidmore, Owings & Merrill-designed tower will add 2.2 million square feet to its Midtown block, of which 2.1 million square feet will become office space, 453,000 square feet a 500-key hotel, and 10,000 square feet to be retail (including MTA-controlled retail).
The tower will also establish a 42nd Street Passage connecting a new 5,400-square-foot public train hall sited on the ground floor of 175 Park, and a 2,000-square-foot underground passageway linking the LIRR tracks in the East Side Access Terminal to the lower-level Metro North platforms and the subway mezzanine.
Aboveground, we would see a new 22,000-square-foot landscaped public space circling 175 Park, a move that would maximize space between the tower and the terminal at the viaduct level. James Corner Field Operations is overseeing the landscape design.
The 83-story tower itself will rise above the new hall, set back at several points as it scales. The form of the building takes a cue from Grand Central's architecture, its structural metal columns reflecting those encircling the historic structure.
In addition to adding more public space to the area, the tapered base has been designed to improve sightlines and offer pedestrian contact/visibility of Grand Central's eastern facade, now completely obscured by the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
At the public hearing held via Zoom, representatives from the development and architecture team took the board and public through the design, offering up a number of new insights as well as a bounty of new renderings and diagrams concerning the proposed project.
Numerous local organizations and individuals came out to support the project, including the New York Building Congress, Grand Central Partnership (BID), Riders Alliance, Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP Architects, architect Anabelle Seldorf, and the Design Trust for Public Space, which called the design “responsive to the original intent of the station.”
The City Club of New York, Victorian Society, Society for the Architecture of the City, and Municipal Arts Society (MAS) were among the groups against the project. MAS called the amalgamation of columns at the tower’s base a “busy distraction” and “super-human in scale,” adding that the building would ultimately “overwhelm” Grand Central Terminal and the neighborhood’s classic towers. More than one organization called the design "more appropriate for Dubai."
After hearing over an hour of public comments, nearly all commissioners of the LPC came out in support of the "harmonious relationship" between the new tower and Grand Central—though it is worth noting that the interpretation focused primarily on the plinth.
Commissioner Michael Devonshire started his comments expressing his "fundamental near-hatred of the monumental towers being built across the city" but followed up by saying "there is absolutely no dissonant note between Grand Central Station and this new building [175 Park] ... I relish the fact you can actually see through to Grand Central Terminal."
Commissioner Everardo Jefferson called it a "wonderful project" but noted that it's the contrast—not the harmony—of the modern building that makes Grand Central really shine.
Commissioner Michael Goldblum, however, called it a "failure" with a "dissonant relationship" between Grand Central, further comparing the design of the tower to "Constantine's head in Rome." Goldblum demanded that the whole building be considered, not just the base, which he also deemed problematic and antithetical to Grand Central's Beaux-Arts design. "It's as disharmonious as can be," he concluded.
Ultimately, the LPC approved changes to the terminal viaduct and 42nd Street passage (10-0) and moved to approve a favorable report for the tower itself (8-2).
175 Park Avenue is anticipated to enter the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) this spring. RXR and TF Cornerstone hope to commence demolition of the Hyatt Hotel in 2022. Construction on the new tower is expected to be completed by 2030. It will be the second tallest tower in the city after One World Trade Center.