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Monday, November 22, 2023

Grand Central skyscraper would bring new LIRR connection

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Modern dance, film screenings and perhaps knitting classes will enliven the outdoor scene at 175 Park Ave., the cloudbusting skyscraper that’s proposed to replace the widely unloved Grand Hyatt Hotel on East 42nd Street.

The fun fests are planned for public-accessible terraces on three sides of the tower. But first, there has to be a tower. Although completion isn’t scheduled until 2030, the fate of the $3 billion-plus project will likely be decided next month.

That’s when developers RXR Realty and TF Cornerstone expect their plans for the mammoth project designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill to go to the full City Council for approval. The City Planning Commission has already blessed the project, which is to rise to 1,646 feet and 83 stories. It would have 2.1 million square feet of offices, a 453,000-square-foot Hyatt-operated hotel and 10,000 square feet of retail.

The plan is currently being studied by the Council’s zoning committee, which is expected to green-light it before it goes to the full body for a vote. The public review is necessary under East Midtown zoning rules, which allow much larger towers than were previously permitted but which require developers to contribute significant public and transit amenities.

Exterior shot of the Grand Central Hyatt
Goodbye to you: The project would replace the existing Grand Hyatt at Grand Central Terminal.
Corbis via Getty Images

SL Green, the first developer to exploit the enhanced zoning, paid for $220 million in transit upgrades to develop One Vanderbilt slightly west of the RXR/TF Cornerstone site.

It wasn’t clear when demolition would start on the Grand Hyatt, a 1970s glass-curtain wall structure with a tacky overhang that Donald Trump inflicted over the East 42nd Street sidewalk.

Nor is it known yet how much the developers will pay for the pedestrian/transit upgrades and what they’ll all be. But one feature will be the conversion of a “short loop” of abandoned subway track beneath Grand Central Terminal into a direct underground connection between new LIRR platforms and subways.

The outdoor terraces are to total 25,000 square feet — more than the 10,000 square feet required by zoning. Situated along the tower’s western, Lexington Avenue and northern sides. They’ll be landscaped by James Corner Field Operations of High Line fame.

Keith Powers attends the Met Gala with an unidentified guest
City Council member Keith Powers, pictured here at the Met Gala in 2023, is advocating for the prospective cultural events.
Getty Images

The Public Art Fund and global consulting firm Lord Cultural Resources have been tapped to advise on the terrace programming. Project reps told Realty Check that ideas under consideration include modern dance, experimental theater, poetry readings, comedy, film screening, and music performances. Interactive events will include dance lessons, knitting classes and fashion shows.

To narrow down the terrace happenings, the developers along with Council member Keith Powers will form a program-advisory board to include representatives of the Council, Manhattan borough president and Community Board 5.

TF Cornerstone senior vice-president and director of planning Jon McMillan said the developer “worked closely with Powers to develop inclusive arts and cultural programming.”

The Wilf family’s Skyline Developers has nailed down 82,427 square feet in 13 new leases at 1040 Sixth Avenue.

Several of the new leases are on the third, 12th and 20th floors of the tower, which Skyline converted into pre-built office suites and custom build-to-suit spaces.

Orin Wilf speaking at a podium
Skyline Development President Orin Wilf has seen his family’s company rack up 13 new leases at 1040 Sixth Ave.
Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan

Among the new tenants are accounting firm Bonadio & Co., law firm Meirowitz & Wasserberg and software developer Brightidea.

Skyline also worked with brokerage Newmark to restructure and/or extend existing leases totaling 36,074 square feet. Those tenants included legal services firm Update, insurer services company FJA US, and media company Outdoor Sportsman Group.

Skyline founder and president Orin Wilf said, “We worked closely with our existing and potential tenants to understand the needs, concerns and to develop unique solutions that support the flexibility necessary for them to be successful.”

Sarashina Horii, the first location outside Japan for a 232-year-old Tokyo soba restaurant, has opened at 45 E. 20th St. The handsome eatery, which specializes in sarashina-style soba noodles made from the innermost part of the buckwheat seed, joins what might be Manhattan’s most diverse array of fine restaurants to be found on a single block.

Between Broadway and Park Avenue South on East 20th stand Danny Meyer’s fabled Gramercy Tavern, rustic-Italian hit Rezdora, celeb-studded Indian spot Sona, modern-Israeli café Nur, French-inspired La Rotisserie, popular Italian steakhouse Il Mulino, romantic Russian Mari Vana, long-lived Mediterranean brasserie Barbounia, affordable sushi spot Sugarfish, and Laut Singapura, specializing in Singaporean street food.

For good measure, there’s cheese-heaven Beecher’s on the Broadway corner, a retail store that also has a sit-down café.

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