“A GRANDER GRAND CENTRAL
New York City Planning positions East Midtown for upzoning.
The last major rezoning push by the Bloomberg Administration in Manhattan could be upzoning the grand dames around Park, Madison and Grand Central. On June 6, the Department of City Planning (DCP) went to Community Boards 5 and 6 to open the discussion on East Midtown, a-yet-to-be-defined business district surrounding Grand Central. While Midtown is hardly a tabula rasa along the lines of Hudson Yards or the World Trade Center, rezoning has the potential, according to Edith Hsu-Chen, director of DCP’s Manhattan office, to “seed” a healthy amount of new development for the next ten, 20, or 30 years, while boosting the value of one of the world’s premier office addresses.
At least one developer has already taken notice. Earlier this month The Wall Street Journal reported that SL Green, one of the city’s largest commercial property owners with more than 25 million square feet of office space throughout Manhattan, has assembled a one-block parcel right next door to Grand Central between Madison and Vanderbilt on 42nd Street to be developed in a joint venture with architect-savvy developer Hines. The company has already rehabbed several old buildings in East Midtown, including 62-year-old 100 Park Avenue, which sports 14 green rooftops and LEED Silver certification. “If we don’t do something now,” Mary Anne Tighe, the powerful broker and CBRE chief officer has said, “in the fullness of time we might find these areas have become orphans.”
Edward Piccinich, SL Green’s executive vice president of property management and construction, appears to be in it for the long haul, but not without concern about the next Planning Commission. “Whoever goes in [to Midtown] is going to have to work in a very strategic way, whether it’s coordinating with the MTA, mixed-use development, or circulation,” he said. “It’s not just about creating a plaza.”
Developing East Midtown will not be for the harried or the faint of heart. The applicable zoning codes in the area are a paralyzing mess of contradictory allowances. The 1961 zoning law implemented floor area ratios, or FARs, in many cases tighter than what was already built. In 1982 a Special Midtown District was created to restrict FAR in an attempt to shift development west to help Times Square. The plan worked all too well and development in eastern Midtown slowed. Then in 1992 the Grand Central Subdistrict—from 41st to 48th streets and between Madison and Lexington avenues—was created to allow for air right transfers from Grand Central Terminal and other area landmarks to new developments nearby.”
Via: The Architect’s Newspaper
Photo: TOM STOELKER / AN