175 Park Avenue
Northwest corner at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue
In 2019, TF Cornerstone and MSD Partners (a
group linked to Michael Dell, the founder of Dell Computers) announced plans to
demolish the Grand Hyatt Hotel on the northwest corner of 42nd Street
and Lexington Avenue and built a very tall, mixed-use tower
in its place.
Dubbed ‘Project Commodore,’ the proposal detailed plans for an 89-story tower featuring office, retail, and hotel space, as well as new public spaces and improvements to the subway station.
In November 2020, a development team
including TF Cornerstone and RXR Realty released further details on
the project, including the fact that Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
would design it.
The 3 million-square-foot tower would become the tallest building in New York City by roof height, topping out in its initial plans at 1,646 feet, that was subsequently lowered to 1,483 feet.
It will replace the Grand Hyatt Hotel that replaced the Commodore Hotel across Lexington Avenue from the Chrysler Building.
It would contain 2 million square feet of office space, a 500-key Grand Hyatt hotel, 43,370 square feet of retail space, and roughly 10,000 square feet of open-air public space.
The development of Project Commodore is possible due to the Midtown East rezoning, which also allowed SL Green and Hines to build the 73-story One Vanderbilt on 42nd Street just to the west of Grand Central Terminal (see The City Review article on One Vanderbilt). The team of developers was able to make One Vanderbilt a reality with the help of over 500,000 square feet of air rights from neighboring buildings, including Grand Central Station.
175 Park is across Lexington Avenue from the Chrysler Building at the right
Park is quite huge with a lacy top and bottom and four slightly angled
setbacks breaking the tower into five sections of unequal heights. The
lower three "sections" rise to about the height of the MetLife Building
that originally the Pan Am Building that is just to the north of Grand
angularity of its base is somewhat related to the angled base of One
Vanderbilt on the west side of Grand Central Terminal. Both
towers bear no contextual relationship with Grand Central. One
might argue that the lacy top of 175 Park Avenue is a bit related to
the angularity of the top of the Chrysler Building, whose views from
the west will be largely obliterated by massive bulk of 175 Park Avenue.
Its "spread leg" stance while symmetrical almost overpowers the elegant Beaux-Arts front of Grand Central Terminal and its cream-colored ramps clash with Art Deco base of the Chrysler Building across Lexington Avenue and the Chanin Building directly across 42nd Street.
Grand Central Terminal and the Chrysler Building are two of New York City's grandest landmarks and to so arrogantly ignore their immediate presence is an outrageous insult by both of these new "SuperTalls" and an egregious lack of civic-mindedness by the city's administration and its Landmarks Preservation Commission and its City Planning Commission.On its own, 175 Park Avenue would be considered handsome in many Chinese cities and even some in America. But it is inappropriate at this location even if it were cut in half.
Interestingly enough, TF Cornerstone is one of the owners of Grand Central Station, so Project Commodore will have no problem purchasing air rights to move forward.
this tale of preservatiion missteps did not save the wonderful Union
Carbide Building at 270 Park Avenue that was designed by Natalie of
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and has recently been demolished by
Chase for a new and bigger tower designed by
Currently, the Grand Hyatt features 1,298 rooms, employs 925 people, and includes 60,000 square feet of conference and meeting space, according to the Wall Street Journal. For the development team to demolish and rebuild the property at 109 East 42nd Street, they would require a transfer of Hyatt’s property lease, which holds it through 2077.
According to the NYC Zoning Planning Portal, developers have submitted the draft scope of work for environmental impact. If city officials approve the project, construction work is set to include 18 months of demolition and 47 months of construction.
Base of 175 Park Avenue
has two ramps on 42nd Street
approved, the project would also bring significant improvements and
updates to the nearby subway stations, including an expanded entrance
at East 42nd Street and expansive underground retail space. The tower
would feature retail space on the basement, first, and second floors,
office space up to the 64th floor, and a Grand Hyatt hotel on floors
65th through 83rd.
An article by Jonathan Hilburg in the February 26, 2021 edition of The Architects Newspaper gave the following commentary on a hearing on the project at the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission:
"Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) is leading the design team, while Beyer Blinder Belle is acting as architectural and historical consultant and James Corner Field Operations is serving as the landscape architect.
"The team went before the LPC on the 23rd because the New York State Historic Preservation Officer had asked the commission to weigh in on whether the proposed tower was harmonious with Grand Central. The commissioners ultimately voted 8-to-2 to approve, with vice chair Frederick Bland, a partner at Beyer Blinder Belle, recusing himself.
the commissioners liked how the outdoor terraces on the plinth of
Project Commodore would flow into the upper level of Grand Central
Terminal, creating a consistent street wall. Commissioner Adi
Shamir-Baron noted that SOM drew on the existing datum lines to match
the tower’s patterning with Grand Central and said the project
'harmonized through contrast' with the Beaux Arts rail terminal. She
also appreciated the way that the fluted exoskeletal facade 'parts' at
the base akin to pulled fabric, both creating public plazas as the
building tapers at ground level and preserving views of Grand Central
through the gaps.
"However, the enthusiasm wasn’t unanimous. When commissioner Michael Goldblum testified, he acknowledged that the current zoning encourages tall towers for the area, but said that Project Commodore, in every measure, 'fails to meet anything considered to be harmonious.'
View of Chrsyler
Building and Grand Hyatt Hotel east of Grand Central Terminal
“'The design is scaleless, introverted, and anonymous. I don’t think it should be built on this site,' he added. '[The project’s materiality] is antithetical to the mostly masonry environment of Grand Central and the environment.'
View to the west
"Commissioner Diana Chapin disagreed, saying she found the masonry elements of the project’s plinth in harmony with the neighboring terminal. Chapin added that the building’s height shouldn’t be disqualifying either, as the Grand Hyatt it was replacing was also quite tall (though it was only 295 feet).
"On the topic of the new connector passage between Project Commodore and the existing rail terminal, commissioner Michael Devonshire was bullish that the work would 'expand public accessibility without damaging any architectural features.'
"The project was presented as two separate docket items; the appropriateness of the tower’s base in relation to Grand Central Terminal, and an application to change the viaduct sidewalk and the 42nd Street passage as previously mentioned. The first item passed 8-to-0, while the second passed unanimously. No public testimony was given."
of the base from the west
Municipal Art Society gave testimony at the commission in opposition to
The Grand Hyatt New York will continue accepting reservations through at least July 31, 2022.
Original Commodore Hotel before converted and "modernized" into the Grand Hyatt HotelThe Commodore Hotel was constructed by The Bowman-Biltmore Hotels group. The structure itself was developed as part of Terminal City, a complex of palatial hotels and offices connected to Grand Central Terminal and all owned by The New York State Realty and Terminal Company a division of The New York Central Railroad.
At the time of opening, The Commodore featured 2,000 rooms. Its excellent location and direct connection to Grand Central made it a highly appealing destination for tourists and visitors. However, over the following decades, the hotel started to lose some of its glamour and appeal.
On March 28, 1976 I wrote the following commentary on the hotel for The New York Times:
"The city administration's program to spark an economic
resurgence by granting substantial tax relief or favorable leasing arrangements
to major new commercial and industrial development projects will receive its
first test next ??? when the Board of Estimate votes on a proposal to
reconstruct the Commodore Hotel at Lexington
Avenue and 42d Street.
"As the program's prototype, the Commodore Hotel plan is
viewed by planners, economists and the real estate community as a critical
indicator of the program's viability.
"The incentive program is aimed at assisting those projects
that would otherwise be unattractive to investors in today's depressed city
economy. Eligible projects must create 'a reasonable number of full‐time jobs,' achieve a positive
economic impact on an area beyond their immediate sites, and eventually return
to full taxpaying status.
"They must also provide public amenities or benefits beyond
those normally required or provide the city with 'assets of significant and
sustaining value,' and the city must share in their profits.
"Beyond these broad outlines, however, the program has no
detailed mechanics. In announcing the program last January, Mayor Beame
declared that 'in this pivotal year for governmental change in New York, the city and
state must move aggressively to preserve our traditional economic strengths and
to encourage new business growth.'
Many planners agree. For example, Joel W. Harnett, the
chairman of the City. Club, remarked that 'perhaps it's time to tear up the
But others, no less concerned with the generation of private
investment in the city, are more guarded. 'There probably has to be some sort
of incentive, but maybe too much is being given,' Harry B. Helmsley, the head
of Helmsley‐Spear Inc., said.
Some organizations, such as the Hotel Association of New York, feel the
Commodore plan might be an un fair burden for competing hotels already in
operation and receiving no tax abatement.
"And many civic groups, while favoring the program in
principle, are wary of windfall profits and 'gunshy' of past city leasing
practices, such as at the Hunts Point Market. In fact, some city councilmen and
state legislators recently called for a thorough reform of the city's leasing
"Those who are cautious about the Incentive program are
raising questimas as to how many projects could quality and how long those that
did should receive tax relief. They point to the city's eroding tax base and
ask how much future revenue the city can afford to sacrifice even if the
projects do not require the outlay of public funds.
"Further, they ask, is it possible to forecast land and
property values and tax rates as much as 50 years in advance? If the city's
economy should turn around in the next few years, could the long‐term abatements be renegotiated? What
kind of design and planning reviews should be imposed? And how could the
abatement projects relate to other long‐term
objectives such as the redevelopment of Times Square.
"The administration, according to Economic Development
Administrator Alfred Eisenpreis, hopes that the plan will be seen as 'a signal
to the business community that there has been change.' Mr. Eisenpreis said in
an interview that there were several other specific proposals that might move
ahead if the Commodore redevelopment proceeds.
"Despite the complexity of the Commodore plan, the city is eager to act quickly on it because Penn‐Central does not expect to keep the hotel open much longer. The bankrupt railroad lost more than $1 million on the hotel last year. It spent that sum on renovations before it decided that no further funds would be committed. A closed Commodore Hotel would, according to Mr. Eisenpreis, have 'a very serious blighting influence on the east midtown area.'
"Even if the plan is achieved, the area's future is somewhat
cloudy inasmuch as several major properties, including the Chrysler Building
immediately across Lexington
Avenue from the Commodore, are in severe financial
"The developer of the Commodore Hotel plan is Donald Trump,
the 29year‐old president of the Trump
Organization, which owns 22,000 apartments, mostly in the city's outer
boroughs. Mr. Trump, whose father Frederick
is chairman of the company, is involved in the potential development of two
other Penn‐Central properties in the city, the
West 30th and the West 60th Street
yards. His proposal to erect a convention center at the western terminus of 34th Street is now
under active consideration.
"Mr. Trump's proposal would strip the 60‐year‐old,
1,800‐room hotel down to its steel skeleton.
In its place, Mr. Trump would build a bronze‐tinted
reflective glass facade of the same shape and bulk. It would contain 1,400
hotel rooms and enlarged convention and meeting room facilities.
"The existing ballroom, for example, would be expanded from
16,000 to 22,000 square feet and the two‐story
lobby would be increased in height to three stories. A glass‐enclosed restaurant would be created
at the second level that would overhang the sidewalk and other restaurant
facilities would be placed on the 42d
Street setback of the H‐shaped
structure. Outside, glass‐enclosed elevators
fronting on 42d Street
would operate between the lobby floor on the second level and the ballroom
several levels above.
"In 1976, Donald Trump joined forces with the Hyatt chain and purchased the 2,000-key Commodore Hotel with the aid of a 40-year, $400 million property tax abatement. The asset was rebranded as a Grand Hyatt and underwent a $100 million upgrade that included a new mirror-glass facade and new interiors. However, after several legal battles and controversies, the Hyatt group purchased Donald Trump’s 50 per cent share in the hotel in 1996, thus ending his involvement with the property."
The Grand Hyatt New York was renovated in 2011.