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One Vanderbilt Avenue

One Vanderbilt Avenue from south on Madison

One Vanderbilt Avenue viewed from Third Avenue

By Carter B. Horsley

This slanted and tapering, 58-story skyscraper at One Vanderbilt Avenue just to the west of Grand Central Terminal has a rakish top and bottom as it soars to a slim, 100-foot-long antenna that is topped at 1,401 feet in the air.

Its garish design is highlighted by its dramatically angled base, its stylized, light-colored, terra cotta spandrels, and its diagonally slanted setbacks.

It occupies the full block between Vanderbilt and Madison Avenues and 42nd and 43rd Streets.

It was developed by SI Green Realty, which is headed by Marc Holliday, and Hines.

Kohn Pedersen Fox was the architect.

It is the city's fourth-tallest building after One World Trade Center, the Central Park Tower and 111 West 57th Street.

Its observatory has two terraces. one on the 58th floor and the other on the 67th floor, both on the Madison Avenue side of the tower and both connected by outside elevators.

One Vanderbilt Avenue seen from Sixth Avenue

View from Sixth Avenue

Soaring above its neighbors, One Vanderbilt's tapering and slanted shape is not unattractive but its gaping base on Vanderbilt Avenue looks like its about to devour Grand Central Terminal just as Jaws consumes its victims. Moreover, its bright, scooped, Terra Cotta spandrels bear no relationship to the surrounding buildings and, more importantly, the tower pays no respect to the Chrysler Building two blocks to the east, one of the city's few world-class landmarks.  Its prodigious bulk, however, does mitigate to a certain extent the hulk of the MetroLife Tower, formerly the the Pan Am Building, just to the north of the great train station and straddling Park Avenue and visually squishing the great and ornate Helmsley Building, formerly the New York General Building.

The city's decision to create a special zoning district here and support the One Vanderbilt scheme was unconscionable.

The only redeeming development is that the new owners of the former Hyatt Regency Hotel, formerly the Commodore Hotel, on the eastern flank of Grand Central Terminal recently disclosed plans to erect an even taller "SuperTall" that hopefully will ruin vistas of the glorious top of the Chrsyler Building from One Vanderbilt.  Once again, where the hell happened to the city's preservationists and urban planners.

A groundbreaking ceremony for One Vanderbilt was held in October 2016. The tower topped out on September 17, 2019, two months ahead of schedule, and the building opened in September 2020.

One Vanderbilt is a 1,750,212-square-foot supertall skyscraper at the corner of 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue in midtown Manhattan was proposed by New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and developer S. L. Green Realty as part of a planned Midtown East rezoning in the early 2010s

View from Fifth Avenue

View from Fifth Avenue

In the October 21, 2020 edition of New York magazine, Justin Davidson wrote the following:

"After 9/11, skeptics wondered whether tall office buildings had become too vulnerable to be viable. The answer came quickly: Skyscrapers would do just fine, thank you very much. The urge to compete, expand, and consolidate drove the construction of tens of millions of square feet of offices, rekindled the business district of lower Manhattan, and pushed midtown westward, toward Hudson Yards. Spurred by the desire to replace shabby, low-ceilinged offices in the area around Grand Central with a new crop of corporate headquarters, the city rezoned Midtown East, effectively demoting the Chrysler Building to the status of future runt.

"Now, we face a double whammy of doubt: the first a matter of safety, the second of preference. At the moment, buildings sit empty because of their ability to collect and distribute a deadly virus. But that’s not even the most ominous threat. Far more worrisome is the prospect of companies happy to off-load their rent, utilities, maintenance, and janitorial costs onto their employees and a workforce that would rather stay home. Offices aren’t likely to fade away completely or all at once, though even a permanent 10 to 15 percent falloff in demand would shudder through New York’s economy. The (less probable) catastrophist’s version of that future is a massive shift away from collective workplaces that would leave Manhattan with a skyline of shells, an agglomeration of surplus space left behind by a fast-moving economy. Similar abandonments have happened before. New England’s 19th-century mills have been stilled and largely derelict for decades. The Rust Belt is still rusting. Port cities all over the world are lined with rotting wharves. Germany’s industrial heartland in the Ruhr valley metamorphosed into an immense quasi-archaeological park. Lower Manhattan once looked similar, until its loft factories were repurposed into living spaces. Economies are unsentimental, and no natural law prevents an immense forest of high-rises from declining into a wilderness area. Such an apocalyptic event would sweep away all the smaller-scale fretting about abandoned movie theaters, shuttered restaurants, and bankrupted stores. It would create a glut of emptiness that would challenge the entire city’s rationale for existence.

"The effects would be uneven, and so would the adaptations. Fresh office space tends to make older versions feel creakier still, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for them. Just as many of Wall Street’s Art Deco palaces of finance have been converted into apartments, Park Avenue’s corporate display cases could be, too. 'Those big mid-century-modern buildings would be great places for living and working,' says the architect Jonathan Marvel. He envisions turning executive suites into balconies. 'You could knock out a lot of windows and create outdoor spaces within those huge floorplates.' Office buildings’ vast distances from elevator to edge make them tricky to adapt, but 'the world of lighting has been so transformed,' Marvel says, 'that we can bring near daylight at very little cost even into very deep buildings.'

"For now, bright new office space is still leaping into a gloomy market, 1.7 million square feet at One Vanderbilt, ...all that acreage temporarily inhabited by a population that would fit in a school bus. The first megalith to benefit from the process of Midtown East rezoning, One Vanderbilt was designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, which plants reflective towers in megalopolises around the world and is keen to preempt criticism that its designs would be equally at home in Taipei or Baku as in Manhattan. The firm recently gave New York the tallest skyscraper at Hudson Yards as well as its shorter sidekick. One Vanderbilt is more graceful than either, spiraling, vortexlike, up to its needle. Yet, especially at the top, it shares with those other buildings a chunky aesthetic, with variously sized blocks squeezing together like a gang of sailors lashed to a mast.

"As gargantuan money smelters go, this one aspires to be a good neighbor. The lobby opens toward Grand Central, and a corner hall acts as a public conduit from subway to street, siphoning foot traffic away from congested concourses underground. Conscious of dropping the new kid in an old neighborhood, the architects have paid their respects to the past. Early-20th-century buildings step away from the street as they go up; One Vanderbilt deconstructs the setbacks into vertical facets. Few architects working today are willing to emulate the giddy stainless-steel fantasy, terra-cotta reliefs, and sinewed statuary of a century ago. The modernist prejudice against expressive ornaments persists; now they’re also considered pointlessly expensive. Even so, the architects have smuggled in whatever surface interest the cost-paring crew would allow. A canopy shoots from the lobby through the glass wall and out over the sidewalk, pulling even with Grand Central’s carved cornice. The scalloped terra-cotta shingles on the underside of the canopy pay homage to the tiled vaults inside the station. More glazed terra-cotta panels on the fašade — shimmering, angled, and arranged in horizontal stripes — suggest a tower about to launch into motion.

"I wish the architects had pushed these gestures further and owned the arrogance of overtopping Manhattan’s high-rise icons. If you’re going to usurp the Empire State Building’s crown, you might as well do it with flair. Twirl, flaunt, show off. Instead, One Vanderbilt is simultaneously bold and meek. Powerful in structure, held in place by a latticework of immense steel threads, the polite giant is careful not to muss up the skyline too much. The point of the building, after all, is to woo prospective tenants, and the way to do that is with lordly views, generous daylight, floors so spacious and unimpeded that they could accommodate a sporting event, and an indoor climate caressed by a constant, undetectable artificial breeze. These things, plus the subbasement presence of five subway lines, Metro-North, and, eventually, the Long Island Rail Road, all help...."

In the September 20, 2020 edition of New York, Michael Young provided the following commentary:

"SL Green’s $220 million package of public open space and transit infrastructure improvements will help ease congestion and overcrowding on subway platforms, improve circulation in and around the terminal, and create new direct pathways to the regional railroads. The following has been constructed: a 4,000-square-foot public transit hall inside One Vanderbilt connecting to the Metro-North Railroad, the shuttle to Times Square, and the future Long Island Rail Road station as part of the upcoming East Side Access project; a 4,000-square-foot pedestrian plaza on Vanderbilt Avenue between East 42nd and 43rd Streets; two new street-level subway entrances and re-opening the Mobil Passageway on the southeast corner of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue; a 37 percent increase in mezzanine circulation space inside the Grand Central subway station; new staircases between the mezzanine and platform levels of the 4, 5, 6, and 7 subway lines and an ADA elevator; and new escalators and elevators, additional turnstiles and gates, and stairs by the shuttle to Times Square. All of this work was done in tandem with the MTA Construction and Development’s 42 Street Connection Project, which aims to further enhance the flow of people between and under the Grand Central Terminal with more efficiency and time-saving measures.

"World-renowned chef Daniel Boulud will open the restaurant at One Vanderbilt, named Le Pavillon, in the first quarter of 2021. Le Pavillon will occupy 11,000 square feet with soaring 60-foot ceiling heights on the southeast corner of the second floor. The space will offer patrons views of Grand Central Terminal and the Chrysler Building.

“'I am more excited than ever to have the opportunity to bring Le Pavillon at One Vanderbilt to life,' Boulud said. 'We are working tirelessly to create a dining oasis in the heart of Midtown that everyone can enjoy. Our menu will include a focus on seafood and vegetables with a strong local and seasonal influence....”

 View from  42nd and Park

Rich Bockmann wrote in the Aprl 21, 2021 edition of The Real Deal that "Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo are leading a massive refinancing of One Vanderbilt that will allow developer SL Green Realty and its partners to cash out hundreds of millions of dollars from the newly completed Midtown skyscraper.

"It’s set to be one of the largest single-building commercial real estate loans in New York history. And it will provide a major windfall for the Marc Holliday-led real estate investment trust and its partners at a time when equity investors are still skittish about Manhattan office properties while cheap debt fueled by low interest rates is in abundant supply....

"SL Green and its partners – National Pension Service of Korea and Hines – opened the 1.7 million-square-foot One Vanderbilt in September, and as of January it was roughly 73 percent leased.

"The building is anchored by TD Bank and other tenants include the Carlyle Group, Greenberg Traurig, McDermott Will & Emery, Oak Hill Advisors, Hodge Ward Elliott and KPS Capital Partners. SL Green is also headquartered at the property."

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