The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission lent their advisory support to the design of SL Green Realty Corp.’s potential 1,350-foot One Vanderbilt tower during a public hearing yesterday on whether the company’s schemes will form a harmonious addition to the site adjacent to Grand Central Terminal.
After a presentation on the building’s look, its planned public space and the company’s vision of how the glass base of the building would fit into the historic area, officials with the city agency who examined the company’s schemes as part of a 2010 Bowery Savings Bank building development rights purchase by SL Green gave their backing to the proposed Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates skyscraper as a welcome addition to the landscape.
“I’m impressed and very persuaded by some of the arguments that have been made by SL Green and their group of consultants and the architects regarding the treatment of this building,” said Landmarks Chairwoman Meenakshi Srinivasan. “Given the prominence and incredible importance of Grand Central, the idea of having a building that contrasts that is actually in my opinion much more respectful to this architectural gem we have here.”
The company’s plans for the base of the 67-story, 1.8-million-square-foot tower include entrances to Grand Central, a 4,500-square-foot indoor public space and a setback design allowing for views of the landmarked building from East 42nd Street, according to public documents the firm submitted to the Department of City Planning as part of its concurrent application under the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.
“Architecturally, urbanistically, and programmatically this building is not only harmonious with Grand Central Terminal, it is the apotheosis of why the Terminal was first built,” said Vishaan Chakrabarti, an adviser to SL Green and the director of Columbia University’s Center for Urban Real Estate, during the public comment section of the hearing. “Its material palette, form, and infrastructure all complement Grand Central without genuflection, much as the Chrysler Building did 85 years ago.”
But not everyone present at the hearing supported the company’s claims. Andrea Goldwyn of the New York Landmarks Conservancy told commissioners that the preservation advocacy group believes the designs don’t represent a harmonious relationship offered by the current building at 51 East 42nd Street. And Paul Selver of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, who represents the landlord of Grand Central, reiterated Argent Ventures’ opposition to SL Green’s ability to build the tower without buying transferable development rights from his client.
“There is more than a little irony in this request,” Mr. Selver said. “This is because the zoning program that has been created for the One Vanderbilt project ensures that it does not have to do anything for the preservation of the terminal and because the project itself turns its back on the terminal’s preservation. This zoning program threatens to undermine the integrity of New York City’s policies for the preservation of historic resources.”