Greening Grand Central: How 175 Park Ave Will Change Midtown East

By Senior WriterPublished On: December 29, 20215.1 min read

When most New Yorkers visit Midtown East, it’s usually for a work meeting. This part of the city is truly a concrete jungle — busy, chaotic and somewhat listless, lacking authentic culture (unless you go see a show on Broadway).

But that vibe could soon change with 175 Park Avenue, which will replace the Grand Hyatt Hotel on East 42nd Street. Set to be a cultural destination, this tower is going to be much more than just another office skyscraper along the midtown skyline.

The developers, RXR Realty and TF Cornerstone, expect this gorgeous tower, parked directly beside Grand Central Station, to be completed roughly by 2030. With a $3 billion budget, the 1,575 feet-tall building is being designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, will have 83 floors and boast retail and office space.

With so much green space down below, TF Cornerstone’s Jon McMillan said Public Art Fund and consulting firm Lord Cultural Resources are planning on coming up with a program for cultural events and performances.

What makes it really stand out is how the outdoor terraces, which are on a raised level above street level, will be used for both culture and green space, with dozens of trees lining the terraces. Let’s face it: we don’t normally go to midtown east for culture (unless you’re at the Museum of Modern Art, of course).

Expect to see classical concerts on these outdoor terraces, or public art sculptures, perfect for selfies.

175 Park Ave Rendering 2

Image provided by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

“The public art program for 175 Park Avenue represents a powerful opportunity for some of the most exciting artists in the world to create new, site-specific works of art for this transformational public site,” said Nicholas Baume, Director and Chief curator at Public Art Fund, in a statement. “Accessible art that enhances public space is essential to the fabric of our city. In developing the public art program for 175 Park Avenue, we look forward to offering extraordinary new opportunities for artists and speaking to the local community — all while inspiring New Yorkers and visitors alike.”

It’ll also be functional, of course. The walkways from underground to above ground will help better the flow of pedestrian foot traffic from both local and regional trains coming into Grand Central Station, the building’s neighbor.

“If there was ever a project that was the epitome of transit-oriented development, it would be Grand Central and all the spaces around it,” said Timothy Johnson, the New York City chapter Chair of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, who recently led a Zoom talk on 175 Park with the team working on it.

Image provided by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

“This project is carefully working to unravel the hairball that exists under Grand Central, there’s a huge amount of work being done to improve public transit and access to transit,” he told Leverage.com.

“This building really looks at the workplace of the future, how people will use tall buildings in unique and inventive ways. It’s about how it meets the needs of the streets and the city, as it’s fully engaging in the urban environment.”

It will revitalize this drab, busy part of the city. “This is an important project as it continues the ‘rebirth’ of Midtown East,” he explained.

It’s needed, considering the recent splash that the west side of Manhattan saw with the launch of Hudson Yards. This project, alongside One Vanderbilt, which is JP Morgan Chase’s new headquarters at 343 Madison Avenue, are what Johnson said, “are beginning to shape a new future for this important part of Manhattan.”

It’ll also help improve transit infrastructure and the flow of foot traffic. “This project has a significant positive impact on improving transit congestion at the Grand Central Station,” he said.

“Due to the multiple ground planes around Grand Central Station, this project creates substantial engagement with the city and refreshing open space at the base of the building.”

There’s a landing lattice on a stone base that makes this building stand out from its neighbors as a culture-savvy tower. 175 Park is being called an absolute behemoth by some experts, and it does have a distinct decorative lattice work top that makes it stand out on the skyline.

Image provided by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Some call this detail “skyscraper deco,” a riff on art deco for the minimalist set. It’s still very silvery and sleek, like most of the surrounding, newer buildings, which is a far cry from the Grand Hyatt, a boxy retro building that has garnered terrible reviews, as of late. But the origins of the building goes back further in time, as it first opened over a century ago in 1919 as Hotel Commodore.

The building’s architect, Kim Van Holsbeke, from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, explained how it will work.

“The challenge for the building and the public realm, the transit and the public space, is unique, in that it’s a connected public space with a series of outdoor spaces that are tied back seamlessly to the street level,” he said on the Zoom talk. “Connectivity and a vertical elevation were key for us; we have a series of staircases that are inviting.”

Jon McMillan, from TF Cornerstone development said that the building is “plugged into Grand Central,” so the new building will be able to take 4,000 people per rush hour from the regional rail lines into the subway system. “There’s no separation between us and the terminal,” he said in the zoom talk.

They intend to bring skylights into the transit hall so it “will open up architectural sites, and cut them into our site,” he explained, as new staircases and elevators will be installed.

As Johnson said: “New York has always been about innovation and reinventing itself.”

He added: “This project creates a new landmark for Manhattan that improves the city, the skyline, and represents an exciting and bright future.”

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