Vanderbilt rezoning the start of something big

By Steven Spinola

There’s been a lot of activity around Grand Central Terminal lately, and not just the usual hustle bustle of rush hour commuters.

Last month, at a City Planning Commission hearing, the proposed Vanderbilt Corridor Text Amendment and SL Green’s Special Permit Application for One Vanderbilt received strong support.

The Text Amendment would permit the five blocks (from 42nd Street to 47th Street) along the Vanderbilt Avenue to be redeveloped up to a 30 FAR, either through the purchase of air rights from a landmark or through an improvement in the public realm.

New developments in the Vanderbilt corridor would require a special permit and would go through a seven-month public review process.

The 1,500-foot One Vanderbilt tower, planned by SL Green, is being developed under this special permit process and is proceeding concurrently with the Text Amendment.

This transit network improvement that SL Green will undertake and be required to complete as a requirement for the additional floor area will make significant improvements to pedestrian circulation in Grand Central Terminal and the adjacent subway lines.

The important goal of the Vanderbilt Corridor Rezoning Text Amendment is to encourage modern commercial development along Vanderbilt Avenue, to create a mechanism to link new development to much needed infrastructure and public realm improvements in the Grand Central area, and to allow more flexibility for the transfer of unused landmark development rights.

We think the proposed rezoning will create opportunities to construct new landmarks that reflect modern ideals and set new standards in sustainability and design. The project is projected to create 5,200 construction jobs, 190 permanent union building service jobs, and approximately $50 million in annual tax revenues.

The SL Green One Vanderbilt tower, an approximately 1.8 million gross square foot mixed use office building with an enclosed public space at ground level, is exactly the type of dense, transit-oriented development that belongs immediately adjacent to Grand Central Terminal.

Designed with careful attention paid to the needs of modern tenants, One Vanderbilt will feature open and efficient floor plans and will be a LEED-certified, Class A building. SL Green will finance and facilitate the construction of all public improvements, including enhanced transit connectivity and new public spaces for an estimated $210 million.

SL Green has worked diligently with the Community Board and Borough President’s Office to further improve urban design elements that may impact public space.

As a result of this collaboration, the Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer has supported the project at the Planning Commission hearing but was clear that there were still important changes that had to be made to the project, such as the inclusion of restrooms and benches in the transit hall, continued maintenance to the plaza by SL Green, doors to the building’s ground-floor retail section that open into the plaza, and more changes which reflect an emphasis not only on appealing to the workers in the One Vanderbilt building, but to the general public as well.

The Text Amendment and the One Vanderbilt Tower hearing at the City Planning Commission was very encouraging for the future of East Midtown.

We think these two actions will launch the revitalization of this section of East Midtown and pave the way for a rezoning of the greater Midtown East area. This project is currently being discussed by a Steering Committee comprised of major stakeholders, including REBNY, the Grand Central Partnership and the East Midtown Partnership and chaired by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council Member Dan Garodnick.

Meanwhile, last week it was reported that Howard Milstein is planning to develop a completely new modern tower at 335 Madison Avenue. This rezoning could trigger even more development than expected.

Greater East Midtown may create even more good middle class jobs and ensure that New York City remains the center of world commerce, culture, media, and finance.

So the next time you’re passing by Vanderbilt Avenue, if you listen carefully amid the hustle bustle of commuters, you might hear the theme song from the old Steve Allen Show, “This Could Be the Start of Something Big.”

In other REBNY news:


Request for Potential Pre-Kindergarten Spaces: The New York City Department of Education (DOE) is seeking to identify space for September 2015 that could be converted for pre-K programs in order to offer full-day, high-quality, free pre-K to every four-year old in New York City through the Pre-K For All Expansion.  To find out more information about the space requirements, or to submit a property for consideration, please visit the DOE’s web site at http://schools.nyc.gov/Academics/EarlyChildhood/support/prekspace.htm

March 20 is the next Residential Rental Clinic Seminar, “Pitching Landlords and Developers for Exclusive Listings.” Featuring Karla Saladino of Mirador Real Estate as its guest speaker, this seminar will take place in the Mendik Education Center from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., and is free for REBNY members. For more information, contact Yesenia Dhanraj at YDhanraj@rebny.com.

March 31 is the REBNY Members’ Luncheon! From 11:45 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., join REBNY members and industry leaders as they gather to hear guest speakers Scott Rechler, CEO of RXR Realty, Douglas Harmon, Senior Managing Director of Eastdil Secured, and Jeff Sutton, Founder and President of Wharton Properties, as they discuss “Market Forces & Factors Behind Today’s Billion Dollar Retail & Office Deals.” The Luncheon will be at the Hilton New York, and more information can be found either on REBNY.com or by contacting Ossie Shemtov at OShemtov@rebny.com.

Submissions for Retail Deal of the Year are due on April 2nd by 5 p.m. Be sure to check the official contest rules at rebny.com, and for more information contact Desiree Jones at DJones@rebny.com.