By Joe Anuta on March 30, 2015
A plan to allow for dramatically larger office towers to the west of Grand Central Terminal—including a 1,400-foot-tall commercial building proposed by SL Green Realty Corp.—was approved by the city Monday. It will now move to the City Council, where members are expected to push back on elements of the developer’s proposal for a 64-story tower.
The City Planning Commission approved a series of permits and changes to the zoning code that would create a five-block special district to the west of the transit hub, in the hopes of spurring new office projects there by allowing developers to build bigger in exchange for buying air rights from landmarked properties or making pedestrian or transit improvements.
The commission also made slight modifications to SL Green’s proposal for an office tower known as 1 Vanderbilt, which is being considered along with the larger district. Among the changes are improving access to retail at the base of the building and providing amenities to commuters. SL Green is seeking to push its tower beyond the underlying zoning by both buying air rights and pledging to pour an estimated $210 million of improvements into Grand Central Terminal.
“The improvements must be undertaken at the developer’s risk and must be completed before any bonus space is occupied in order to assure that the public benefits are achieved,” Planning Commission Chairman Carl Weisbrod said in a statement.
City Councilman Daniel Garodnick, who represents the area, said that lawmakers will examine whether the promised upgrades are a fair trade for nearly 535,644 square feet of extra development rights going to SL Green.
“The question here will be whether the improvements that are being proposed should entitle the (extra) density that is being sought,” Mr. Garodnick said. “And we are going to take a hard look at that, and whether they should be doing more.”