Landmarks Won’t Oppose SHoP’s West 57th Street Tower

By: Scott Henson

Jeremiah Budin reports for Curbed.

JDS Development Group and Property Markets Group acquired the Steinway Building, and, more importantly, its 45,000 square feet of air rights, for $46 million [correction: they spent $217.8 million—$131.5 million for the land lease and $46.3 million for the building itself, and an additional $40 million for a neighboring site] back in March. Six months later, they announced that instead of building a super tall, super skinny tower designed by Cetra/Ruddy, they would be building a super-duper-tall, super skinny tower designed by frequent collaborators SHoP Architects. The tower will be 1,350 feet tall, way taller than neighboring Tower of Babel One57 (1,004 feet), but not quite as tall as 432 Park (1,396 feet). JDS and PMG also backed a successful effort to make Steinway Hall an interior landmark (and will embark on a meticulous restoration), possibly in an attempt to curry favor with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, to whom they presented the plans for the tower this morning.

JDS and PMG could actually build an as-of-right 1,350-foot tower at the street front without Landmarks Commission approval, but have elected instead to set the building back, deferring somewhat to the landmarked Steinway Building but also necessitating the demolition of a back portion of that building. The proposed tower would also exist partially on the landmark site, giving the LPC the power to review the whole thing.

For the most part, the Commission took no issue with the proposal, although a few had qualms about minor aspects—the height of the glass street wall, for example, or the question of how much of the tower was on the landmark site and how much wasn’t—that prevented the building from being approved…yet. However, every commissioner but one expressed the opinion that the building itself was basically worth approval on the merit of its impressive design.

The lone dissenter, commissioner Margery Perlmutter, was confused by the willingness of her fellow commissioners to sign off so readily on the partial demolition of an individual landmark, and criticized the “cynicism” of some of her colleagues, saying, “We’re looking at this ‘for the good of the city’ as if there’s no other place to build a tower.” Despite Perlmutter’s objections, it seems more than likely that the plans, with a few minor tweaks, will be approved next time they are presented to the Landmarks Commission.

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