a very tall building with many windows in the city

The Union Carbide Building at 270 Park Ave NYC to Be Demolished

By: Scott Henson

In recent years growth has been slowing down and businesses are leaving Midtown East. Many of the buildings there are considered inefficient, out of date and, until very recently, limited in how they could be updated or modified to contain more commercial office space. After several years of work by city planners, development experts, preservation professionals, and other stakeholders, new zoning has been approved for Midtown Manhattan, allowing for big changes. The Midtown East area is home to many large office buildings designed in the International Style, a type of modernist commercial architecture that was intended to support a socially progressive agenda of “better, cleaner, and more egalitarian” cities. The style is known for its lack of ornamentation and structural glass. One well-known building, the Union Carbide building owned by JP Morgan Chase Bank, is now scheduled to be demolished and rebuilt anew.

In 2012 the Union Carbide building underwent a sustainability upgrade that gave it the highest LEED rating of any building to date. Despite the fact that this was the largest renovation ever to receive a platinum rating, JP Morgan Chase Bank is looking to increase the commercial office space available inside. The building currently has space for 6,000 employees, while the newly proposed building is said to include space for 15,000.

There is debate among architects and preservationists whether this building, of the several in the International Style in the local area, is significant in the history of modernist architecture. It is the opinion of the stakeholders is that there are other buildings of modern architecture in this district that are more significant, and this building can be demolished so a taller building can be built in its place. Many argue that the demolition of this building is irresponsible, as it will be the largest voluntary building demolition in the world.

The decision to demolish has been made, so the debate now for those involved will center around the unique challenges of demolition in a crowded urban space that is still an active commercial zone. There are issues of solid waste disposal and the potential for reuse of many of the structural building materials. New processes will need to be developed to safely bring down large areas of structural glass and steel. Hazardous materials that were standard for buildings in 1960 will need to be safely sequestered.

This demolition will provide the construction industry a great deal of information on how to safely bring down the old skyscrapers, and how to manage the materials and solid waste that results.

Part of the new zoning includes needed upgrades to transportation infrastructure and public spaces in the area. These upgrades will be included in the work JP Morgan Chase contracts when they design the new building.

Can we work with you to develop plans for a historic preservation project? Please contact us for an appointment.

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