Rumors of Facebook taking up residence in the historic James A. Farley Building—which opened in 1914 as the Pennsylvania Terminal, was renamed the General Post Office Building in 1918, and was then renamed again in 1982 in honor of the late Democratic politician and former postmaster general—have been swirling, accompanied by top-notch Photoshop work, for several months now. On Monday, Vornado Realty Trust declared that a deal had been struck, and that the social media giant will lease all 730,000 available square feet of office space within the renovated Beaux Arts landmark in Midtown Manhattan best known for its immense footprint—8 acres in total—and soaring Corinthian colonnade facing Eighth Avenue.
Spread over two city blocks, the grand McKim, Mead & White–designed edifice was erected as the neighboring, slightly younger sibling to the old Pennsylvania Station, which was also designed by the New York firm and completed two years prior in 1910. Pennsylvania Station, of course, was razed just a little over 50 years after it opened, a decision that helped to galvanize the present-day historic landmarking movement in New York City. The Farley Building, which officially opened as the city’s central post office in 1914, was designated as a New York City Landmark in 1966 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
“Farley’s large floorplates offer a horizontal campus unique to Manhattan and similar to tech offices in Silicon Valley,” reads a press statement from Vornado that described the transformation of the historic building as “a state-of-the-art, mixed-use development featuring best-in-class creative office space, while retaining the rich history of the building’s original design.” Renovation work is expected to wrap up later this year.
In addition to the new Facebook offices—“a dedicated hub for our tech and engineering teams” per Robert Cookson, a vice president of real estate and facilities at Facebook—the revamped Farley Building will include 120,000 square feet of retail and dining space for “full-service restaurants and curated lifestyle brands” and Amtrak’s Moynihan Train Hall. It’s the anchoring project of a larger $2 billion neighborhood refresh—the so-called Penn District—that also includes $3 billion in area transportation and infrastructural upgrades. Vornado owns 10 million square feet of space in the often tumble-down area around the Farley Building, Penn Station, and Madison Square Garden that will be overhauled. Steven Roth, chairman and CEO of Vornado, referred to the district as the future “new epicenter of Manhattan” in a statement.
“Vornado’s and Facebook’s investment in New York and commitment to further putting down roots here—even in the midst of a global pandemic—is a signal to the world that our brightest days are still ahead and we are open for business,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in his own brief statement on the deal. “This public-private partnership fortifies New York as an international center of innovation.”
While news that Facebook will populate all of the Farley Building’s commercial office space—and yes, some USPS operations will reportedly remain in the building as part of the ambitious adaptive reuse plan—isn’t surprising, the timing of the announcement is a touch curious.
In May, Mark Zuckerberg told workers during a livestreamed staff meeting that up to half of the company’s over 52,000 employees would likely shift to a permanent work-from-home scenario. Now, Facebook is significantly expanding its physical footprint in the Big Apple amid a pandemic—evidence of some kind of optimism regarding the future importance of commercial real estate in the city. (Reports that Facebook was in talks to occupy the Farley Building predated the COVID-19 crisis.)
In addition to its new sizable spread at the Farley Building, Facebook also leases substantial office space at Hudson Yards and several floors of 770 Broadway, the latter of which is also owned by Vornado. Per the New York Times, the Menlo Park, California–headquartered tech behemoth can claim over 2.2 million square feet of Manhattan office space now that the Farley Building deal is in the bag.