One Vanderbilt, a soaring glass- and terra cotta-clad supertall tower adjacent to Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan, officially opened yesterday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony that, for the most part, proceeded in typically festive fashion. That is, save for the facial coverings, social distancing, and pointedly optimistic, forward-thinking prepared statements that focused on perseverance and a very near future when life within New York City’s normally bustling commercial districts and the cloud-brushing, billion-dollar skyscrapers that populate them will resume to something more closely resembling normal.
As project architect Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) describes the 77-story addition to the Manhattan skyline that, at just over 1,400 feet tall, stands as the second tallest office tower in the entire city: “One Vanderbilt symbolizes the city’s resilience and looks to the future of its central business district with a number of public realm benefits, carefully crafted materiality, and a tapered form that establishes a striking skyline presence.”
In addition to its superlative height (yes, there’s a yet-to-open outdoor observation deck, slated to also be the second-highest in the city), the LEED and WELL-certification-aiming One Vanderbilt is also being touted as one of the most ecologically sensitive skyscrapers in New York, boasting $17 million’s worth of various sustainability features including high-performance glazing that helps to minimize heating and cooling needs and a 90,000-gallon rainwater collection system.
Through a significant public-private partnership with the city and the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the building’s development has brought about a $220 million investment in infrastructural improvements and new pen public space that, per developer SL Green Realty Corp., will “help ease congestion and overcrowding on subway platforms, improve circulation in and around the terminal, and create new, direct pathways to the regional railroads.” Chief among these improvements are a 4,000-square-foot transit hall located beneath the new tower, a new 14,000 square foot pedestrian plaza on Vanderbilt Avenue straddling 42nd and 43rd Streets, new street-level subway entrances, and more.
Developed by SL Green in partnership with Hines and the National Pension Service of Korea, One Vanderbilt is a transformative project for the area that AN has followed from its controversial approval to its groundbreaking and throughout its four-year construction period as exemplary of what can be built under the East Midtown rezoning. Debuting a skyscraper with 1.7-million-square-feet of Class-A office space in the midst of a global pandemic when the future of how we will work—and from where—remains a towering question mark was never, of course, in the cards. But as evidenced by yesterday’s opening ceremony, the developers and the city are confident that the show will go on.
“Now, more than ever, we need to demonstrate to our fellow New Yorkers that we’re still capable of achieving great things in this city,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer in a statement. “The completion and opening of One Vanderbilt is one of them. Most importantly, for those working, living, and commuting through the Grand Central neighborhood, they will see an immediate impact on their quality of lives through the public benefits we were able to secure.”
To that end, One Vanderbilt is reportedly near 70 percent leased with core tenants including TD Securities and TD Bank, the Carlyle Group, Oakhill Advisors, KPS Capital Partners, and SL Green. Tenants plan to begin moving into the building, which granted a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy earlier this month, in staggered stages beginning later this year and through the beginning of next. Chef Daniel Boulud is also set to open a second-floor restaurant, Le Pavilion, during the first half of 2021, which will be the building’s sole retail establishment in addition to a TD Bank outpost. There will also be a 30,000-square-foot tenants-only floor complete with an outdoor terrace, lounge, meetings space, and “curated food offerings.”
Despite the logistical challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and the at-times bumpy road to realization, One Vanderbilt was finished roughly a year ahead of schedule (and under-budget) with a fully unionized team of 3,000 workers headed by contractor AECOM Tishman.
“This was the most complex challenge we ever faced, with countless regulatory, political, legal, and engineering hurdles every step of the way,” said Andrew Mathias, president of SL Green. “There were many moments when it was difficult, but because of our belief in this city and this project we persevered.”