Plans announced late yesterday by the pandemic-battered retailer once again envision constructing a soaring modern glass skyscraper designed by FXCollaborative on top of its historic, 2.5-million-square-foot 34th Street store. Macy’s says that by leveraging this sizable chunk of Manhattan real estate, it would embark on a public improvements campaign involving substantial public transit-focused upgrades and pedestrianization efforts in the immediate vicinity of its city block-spanning landmark store.
“We are doubling down on our commitment to New York by reinvesting in our flagship location while committing $235 million in private investment to upgrade the Herald Square neighborhood,” said Macy’s, Inc., CEO Jeff Gennette in a statement.
While details on the department store-topping super-tall tower, which was first announced in February 2020, remain relatively thin at this point, the neighborhood improvement elements of the so-called Macy’s Renewing Herald Square project have been fleshed out a bit more.
AN has been told that FXCollaborative, in addition to generating early-stage conceptual renderings for the project, has also been closely involved in the planning and feasibility analysis for the tower location. AN has also learned that while no firms have been selected to carry out the public improvements at this early stage, Stantec has been involved in conceptual planning and feasibility analysis for transit and civil work related to Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) approvals and coordination with transit authorities.
A development partner has not been named.
“The proposal’s structure is expected to sit atop the existing building and will be contextually appropriate—the final design has not been finalized,” elaborated the retailer. “Macy’s will engage the community and local leaders to inform how the project can deliver the vision for a renewed Herald Square. However, the building would add complementary density to the transit-oriented development district envisioned by the project.”
Macy’s also noted that this addition of an untold amount of new commercial office space will generate an estimated $269 million annually in new tax revenues for New York City, support 16,290 annual jobs, and lead to $4.29 billion in annual economic output. The retailer is, of course, hedging its bets on forecasts that predict commercial Manhattan real estate will rebound—and thrive—coming out of the pandemic and that the need for a gigantic new Midtown office tower and the public infrastructure to support it will be there down the line.
“The building industry will play a vital role in New York City’s economic recovery, and Macy’s plan will not only ensure the longevity of its iconic Herald Square store, but will vastly improve the streetscape of a pedestrian-heavy district while creating thousands of well-paying construction jobs,” said Carlo A. Scissura, president and CEO of the New York Building Congress, in a statement.
Per Macy’s, adding the skyscraper to the iconic 11-story department store, which also serves as the retailer’s corporate hub, would not “impact various classic and celebrated features at the store, including the wooden escalators that pioneered the technology when they were built in the 1920s.” The store itself would also not gain any additional square footage.
While the latest announcement doesn’t assign the tower with a proposed height or square footage, Macy’s, in its pre-pandemic reveal, envisioned it as standing over 900 feet tall and spanning 1.5-million-square-feet.
Built in 1901 (with several additions completed during the first half of the 20th century), Macy’s De Lemos & Cordes-designed Beaux-Arts retail emporium was added to the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a National Historic landmark in 1978. The company notes that the new tower will be subject to an environmental impact review as part of the ULURP process and that the company would “work closely with local officials, Manhattan Community Board 5, the 34th Street Partnership and other community stakeholders on final designs.”
Operations within the store would continue uninterrupted during the duration of the project, which it should be pointed out, is dependent on the area being rezoned to allow for the construction of the skyscraper.
As for the $235 million in deal-sweetening upgrades that would positively impact the store’s immediate environs, they would transform both Herald Square and Broadway Plaza into a “modern, car-free pedestrian-friendly urban space;” ease pedestrian access to the store at Broadway and 34th street and give way to new transit entrances to the Herald Square Subway Station near Penn station; enhance the existing entrance to Herald Square station at Greely Square, and install ADA-accessible elevators at 7th Avenue and 34th Street and 35th Street and Broadway to the station while “creating additional pedestrian space on the northern edge of Penn Station.”
Macy’s makes clear that its planned investments are independent of another transformative—not to mention highly contentious—redevelopment proposal centered around neighboring Penn Station, which is a quick five-minute walk to the southwest. It will, however, “complement the ongoing investment in the surrounding area,” explained Macy’s, adding that the “various public realm investments will be appropriate to the community and will seamlessly blend with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s transit system upgrades.”
Plans to “unlock additional real estate value” by building a skyscraper above the Macy’s flagship were initially floated in April 2019 but with no allusion to any potential investment in Herald Square’s transit infrastructure and street-level pedestrian spaces. In February of last year, as mentioned, Macy’s released initial design renderings and some information about the proposed tower, but concrete details regarding a neighborhood improvement package were scant. The project was then temporarily shelved during the pandemic. Now, with all that’s going on just a block or so away, it only makes sense that Macy’s is back in the Midtown skyscraper game.