By Sarah Trefethen
A proposal to rezone Midtown East and allow new high-rise office construction is winding its way through the city bureaucracy, but David Levinson isn’t waiting.
Levinson’s L&L Holdings plans to break ground in 2015 on a new Class A office tower at 425 Park Avenue — the first new construction project on Park Avenue in decades.
The company announced in October that Pritzker Prize-winning architect Sir Norman Foster would design the 41-story tower.
If the building were available for lease today, office space on the upper floors would likely command rents of $165 psf, Levinson told the members of the Young Men and Women’s Real Estate Association at its monthly luncheon yesterday (Tuesday).
“This is going to be the most remarkable building that we see built in midtown in our lifetime,” he said. L&L is still working with the city to secure approval for the design, which is 687 feet tall and suspended 50 feet off the ground, the first floor hovering above a public plaza.
Sacrificing ground-floor retail in exchange for additional square footage with Central Park Views on the upper stories also adds to the building’s civic character, Levinson said.
“Civic responsibility is important at L&L,” he said. Looking after the public realm, he said, “increases the prestige of building, and that will keep it fully rented at extremely high rents.”
At 650,000 s/f, Levinson described the planned tower as a “bespoke office building,” and expressed little concern about securing tenants.
The design features column-free floor plates and an external core, designed with today’s open-plan offices of densely clustered workspaces in mind.
“I don’t know what perfect is in terms of efficiency, but this is as close to perfect as I’ve ever seen,” he said, showing a slide of a sample floor plan.
Two of the floors, at points where the tower narrows, will be “amenities” floors, Levinson said, with outdoor and indoor space for people to meet and collaborate. One floor will most likely be leased to a single tenant, and the other will be available to the remaining tenants, he said.
In order to comply with current zoning regulations, it may be necessary to leave 25 percent of the old building in place and incorporated into the new structure, something that was taken into consideration in the design.
“We have a way to do it,” Levinson said. “It’s just daunting and a terrible waste of money.”
Other L&L projects — at 380 Madison, 114 Fifth Avenue and 222 and 195 Broadway downtown — are focused on extensively renovating older “commodity” office buildings to meet the desires of modern tenants looking for a home among the city’s aging offices.
With most of the major Manhattan development sites spoken for, Levinson said, the total development pipeline for new office space is just five percent of the current inventory.
“The skill sets to re-imagine existing buildings for us is key,” he said.