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Olayan gets landmark approval for 550 Madison makeover

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) today (Tuesday) approved new design for 550 Madison, the landmark former Sony Building in East Midtown.

Following LPC’s designation of 550 as a landmark in 2018, the ownership team – led by The Olayan Group with development partners RXR Realty and Chelsfield – has worked with architect and landscape architect Snøhetta to preserve the tower while providing modern upgrades.

With LPC approval of the new design, with modifications, exterior work will begin and the celebrated office tower is on track to reopen in 2020.

Erik Horvat, of Real Estate at Olayan America, said: “We are very excited to start exterior work, and continue ongoing interior improvements, to restore the building to its original prominence as a top Class A commercial destination in New York City. With modern interiors, a world-class public open space, and preserved façade, the building will once again attract top companies to East Midtown.

“We look forward to collaborating with the Landmarks Preservation Commission as we finalize our plans.”

The new plan includes:

  • Preserving the Landmark Tower: Snøhetta’s updated design will preserve and revitalize the landmark tower, undo past renovations that compromised the original design intent, and reconceive 550 Madison’s public spaces. The tower’s exterior will remain 94% unchanged. Further returning the building’s façade to the spirit of Johnson and Burgee’s original design, new clear storefront windows will allow people to see through the ground-floor retail and to read the full volume of the dramatic piers at the building’s base. All exterior-related work for the building will continue to be subject to review and approval by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
  • Expanding Public Open Space: A reimagined public open space will finally deliver on the true public amenity that Philip Johnson envisioned. The East Midtown community sits last among Manhattan community districts with regards to the amount of public open space it offers. Through Snøhetta’s design, the renovated public open space at 550 Madison will increase by 50%, creating a visual and sensory retreat in the heart of East Midtown. The upper portions of the existing four-story annex, the altered glass roof, and side street enclosures that were added during the 1990s will be removed, creating an expansive, open and inviting public garden. Protected by a new canopy inspired by Johnson’s design vocabulary, the open space will include 42 new trees, eight bike racks, and seven public restrooms. It will expand the seating available to accommodate more than 260 people. This will become the largest privately-owned covered pedestrian space within a five-minute walk of the building.
  • Modernizing Interiors: 550 Madison is an exceptionally well-built structure with many highly desirable features: 14-foot high ceilings; large, column-free floor plates; north, south, east, and west-facing views of New York City; river to river sightlines; and offices overlooking Central Park. With thoughtful interior modifications and infrastructure upgrades led by the construction and engineering team, the building will be in a position to accommodate a variety of modern office and retail tenants with high-quality amenities, bringing significant public benefits to East Midtown consistent with the goals of the City’s recent East Midtown rezoning. Tenants will be able to start moving in in 2020.
  • Sustainable Infrastructure Upgrades: Infrastructure upgrades will make the building a model of sustainable design, targeting LEED Platinum, Wired, and WELL certifications. Sustainable and healthy building materials will be sourced throughout the building. The upgrades will achieve a minimum 30% reduction in water use and an energy usage target 10% below current New York City energy code.

 The Olayan Group owns 550 Madison, which was acquired in 2016. They are working with development partners RXR Realty and Chelsfield. The three firms have  experience preserving and modernizing historic and landmark buildings in the US and internationally, including these properties in New York City: the iconic Helmsley Building, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, Pier 57, the former Westbury Hotel, 387 West Broadway, and the Starrett-Lehigh Building.

In November 2018, 550 Madison ownership announced that AECOM Tishman was selected as Construction Manager for the revitalization of 550 Madison.

 CBRE is the exclusive leasing agent for the building.

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