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The Olayan Group debuts Manhattan’s newest public garden

 The Olayan Group today held a ceremony with elected officials and city leaders to open a new, half-acre public garden at 550 Madison Avenue between 55th and 56th streets in Manhattan. 

The opening of the garden, the first new green space in Midtown in decades, comes as Olayan completes the repositioning of the iconic 550 Madison Avenue office tower, New York City’s youngest landmark.

Designed by international landscape and architecture firm Snøhetta, the garden is located adjacent to 550 Madison in the location of a formerly enclosed mid-block passageway. The garden is substantially larger than other local public spaces, and welcomes area workers, residents and visitors with abundant seating, 48 trees, 200 shrubs, 6,300 bulb plants, 10,000 herbaceous understory plants, gender inclusive public restrooms and three kiosks with food and beverage offerings.

The garden is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week, year-round. A 70-foot glass canopy covers the space, capturing 93,000 gallons of rainwater annually to sustainably irrigate the entire garden.

“The half-acre garden at 550 Madison is a welcoming new green space, offering a lush and elegant environment at the center of New York City,” said Erik Horvat, Managing Director of Real Estate at Olayan America. “The garden’s cutting-edge design and meticulous maintenance positions it among the most beautiful public spaces in the city, while providing a dynamic amenity to tenants of 550 Madison.”

“Snøhetta’s design for the new garden transforms the streets surrounding the iconic 550 Madison building into accessible, lavishly vegetated, and highly visible public space. A new lobby window and redesigned storefronts honor Philip Johnson’s original design. We are honored to help return this important part of Midtown to its visitors while contributing to the celebrated vibrancy of New York City,” said Michelle Delk, Partner and Landscape Architect, Snøhetta.

Built around a tranquil water feature and five sections centered on different focal structures, the 21,300-square foot garden is nearly twice the size of a previous public space in the same location. The garden’s bloom calendar is carefully timed for plant species to offer a wide range of colorful hues, from pink to purple, blue and yellow, at different blooming dates from February to October each year.

Distinct, “upland,” “lowland” and “sheltered” garden sections feature tree-filled backdrops and shrub skirts, drawing inspiration from Northeastern mountain vegetation ranging from fine-textured and airy to thick luxuriant foliage.

Mountain Rosebay, Smooth Hydrangea and Bottlebrush Buckeye fill the garden’s shrub skirt, with a tree assortment including Yellowwood, Sweetbay Magnolia and River Birch. Planters host a diversity of regional native species, from Soloman’s Seal, Goatsbeard and Black Cohosh to Coral Bell and Sword Fern.

The Olayan Group recently signed up three diverse local food and beverage brands for the garden’s three retail kiosks to create a superior experience for visitors – all begin operation on November 17. Eat Offbeat, a social impact food company that showcases cuisines made by refugee and immigrant chefs, will provide homestyle cooking from around the world. Local Roots NYC, which will offer farm-to-table Chinese fare and bubble tea, is an independent, minority woman-owned business that is leading a grassroots movement to build a community-driven, regenerative food system in New York City. Black Fox Coffee Co., a local New York City favorite, will offer a specialty coffee program utilizing their seasonal coffee beans roasted locally in Brooklyn.

Working alongside Snohetta on the garden was a team of leading landscape and horticulture companies, including Phyto, The Dirt Company, SiteWorks, Arup and Adamson Associates Architects.

The 41-story, 850,000-square-foot 550 Madison began as a single-tenant headquarters for AT&T when it opened in 1984. The building’s new garden is part of a six-year effort by Olayan to reimagine the high-rise – New York City’s youngest historic landmark – with wellness initiatives, sustainability programs and more than 30,000 square feet of luxury amenities.

In addition to the garden, building improvements include a Rockwell Group-designed club-level amenity space that promotes collaboration and creativity, including a concierge overseeing the Grand Hall, the Library, the Hearth Room, the Screening Room and the Billiards Room. The club level also includes multiple dining offerings and kitchens for events.

The state-of-the-art fitness center at 550 Madison exceeds those of many luxurious private wellness and athletic clubs, with elegant space for health classes and workouts. And a new Gensler-designed lobby creates a cathedral-like experience, full of sunlight, bronze mesh materials, rust-colored leather and a greyscale terrazzo floor.

Sunshine from a soaring 65-foot arched-glass window spills light onto the building’s centerpiece artwork, “Solid Sky,” by the artist Alicja Kwade. The 1.2-billion-year-old, 24-ton spherical installation is made of Azul do Macaubas quartzite that was quarried in Brazil before being suspended by chains from 550 Madison’s vaulted, triple-height ceiling.

CBRE is marketing 550 Madison, which is 50 percent leased. Recent marquee leases include a 24,000-square-foot lease with investment firm Corsair Capital; a 72,000-square-foot lease with French luxury designer Hermès, and a 240,000-square-foot lease with insurance giant Chubb. The iconic tower features a variety of customizable commercial floor plans and more than 22,000 square feet of new retail space.

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