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NYC Skyscraper Tallest Ever to Face Demolition

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

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An iconic midtown Manhattan skyscraper, designed by Natalie de Blois and Gordon Bunshaft of architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, is slated to be demolished as soon as early next year. If plans move forward, the skyscraper will be the world’s largest building to be deliberately destroyed.

The 270 Park Avenue skyscraper, the headquarters of JPMorgan Chase, currently stands 215 meters (705 feet) tall, but the new structure would be 18 stories taller, according to reports, and create space for an additional 9,000 employees.

Structure History and Design

The 52-story skyscraper, formerly known as the Union Carbide Building, was completed in 1961, and is considered an iconic example of the International Style in New York City. Architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable dubbed the building a “post-war miracle.”

Equipped with steel ribs, glass panels and black spandrels, 270 Park Avenue also features a two-level lobby that was designed as a workaround for the railroad tracks that ran underneath the structure from Grand Central Station. To create this, columns had to be sunk between the tracks, and the elevator block had to be placed above ground.

In 2012, the building underwent renovations to be brought up to LEED Platinum standards.

Why the New Skyscraper?

JPMorgan Chase has determined that the structure no longer suits the company’s needs, as it is not large enough to house their growing workforce. Currently, 6,000 employees are working in a building intended for 3,500. The new skyscraper, slated to be fully LEED-certified, would both provide an additional 1,000,000 square feet of space and room for another 9,000 employees.

Construction of the tower would also create 8,000 construction-related jobs while the structure was being built, according to a press release issued by the bank.  

The New York Times noted that four years ago, JPMorgan Chase explored construction of a $6.5 billion two-towered headquarters in Manhattan’s Far West Side. But the deal failed due to the city rejecting the company’s request for roughly $1 billon in tax breaks, on top of the $600 million in property tax breaks the bank receives.

JPMorgan Chase’s demolition plans were made possible by a new zoning rule for Midtown East, which enables companies to buy the development rights of nearby buildings in order to increase the height of proposed developments. Developers have to pay the city $61.49 per square foot of unused development rights, which in turn is used for public improvements. JPMorgan Chase plans to buy unused rights from nearby buildings, which will generate $40 million for the aforementioned public modifications.

Architect Criticism

According to reports, architecture critic Paul Goldberger said he was “speechless” in light of the news, and fellow critic Justin Davidson also said that demolishing “one of the peaks of modernist architecture in the name of modernity is obscene, a sign that you consider your city disposable.”

Architectural preservation nonprofit Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sights and Neighborhoods of the Modern Movement has urged the city’s landmark preservation commission to designate the structure as a landmark building before demolition can begin.  

City mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed satisfaction with JPMorgan Chase’s plans, however, noting that the proposal reflected the city’s plan for Midtown East. However, according to Curbed New York, demolition permits for the building have yet to be filed.

If plans move ahead, the new tower is slated for completion by 2024. The new building has yet to be designed, and is still subject to a series of approvals.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Color + Design; Commerial/Architectural; Condominiums/High-Rise Residential; Design; North America; Urban Planning

Comment from Steve Black, (12/26/2018, 11:15 AM)

This is waste on an epic scale! Not only the destruction of architectural heritage it is a complete waste of resources. Only a mega financial institution could attempt to get away with wasting this many resources. Think of all the embodied energy in the existing structure. The new building could not generate enough energy to offset the foot print of the demolition, disposal and reconstruction. Your shareholders should be appalled. Your corporate sustainability page is significantly diminished in the face of this news. I suppose the "reimagined approach" includes burying your head in the sand about the impact of the newly built environment on the planet. Come on JP Morgan, be more creative in solving physical space issues, the planet needs big thinking not bigger buildings.

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