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Carter's View

The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved early this afternoon an amendment to its declaration supporting an application by RFR Realty LLC, to the City Planning Commission for a special permit waiving setback and height regulations for the transfer of air rights from the Seagram Building at 375 Park Avenue, which it owns, to an adjacent site at 610 Lexington Avenue for the erection of a 709-foot-high, mixed-use tower.

The amendment was necessary because the developer

has altered plans for the project. When the initial application was approved by the commission last fall, Aby Rosen, one of the principals of RFR Realty LLC, told CityRealty.Com that the building will contain 80 to 90 condominium apartments and 45 to 50 hotel rooms.

The revised plan now calls for only 17 apartments, which will be on the top 11 floors of the tower, and 207 hotel rooms, a reflection of the crowded residential condominium market and the high demand for hotel rooms especially in midtown.

The new tower will only utilize about 90 percent of the available, unused air rights from the Seagram Building, which only occupies 52 percent of its site and is widely regarded as an icon of modern architecture that was also very influential in the widespread use of plazas in city zoning.

Mr. Rosen said that Hines, the Houston-based developer and real estate owner that owns the third property on the block, the 36-story, black-glass-clad tower formerly known as Manhattan Tower at 600 Lexington Avenue will be the construction manager for the new tower.

Sir Norman Foster of Foster and Partners is the architect of the new tower.

He is also the architect for another Aby Rosen project, the redevelopment of the former Parke-Bernet Building at 980 Madison Avenue. His design for that project, however, was recently rejected for not being "appropriate" to the historic district in which it is situated.

The very slender tower on Lexington Avenue will be separated from the tower of the 515-foot-high Seagram Building by 117 feet.

RFR Realty LLC recently bought the mid-rise building at 610 Lexington Avenue, the former home of the YWCA, on the southwest corner of 53rd Street, cattycorner to

Citicorp Center, which is 915 feet high. RFR also owns Lever House on Park Avenue and developed 425 Fifth Avenue and are nearing completion of Park Avenue Place at 60 West 55th Street.

Foster and Partners designed the new notched tower addition to the Hearst Building now nearing completion on the southeast corner of Eighth Avenue and 57th Street. Sir Norman Foster is widely regarded as one of the world's foremost "high-tech" architects and his famous projects include the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in England, the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank Headquarters in Hong Kong, the Commerzbank Headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, and the Great Court at the British Museum in London.

Under the terms of the application that will go before the City Planning Commission, the developers will pledge to restore and maintain the landmark Seagram Building and will establish a covenant with the New York Landmarks Conservancy, a civic organization, to that effect.

Spokespersons for the Municipal Art Society and the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects, said their groups supported it.

The presentation before the commission emphasized that the new tower would not be visible from street-level from directly across Park Avenue from the Seagram Building.

Although the north and south facades of the tower will be straight, the east and west facades will have three 3-facet bays, he continued, adding that the light-colored facades will contrast with the bronze-clad Seagram Building.
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Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.
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