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Hotel Pennsylvania redevelopment tower and a redesign of 2 Penn Plaza (Vornado Realty Trust)
The fate of the Hotel Pennsylvania has been hanging in limbo since...um, forever. The 1,700-room hotel, built by the Pennsylvania Railroad, was designed by McKim Mead & White in the same Beaux-Arts style as the original Penn Station and the Farley Post Office nearby. After a failed landmarking push and several redevelopment false starts, the building's owner, Vornado Realty Trust, slipped in an intriguing rendering showing a 2.8 MSF office tower replacing the 100-year-old structure.
The rendering was unearthed by the Lois Weiss of the NY Post and is buried in a recent Vornado investor report. The design, which appears rather conceptual, shows a teetering glass tower seemingly being pulled apart to reveal triple-height voids between stacks of offset floors. All in all, kinda frightful and in liner with that HFZ thing planned on 29th Street (poor Empire State Building). Judging from the shrubbery, the voids and terraces would be used as private outdoor spaces for the tenants within — an increasingly-popular amenity being offered by commercial developers today.
While the rendering appears somewhat slapped together (the 60-floor Epic is doubled and the proposed tower doesn't even sit on the hotel site if you look close enough), if the scale is correct the skyscraper could soar almost double the height of the 750-foot-tall One Penn Plaza shown on the far right.
Weiss questions the feasibility of the concept, asking "which tenant will pay sky-high rents to make it economically viable to tear down the 1.2-million-square-foot hotel and rebuild an engineering marvel that could cost $4 billion or more?" The project's potential to deliver immense floorplates, which could measure more than 70,000 square feet in size, attracted financial firms such as Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch in past economic cycles.

Factors that explain Vornado's push for the hotel's redevelopment include a negligible net supply of Manhattan office construction over the past 20 years and that the city's office-using jobs have grown at an average of 31,000 per year over the past eight years. Vornado explains an average job growth of 16,000 per year is enough to absorb the new supply in the pipeline. The firm is also ready to begin a redesign of 2 Penn Plaza and 1 Penn Plaza across Seventh Avenue.
Redesign of 2 Penn Plaza (VNO)
New design of 2 Penn Plaza
Map of Penn Station area with Vornado's properties highlighed
Dubbed 15 Penn Plaza, the project gained a 20% density increase and a midblock upzoning from the city in 2010. In return, the developer would provide transit improvements to the incredibly-congested area that includes moving several subway entrances and the reopening of the "Gimbels Passageway," an underground walkway connecting Penn Station and Herald Square. The concept presented at the time was conceived by the firm Pelli Clarke Pelli who designed a bowing glass tower standing 1,216 feet tall.

Those against the plan were not comfortable with the project's proximity and height in relation to the Empire State Building. Anticipated for completion in 2014, the recession indefinitely stalled the project. Last year, Vornado renewed the special permit with government factions.
Pelli Clarke Pelli Pelli Clarke Pelli's design for 15 Penn Plaza released n 2009
Pelli Clarke Pelli (Pelli Clarke Pelli)
Nevertheless, due to the legendary indecisiveness of the Steven Roth-led REIT, the stalwart hotel continues in operation today with room rates starting at an affordable $116 a month. The 22-story hotel inspired the 1938 Glenn Miller hit "Pennsylvania 6-5000" and was a popular stage for big bands led by Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, and the Dorsey brothers in the 30s and 40s.
 
 
 
 
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New Developments Editor Ondel Hylton Ondel is a lifelong New Yorker and comprehensive assessor of the city's dynamic urban landscape.
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