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Yesterday, construction applications were filed to convert the iconic Crown Building at 730 Fifth Avenue between West 56th and 57th Streets in Midtown. As the preeminent pre-war gem of the highly coveted Plaza District, the upper floors of the 390,000-square-foot commercial tower were acquired by Michael Shvo and Russian billionaire Vladislav Doronin of Aman Resorts for $500 million in 2015. The duo purchased the building from Jeff Sutton’s Wharton Properties and General Growth Properties, who had reportedly paid $1.775 billion for the entire building earlier that year.
Previous reports have hinted that the SHVO / Doronin team are eyeing an “ultraluxury” residential and hotel conversion. Late last month, The Real Deal announced that the developers have submitted a condo offering plan to the Attorney General’s office. Ultimately, the property will host expanded retail spaces, an Aman Hotel with approximately 80 upscale suites, and 26 residences that will go by the name Aman New York Residences.
The newly-filed building permit indicate that SLCE are the architects of record, and the property will receive a “horizontal enlargement” that will increase the building floor area by some 55,000 square feet. The New York Post hinted in 2015 that the team may pump up the building’s valuable retail area with the addition of lower level mezzanine. The intersection at Fifth Avenue and West 57th Street is often regarded as the most expensive retail location on the planet. Current retailers in the building include Piaget, Bulgari and K. Mikimoto & Co.. Bergdorf Goodman, LVMH and Tiffany & Co. anchor the other three corners of the intersection.
Photo credit: OKO Group and Carter Horsley
Image courtesy of Wharton Properties
The roughly 180 hotel suites will begin on the fourth floor and amenities will include a fitness center, swimming pool, spa, a restaurant and a dining area and lounge. The Aman New York Residences will begin on the eleventh floor and will be grand in scale given the low unit counts per floor. The chateau-in-the-sky-like crown of the building will be occupied by a single spectacular penthouse. The unit will span five levels from floors 22 through 26, and provide far-reaching views over Central Park and down Fifth Avenue. Available condos in the nearby Plaza Hotel average $3,915 per square foot and range from a $1.295 million one-bedroom to a $58.9 million four-bedroom spread.
Remarkable for its gilded detailing, high-wattage nighttime illumination and elaborate pyramid-shaped crown, its legendary owners have included the Spitzer and Winter families, and also Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos before a military-backed revolt toppled the regime. The tower was finished in 1921 and designed by Warren & Wetmore, the architects of Grand Central Terminal, the Helmsley Building and the Steinway Building which is undergoing its own high-end conversion by JDS Development.
Image courtesy of Wharton Properties
The building was developed by August Heckscher, a philanthropist who made his fortune from zinc and real estate. According to Carter Horsley’s City Review, the building was first known as the "The Tower of Trade" and then the Heckscher Building. In 1929, it held the original home of the Museum of Modern Art. Its small office lobby is the result of maximizing its valuable retail frontages. Upon completion, Heckscher mused, “Whoever will not shop on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street will not shop anywhere."
The tower was one of the last classical, pre-Art Deco towers in the city, and is splendidly massed with several setbacks that comply with the recently-instituted 1916 Zoning Resolution. According to Carter, the 412-foor high crown was originally capped by a 12-foot-high rooster that he suggest should be replaced by the deep-pocketed owners. The weathervane was removed in 1942 to be melted down for the war effort. Surrounded by Squibb Building, the General Motors Building, Trump Tower, and Bergdorf Goodman, the Crown Building is a prominent fixture in the Grand Army Plaza cityscape. At night, its sumptuous, golden illumination can be seen from most uptown corners of Fifth Avenue and numerous vantage points in Central Park. Worryingly, the building has not been designated an official city landmark. Possibly due to litigation, the Landmarks Preservation Commission has been hesitant in electing many large commercial buildings as landmarks.
Crown Building from the recently renovated Grand Army Plaza; CityRealty
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