The 1,200 foot-tall, 56-story skyscraper developed by Vornado Realty Trust is set to be, er, erected after the demolition of the historic Hotel Pennsylvania is completed. The 2.7 million-square-foot tower will be the tallest in Vornado’s Penn District project, a $1.3 billion mega campus that has been met with fervent resistance from neighborhood preservationists but for now appears to be moving forward.
Featuring a mix of ground-floor 7th Avenue retail, office space, and residential units, PENN15 will possess floor-to-ceiling glass windows, 6 tenant amenity floors with ceilings as tall as 27 feet, and 37 landscaped terraces with views of the neighborhood’s original phallic tower, the Empire State Building.
PENN15’s open floor plans, large corporate auditoriums, and communal outdoor spaces are designed to attract tech and financial service companies (a match made in heaven for this level of BDE???). While once-rumored tenant Facebook has since leased elsewhere, maybe Elon Musk will move in.
In the spirit of fairness, we must acknowledge PENN15’s commitment to sustainability. Developers plan to install water-reducing rainwater collection and smart meter systems, use photovoltaic cells on the exterior to help power the building, integrate natural ventilation systems, and use low embodied carbon materials for its construction. They’re not total dicks!!
And as for the Hotel Pennsylvania? Despite petitions and protests at several planning meetings, the historic McKim, Mead, and White 2,200-room building completed in 1903 is currently in the process of being demolished. Also on the chopping block to make room for the futuristic Penn complex? Touro College’s Graduate School of Education (320 W31st St — corner of 8th Ave) and St John the Baptist Church (213 W30th St bw 7/8th Ave).
While a need for a new, improved Penn Station is widely agreed upon by city officials and residents alike, the sudden explosion of slick, multi-billion-dollar campuses is seen by neighborhood advocates as a manipulative play for developer cash rather than an improvement to Midtown’s largest transit hub.
Said a statement from representatives of Community Board 4: “It is time for a better Penn Station. New York City deserves a world class, intermodal transportation center. Our communities are eager to improve Penn Station and we want to do it right. Unfortunately, the plan introduced by the Empire State Development Corporation at the height of the pandemic has nothing to do with Penn Station or infrastructure. Rather, it is a real estate development packaged as a ‘transportation’ project.”
As the historic Beaux-Arts facade of the Hotel Pennsylvania crumbles, it’s clear that in this case, the developers have won out. And if your eyes need some time to adjust to seeing PENN15 plastered somewhere other than a middle school notebook, fear not — Vornado does not expect to complete the project until close to the end of the decade.