The city says Midtown Manhattan is falling behind the curve because of the age of the office buildings in the neighborhood but they are trying to change that. NY1's Jill Urban filed the following report.
It’s one of the city’s most premier office districts. East Midtown, around Grand Central Terminal, is a major job and transportation hub but an aging building stock could threaten the area’s future. So now, the department of City Planning is looking at ways to help maintain its cache while bringing the area into the 21st century.
"The buildings in this area, there are about 500 of them, are very, very old," says Amanda Burden, the director of the New York City Department of Planning. "The average age is over 70 years old, much older than the premier business districts around the world."
In the last decade, there only two new medium-size office buildings have come to the area. Burden says part of the reason for the lack of development is zoning, as current zoning has significant size restrictions and creates many obstacles for developers.
A rezoning strategy is in the works that could incentivize development of a handful of state of the art office buildings and preserve the area at the same time. Basically, if owners meet certain criteria, they can be eligible to build bigger and higher.
"In order to develop in this area, there are specific requirements," Burden says. "You have to have a full avenue frontage, you have to have a minimum site size of 25,000 square feet. And then you can develop if you pay into a fund that will go to targeted improvements in Grand Central Station and/or the transformation of Vanderbilt Avenue into a great place of stature and distinction."
The boundaries for the proposal area are roughly affect areas from Fifth Avenue to Third Avenue from 39th Street to 57th Street.
Right now, the plan is still in the outreach phase. The commissioner hopes to begin the public review process next spring to have the new zoning in place by the end of next year. Even if it is, permits would not be granted until 2017 to prevent the area from competing with development at Hudson Yards and to give owners time to turn their tenant base.
Even though it may take some time, the proposal could help bring this iconic district into a new era.