Gordon Gill presented the designs for the planned tower at 217 West 57th Street at last night’s Landmarks meeting, and while the design is far from stunning, the tower will certainly be tall – coming in at 1,423 feet and 10 inches, the Nordstrom Tower will become the tallest building in New York City, topping 432 Park Avenue by just over 25 feet.
Besides black and white images, no renderings of the development were presented, aside from a series of videos that depicted the base more than the overall design. YIMBY’s coverage is posted on Youtube – forgive the terrible shaking and admittedly bad quality, but the ‘good’ video begins near the 4-minute mark, with the camera panning upwards to reveal the Nordstrom-occupied base as well as the bulk of the skyscraper.
More images are needed before a firm judgment can be made, however, early indications are not promising for the tower’s aesthetics; the building awkwardly cantilevers over the neighboring Art Students League, and YIMBY’s point in addressing this matter – which seems to be a result of the Nordstrom Tower’s location, behind Vornado’s future 220 Central Park South – was ironically ignored by the chair of the Landmarks Committee. Extell’s points in support of the cantilever relied on Nordstrom’s need for column-free space – which is certainly justified, but does not explain why the supertall’s core would be situated on the eastern side, rather than on the former plot of 1780 Broadway, which would remove the tower’s floor-print from the retail podium entirely.
It seemed the LC failed in its duty to protect historic landmarks and examine the cause for the cantilever, given the committee’s total ignorance of the tumult between Vornado and Extell – per the chair, the committee’s job is “not to be concerned with future developments,” though the conflict has clearly affected planning of both towers. In a prescient move, Extell bought the lease for the garage under 220 Central Park South after Vornado had acquired the entire building, holding the development hostage – the garage’s lease expired in 2018. If permits are to be believed, the dispute has been resolved, but the garage was clearly leverage for Extell over Vornado. Perhaps 217 West 57th Street’s cantilever over the Arts Students League was because of Nordstrom’s needs, but it seems more likely that the avoidance of the future 220 Central Park South was the chief motivating factor, which the committee chairman was either ignorant of, or purposely ignored.
While Gordon Gill failed to present any images of 217 West 57th in the context of greater New York, Skyscrapercity user Funkyskunk prepared the below rendering of the future skyline based on YIMBY’s video, incorporating The Nordstrom Tower. The massing is accurate to what was displayed at the LC meeting, and the outcome is unfortunate, to say the least.
Early indications are that the building’s awkward appearance is because economics and the insane market for Central Park views prevailed over good taste; as Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill’s first high-profile addition to New York’s skyline, the skyscraper is at best lackluster, and – at worst – a potential monstrosity. The problem is not its height, but the form and overall aesthetics, which border on schizophrenic. The Nordstrom Tower is fit for a developing city, but certainly not Midtown Manhattan. Hopefully future renderings shed a kinder light on the project, especially as Extell is known for consistently amazing work, but – per YIMBY’s observations – the future for 217 West 57th Street is bleak.
What was revealed was the base, which is actually quite nice, featuring intricate internal elements that add dynamism to the ground level. While New Yorkers at large may be forced to look at a less-than-desirable tower, 217 West 57th Street will certainly compliment the pedestrian experience.
Most tragic of all is the LC’s decision to allow the cantilever over the Art Students League; instead of protecting a historic structure and delivering potential input on an as-of-right project, the committee wasted an opportunity to shape the city’s future tallest building. The decision may come back to bite not only the Art Students League, but the aesthetic of the entire skyline.
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