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Check out a new rendering of the giant office tower coming to midtown

Will this Juul-shaped office tower be enough to save midtown?

Written by
Howard Halle

Ever since Governor Cuomo announced the lockdown back in March, New Yorkers who are fortunate to have jobs that allow them to work from home have been doing so, using email and apps like Zoom to conduct business. And by all accounts, moving that part of the economy online has worked well—so well that people are beginning to ask, Why bother going back to the office at all? And some companies are beginning to agree.

Twitter, for one, has already told its workers to work from home permanently, and now there's considerable conjecture the midtown will become a ghost town as corporations abandon their New York HQs. We're a long way from that, but at the very least, it may cause downward pressure on commercial rents in office towers, discouraging the construction of new ones.

So it was a surprising to see the release via Yimby of updated renderings for a long-gestating supertall office tower near Madison Square Garden. Part of a plan to redevelop the Hotel Pennsylvania across the street from Penn Station, the project—located at 401 Seventh Avenue between 32nd and 33rd Street—has been variously known as 15 Penn Plaza and Penn15, and was originally envisioned to rise 1,216 feet, making it shorter than the Empire State Building by just 34 feet. This sparked worry that the new edifice would overshadow the ESB, which occupies pride of place on the NYC skyline.

Governor Cuomo, Zoom, midtown, Madison Square Garden, Empire State Building, Penn15, Rafael Vinoly
Photograph: Vornado

Previous iterations of the proposed building included designs by Cesar Pelli and Rafael Vinoly—the starchitect behind what is arguably the ugliest building in NYC. The new plan isn't much better since it resembles a giant vape pen stood on end. Given current circumstances, it's unlikely that it will ever see the light of day, leaving midtown’s fate up in the air.

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