Eye on NYC: Developers Press Ahead with Massive Projects

Developments that will reshape the Manhattan skyline continue to move forward by fits and starts. A joint venture of Vornado Realty Trust and affiliates of Lawrence Ruben Co. won a six-month extension on a deadline that is central to plans for a 1.3 million-square-foot office tower that would rise above the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, granted the extension to allow the joint venture, 20 X Square Associates L.L.C., to wrap a 99-year lease for redevelopment of the terminal’s north wing. The extension will also allow for a transaction to lease, renovate and manage retail space in the terminals’ south wing.Even if a lease agreement is not reached when the 180-day period expires, the development team would be eligible for a second 180-day extension as long as certain performance milestones are satisfied, a Port Authority spokesman told CPN. If the second extension period ends before an agreement is reached, however, 20 X Square Associates would lose its exclusive negotiation rights. The Port Authority and 20 X Square Associates simultaneously released three renderings of the office tower submitted by three firms that are in the running to design the tower: Kohn Pedersen Fox Achitects (pictured), Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, and Rogers Stirk Harbour + Associates. Vornado and Ruben, operating as 20 X Square Associates, could start four years of construction in 2009 or 2010, a spokesperson for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey told CPN today. By the time construction begins, SJP Properties would be nearing completion on 11 Times Square, a 1.1 million-square-foot office tower near the bus terminal on 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue. The two buildings would add a significant amount of inventory to the Midtown Manhattan, but local market analysts note that the addition of new office space has been at historic lows in recent years and that office vacancy in Midtown remains well under 10 percent. The news is less promising for another major Midtown project: Moynihan Station, a mixed-use transit hub project that was to expand the cramped Pennsylvania Station transit hub into an historic post office building across Eighth Avenue. The proposal by Vornado and its joint-venture partner, the Related Cos., calls for demolition of the existing Madison Square Garden on 7th Avenue and building a new arena one block west on the site of a post office annex. But the massive plan’s prospects continue to dim. Tired of slow progress on Moynihan Station, Cablevision Inc., Madison Square Garden’s owner, now plans to move forward on a $500 million renovation of the venue instead of allowing for its demolition. That would prevent the expansion of the train station. In a further step toward the renovation, on Thursday it was revealed that The Skanska Group has been tapped as construction manager.