One Vanderbilt, which will soon break ground on one of the key corners of East 42nd Street, is certain to alter the area in profound ways.
From river to river, 42nd Street is, of course, one of the iconic thoroughfares of Manhattan — a hive of constant and frantic life. But its character is hardly continuous along its two miles.
For more than a half century, the stretch from Fifth Avenue to about Second Avenue has been a fairly uninspiring stretch of office buildings. Many of these buildings, dating to the earlier part of the 20th century, are of impressive size but of no great architectural distinction. Then there are the Art Deco palaces of the 1920s and ’30s, like the Chrysler Building and the former Daily News Building, that also line the stretch, and post-war office towers such as the Socony-Mobil Building.
More recently, 42nd Street has seen additions like Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s 300 Madison Avenue, in 2003, and Kohn Pedersen Fox’s 505 Fifth Avenue, two years later.
Although those last two buildings are quite tall, they have hardly altered the general spirit of the place.
But the new building that is set to rise on the corner of Vanderbilt Avenue and 42nd Street, a 64-story, 1.7-million-square-foot office tower being developed by SL Green Realty and designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, will represent a more fundamental change than anything this part of Manhattan has seen since the construction of the Chrysler Building. In fact, it will be the first tower in Midtown East to exceed that iconic building in height. […]