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News April 2011

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SOM/Bunshaft’s Manufacturers Trust Company Building greenlighted for retail

April 26, 2011

The saga of 510 Fifth Avenue (former Manufacturers Trust Co.) came to a conclusion on April 19, as the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved Vornado Realty Trust’s application for a Certificate of Appropriateness for its proposed modifications to accommodate two tenants, based on some further design refinements.

Refinements proposed by Vornado and its architect SOM at their third presentation were limited to the new entrances (still two on Fifth Avenue, one on 43rd Street). Entrances will now have frames set within the existing curtain wall mullion system, making them clearly separate and reversible. A dark baseplate was added to the doors, continuing the line of the adjacent granite base along the sidewalk. Doors are fully glass (metal signage transoms were removed in the previous round of refinements on April 12); signage will be freestanding behind the curtain wall.

Vornado also proposed additional restoration work not previously included: replacement of non-original spandrel panels on the Fifth Avenue facade to match the original panels (which reportedly remain in place on 43rd Street), as well as replicating and installing zinc strips that create the grid of the original terrazzo floor.

Other modifications were apparently accepted by the LPC in Vornado’s April 12 presentation:
–- Escalators will be relocated and reoriented in an east/west direction, but positioned in tandem, rather than in the scissors configuration previously proposed;
— The north vault wall will still be removed, but the black granite will be reinstalled on the south wall, demarcating the extent of the original vault. Similarly, the original vault footprint will be demarcated by stainless steel flooring;
— The proposed new screen will remain in a slightly different position than the original Bertoia screen (behind columns rather than in front);
— Previously proposed vertical louvers were replaced by fabric curtains as in the original building;
— Glass rails at the edge of the mezzanine floor will incorporate a translucent zone recalling the height of original planters (but without any greenery!);
— A new elevator remains as previously proposed; and
— The east/west demising wall between tenant spaces remains, including an awkward jog objected to by some Commissioners.

The full contingent of commissioners was not present, however various commissioners present expressed regret about having more than one entrance on Fifth Avenue, discontinuing use of the original entrance on 43rd Street, the escalator change, the screen position, and the awkward demising wall configuration. One reiterated that a single tenancy would have eliminated virtually all of these problems. But all expressed satisfaction that the building will see renewed use, and acknowledged that adaptive re-use requires modifications. SOM’s elegant banking hall will be home to a Joe Fresh emporium come fall. Blame it on the advent of the ATM and the age of bank mergers.

photo: Ezra Stoller © Esto