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Famed Hotel Pennsylvania facing wrecking ball again

By Lois Weiss | August 5, 2014 | 1:29pm
Photo: Pelli Clarke Pell

The Hotel Pennsylvania may not be safe from the wrecking ball after all.

Vornado chief Steve Roth revealed Tuesday that financial firms have approached the real-estate powerhouse about resurrecting its plans to raze the famed hotel opposite Madison Square Garden and replace it with a 3 million square-foot tower, known as 15 Penn Plaza.

“We are getting very interesting intriguing incomings as to office tenants that might want that site,” Roth said during a conference call.

“We are putting our big toe in the marketplace to explore the opportunity to land a major anchor tenant for the site and the Penn Plaza district,” he added. “We are up to our eyeballs in it, but there is nothing specific we are able to go public with.”

Vornado shelved plans to build a tower to house new trading floors for Merrill Lynch after the brokerage firm backed away from the deal in 2007. Less than a year later, Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch as it teetered on the brink of collapse.

“We have a 3 million square foot financial services-oriented tower, which was designed for a huge financial services company that we had a deal with that went away during the Great Recession,” Roth recalled. “It is sitting on our shelves.”

The plans for the 68-story tower, which would rise almost as high as the nearby Empire State Building, also had been criticized by that building’s ownership for potentially ruining the skyline of New York.

Vornado finally shifted gears in March 2013, as The Post first reported, and announced plans for a massive renovation of the Hotel Pennsylvania, which would have the added benefit of improving the neighborhood where Vornado has extensive holdings.

But now, the Hudson Yards neighborhood to the west is gathering steam with a new park, major towers and big-name tenants, leading more companies to consider all the area sites and options.

While Roth said the roughly $300 million hotel renovation has been put “on hold,” the firm will go down one of two paths — either landing an anchor tenant for a new tower or a renovation of the hotel that would still generate more income and improve the neighborhood.

Roth, who acknowledged that the transformation of the neighborhood won’t be a short-term endeavor, said: “It’s three or four blocks in the city of New York on top of the busiest train station in North America.”


Awesome news, doctor!

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Indeed! This has always been a favorite of mine!

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Sweet! Awesome news indeed! Didn’t this tower get all the necessary approvals already with the city (community board & city council) minus a DOB filing??

They would not have to go through the process again do they?? I would think not.


New York City approved plans on Wednesday for a skyscraper near Pennsylvania Station that will rise to within 34 feet in height of the nearby Empire State Building, inserting a glassy challenger almost next door to what has been a defining element of the city’s skyline.

The 47-to-1 City Council vote came after a fierce weeklong public relations and lobbying campaign by the owners of the Empire State Building to stop the rival tower, contending that its bulky profile would scar the skyline and diminish the Empire State Building’s iconic status.

I’m not sure how long these votes last for, though. I’d assume the vote would be considered recent (August 2010).


Yea I think approvals would be carried over. The best example I can think of is Tower Verre.

Verre approval with city council for the shortened version was approved a year before 15 penn in 2009 I believe & presently Hines is enjoying a smooth sailing at this stage after it’s revival.


I would love to see 7th Ave betw 33rd and 34th redeveloped.


“…He noted that Vornado’s Hotel Pennsylvania, at 401 Seventh Avenue adjacent to Madison Square Garden, has continued to underperform — with the REIT viewing the property as a “parking lot” for future development opportunities.”


Vornado: Hotel Penn office conversion unlikely, tower may be turned into apartments

Vornado CEO Steven Roth has ruled out converting Hotel Pennsylvania into a supertall office tower, instead floating the possibility that the hotel may be turned into an apartment building.

In a conference call during the 2016 Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Real Estate Brokers Conference, Roth expressed skepticism over a possible office conversion, saying that the site cannot compete with other Manhattan office complexes such as Hudson Yards and the World Trade Center.

“The problem is we cannot deliver the site economically in competition with what Hudson Yards is doing and the World Trade Center is doing. And we’re not off by a little, we’re off by a lot for lots of different reasons,” he said.

“So I wouldn’t predict that a large office tower is in our future for Hotel Penn. I mean I can’t tell you how much we hate having to build a building where we have to get $150 rents or something like that, which are not in the market. It’s just not something that we do.”

Roth’s comments provide more clarity to Vornado’s on-again, off-again plans for the property. During an earnings call last February, he said that “they have not resolved what the business plan is” for the hotel. Months later, during another earnings call, he described Hotel Pennsylvania as a “parking lot for future development.”

While Roth has narrowed down the possibilities, it is still uncertain whether the property will be turned into apartments or will continue operating as a hotel. “The options for Hotel Penn are, leave it where it is, knock it down. If we knock it down, it’s going to be apartments and retail. If we leave it the way it is, it’s going to be a hotel,” Roth said.

Hotel Pennsylvania, which sits near Madison Square Garden and the Empire State Building, has been awaiting renovations since 2013. Vornado originally planned to raze the building to give way to a 1,216-foot tower called 15 Penn Plaza. However, plans were shelved when Merrill Lynch decided not to take space in the building in 2007.


I hope they keep the current building.

They need to work on the horrible, adjacent block to the north.

I hope they keep it too!

It’s such a stunning building. It should be restored

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If office isn’t an option for now, I’m betting it will be torn down and replaced with a supertall residential/retail tower. The current building is a dump, and would pretty much need to be gutted to be a viable structure.

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I agree.

That’s what I’m hoping. It sounds like that is what Roth is insinuating. Due to the saturation of the market right now with numerous office towers rising, it would be risky. A residential sounds plausible. Ideally, I wouldn’t want this to be luxury all the way. Like Silverstein’s West Side tower which didn’t come to fruition, I’d like for this to have at least a 1000 units. The base itself is huge, and a monolithic tower could rise in which we would see a 1000+ units. Hopefully this one will down the line become reality.

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This is the Age of Ramses, and I’m pleased to see Morgan anchor a new tower (not 50 HY). However,
It really sucks that no one will commit to 2 WTC.


Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank eyeing Vornado’s 15 Penn: report
REIT could build 1,216-foot tower on Hotel Pennsylvania site


Wow. Commercial makes the most sense to me, given the location. I don’t know why anyone would want to live on that block.

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Those that love crowds and sirens would. I think New Yorkers call those folks masochist.

Sign me up. I like the noise and crowds. Nothing like waking up, walking out of 15 Penn, and seeing a guy speak to Jesus while ranting incoherently. If your not getting your daily dose of crazy, you’re not experiencing the city I say!