Equipment is on-site at RFR’s 610 Lexington Avenue, though it is the same machinery that has been sitting there for several months, with no excavation evident. The plot had originally been slated to hold a 63-story Shangri-La Hotel designed by Norman Foster, but the recession put an indefinite hold on the plans; while financing is close for the tower, which sits on a prime Midtown lot at the southwest corner of 53rd and Lexington, there is a logical explanation for the delay in action despite the issuance of necessary permits. RFR is in a very good position to proceed – just not right away.
610 Lexington Avenue will be covered by the Midtown re-zoning, and the potential for the site is enormous; under the previous proposal, the Shangri-La would have contained 200,000 square feet of space. The tower would have also been thin, especially for pre-recession standards, but it seems likely the old design will be scrapped and RFR will build a significantly larger building. Given the specifications of the re-zoning, 610 Lexington Avenue will receive an automatic twenty percent bonus to its allowable FAR, and – more importantly – RFR will be able to transfer air rights from elsewhere in the district.
The latter point is important because RFR has a 99-year lease on Lever House, which the company spent $70 million renovating in 2000. The Korein family owns the building, and – per The New York Times – the landmark’s unused air rights will be sold for $75 million. No public figures are available for the exact square footage of the tower’s development rights, but using the city’s price-point for air transfers under the re-zoning puts the number at 300,000 square feet. Given this, and presuming the Korein family sells the rights to RFR, it is entirely plausible that RFR will more than double the square footage of 610 Lexington Avenue, giving it the same development rights as 57th Street skyscrapers like 432 Park Avenue and 111 West 57th Street, with a figure totaling approximately 540,000 square feet.
While 53rd and Lexington is an inferior location to anywhere along 57th Street, it’s actually not bad for Midtown standards, and is relatively close to Central Park. With 610 Lexington’s previous slender profile, it is quite possible that RFR could build a tower with similar proportions to a much greater height, especially as Park views are the current driving force in uber-luxury real estate. Nearly tripling the skyscraper’s square footage means that 610 Lexington could easily exceed the 1,000′ mark, especially if RFR banks on the trends that are taking the rest of Midtown by storm; indeed, the closest analogy is likely the Torre Verre, which was originally proposed at 1,250 feet despite its dislocation from the Park, in an obvious and explicit effort to take advantage of sky-high views.
Thus, the possibility that 610 Lexington has undergone or is undergoing a dramatically taller design revision is quite real, and the likely explanation for the site’s continued slumber. Given the provisions of the Midtown re-zoning – which mandate exemplary architecture in exchange for taking advantage of FAR bonuses and transfers – the possibility of yet another iconic tower is a definite reality.
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