NEW YORK CITY—Owner Olayan America and development partner Chelsfield are redesigning 550 Madison Avenue with a new transparent street front, modernized interiors, added retail and restaurant space, and a lush, outdoor garden, open and accessible for public use.
The architecture and design firm, Snøhetta, based in Oslo, Norway and New York City, has been hired for the $300 million project. Designed by Philip Johnson, the 850,000-square-foot building was originally completed in 1984, and created for single-tenant occupancy, to serve as world headquarters for its corporate owners. Olayan America acquired the former Sony Building, which had previously been known as the AT&T Building, in May 2016 for $1.4 billion.
This is the first major project announced for New York City’s East Midtown, since the rezoning plan was approved earlier this year.
While the highly recognizable horseshoe-like cutout at the top of the building’s façade will remain, at the ground level, the stone façade will be partially replaced at eye level with an undulating glass curtainwall. The redesigned building front will highlight the multi-story arched entry, while revealing the building’s existing steel structure. Scalloped glass will echo the sculpted, fluted stone columns, adding a transparent view of the lobby, atrium and first two levels of the building.
The new design doubles the public space, that was once referred to as Sony Plaza. It will be converted to an outdoor garden, landscaped with trees and plants, and a water sculpture. It will feature more than 10 times the amount of planted areas as previously provided. Changing plants will reflect the seasons of the Northeast, including autumnal colors, winter evergreens and flowering trees and bulbs in the spring, with birds and butterflies. The public garden will be located at the rear of the tower connecting 55th and 56th streets.
With plans to lease to commercial tenants for the first time, the tower will target LEED Gold for sustainability, WELL-certification for healthy materials and Wired-certification for digital infrastructure. It will feature a dedicated outdoor air ventilation system for fresher air and lower energy consumption.
Since the departure of the Sony Corporation over a year and a half ago, the office floors have been vacant. The owner plan to lease to tenants in 2019. Lead brokers for the project are Mary Ann Tighe, CEO, New York Tri-State Region, CBRE; Howard Fiddle, vice chairman, CBRE; and Scott L. Gottlieb, vice chairman, CBRE.
Olayan American is the investment arm of the Olayan Group, a private, multinational enterprise with international investments and diverse commercial and industrial operations in the Middle East. Chelsfield is a London-based property developer, investor and asset manager.