City Unveils Midtown East Rezoning

midtown manhattan skyline

The Midtown skyline will be getting quite a boost in the near future.

On Monday, the city unveiled a long-awaited revised plan for the Midtown East rezoning. The new proposal will allow developers to build much taller, more modern towers in the heart of the city’s central business district near Grand Central Terminal, specifically from 39th to 50th Streets between Madison and Third Avenues.

The new plan will allow developers to build new towers 30 percent larger than what is currently permitted in Midtown East, greatly increasing the business district’s density and modernizing its aging office building stock. Buildings along Park Avenue and near subway stations will also be allowed to be built larger. Under City Hall’s plan, the Midtown East rezoning will produce an additional 6.6 million square feet of new office inventory divided amongst 16 new, state-of-the-art skyscrapers.

Significantly, the proposal will allow developers to trade air rights across the newly-rezoned district as opposed to just their adjacent lots. This, in theory, will allow for greater flexibility and even larger towers. The same principle has been applied to the special West Chelsea district along the High Line rezoned under the Bloomberg Administration, producing a huge building boom in that area.

The new plan from City Hall, however, comes with a catch for developers: in order to build taller skyscrapers, they would need to first invest in public transportation improvements or buy air rights from buildings with landmark status in the district. This is essentially the same approach that’s been used with SL Green’s One Vanderbilt tower currently under development across from Grand Central Terminal thanks to a previous smaller-scale rezoning, as the company has pledged some $220 million in infrastructure investments for the train terminal and nearby subway stations.

The Midtown East rezoning was originally proposed by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2012, but the plan as shelved due to opposition in late 2013. The de Blasio administration, shortly after taking office, formed a study group to address concerns and ultimately produce the new draft of the rezoning plan.

On September 22, a public meeting will be held to discuss the rezoning proposal more in-depth. If all goes smoothly, it’s likely to become law sometime in 2017.