MIDTOWN — Construction is officially underway at One Vanderbilt, the skyscraper set to begin towering above Grand Central Terminal and where pols and developers descended Tuesday morning to hail what they called the future of Midtown development.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and executives from SL Green took part in a symbolic shoveling of dirt at the site of the expected 1,401-foot office tower, which the developer was permitted to build through a rezoning of Vanderbilt Avenue.
As part of the zoning agreement with the city, SL Green pledged to spend $220 million on transit improvements at Grand Central Terminal to ease the commute of straphangers on the overcrowded 4-5-6 line, which carries 154,000 riders each day, according to a statement from the mayor’s office.
SL Green expects both the tower and the transit upgrades to be completed by year 2020.
In order to hold SL Green to its promises, the city will not allow tenants to move into the upper floors of One Vanderbilt until the improvements are complete at Grand Central Terminal, de Blasio said on Tuesday.
The mayor touted the deal as an example of how the city's needs can be placed at same level of importance as deep-pocketed developers.
“We need growth, but we need growth on the people’s terms,” he said.
Improvements at Grand Central will include extra staircases, a renovated mezzanine in the station, and new exits. The upgrades aim to reduce crowding on the platform and cut the time it takes for passengers to get in and out of trains so that the MTA can put more trains on the 4-5-6 line, officials said.
The Vanderbilt deal was used as a model for a larger East Midtown rezoning, which is still in the planning stages but could lead to the development of 16 new skyscrapers in Midtown, according to city officials.
“We are on a new and positive path for Midtown,” said Councilman Dan Garodnick, who represents the area and has been involved in the rezoning process. “One Vanderbilt sets a strong precedent for the rest of East Midtown as we finalize our plans for the larger rezoning, which is on its way.”
Tuesday’s groundbreaking was a welcome milestone for SL Green executives, who have seen the project first tied up in the city’s public review process and then ensnared in litigation.
The developer finally closed financing on the project in late September after the affair was put on hold for about a year due to a lawsuit from Grand Central Terminal owner Midtown TDR Ventures, which accused the city and SL Green of squeezing it out of the chance to sell more than $1 billion worth of development rights.
TDR Ventures withdrew the lawsuit in August after the two parties reached a settlement.
Now construction on the building has the green light, as do the upgrades to Grand Central Terminal that SL Green agreed to sponsor as part of a deal.