Madison Avenue tower reopens with leafy oasis under glass canopy


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Midtown strollers might blink when they pass 550 Madison Ave., the landmarked office tower that’s been redesigned and repositioned by the Olayan Group.

The tower’s block-long public arcade between East 55th and 56th streets, closed for several years, reopened last week twice as large as its gloomy enclosed predecessor and transformed by inspired landscaping.

The open-air, half-acre urban garden designed by Snohetta sits beneath a 70-foot-high glass canopy. As if taking cues from the High Line or Little Island, it boasts 48 trees, 200 shrubs, 6,300 bulb plants, “10,000 herbaceous understory plants,” plus three food kiosks and lots of seats. Sinuous curves and varied elevations soften the arcade’s rectilinear proportions.

The 41-story tower is 50% leased to office tenants such as Chubb, Hermes, and Corsair Capital.


A New York Times story about trouble in the office-tower world last week cited the Kastle Back-to-Work Barometer’s wildly incomplete estimate of under-50% physical office occupancy in New York City.

The article did include Bill Rudin’s rebuttal that his buildings were 65% occupied. But it missed the larger picture that we’ve reported: Kastle counts entry swipes only at buildings that use its security services. Their sample includes few of the largest real estate empires which own or manage most of the best buildings. They’re disproportionately home to financial and law firms which have more people at their desks than other kinds of companies.

Kastle doesn’t count heads at properties of SL Green, Vornado, Boston Properties, Brookfield, Rockefeller Group, Related Companies, Tishman Speyer, Silverstein Properties and Rudin Management; nor bank-owned headquarters towers such as JP Morgan Chase’s 383 Madison Ave.; nor One World Trade Center, One Vanderbilt or the Empire State Building.

With so many giant holes in its survey, why do the media continue to cite Kastle’s data as gospel?

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