Vornado Hopes to Swing for Groundbreaking at Harlem Tower with Major League Baseball

Over the summer, we wrote about the Swanke Hayden Connell-designed Harlem Tower, developed by Vornado, which will seek a LEED Silver rating. The project will be Harlem’s first new commercial office building since 1973 and stand at the corner of 125th Street and Park Avenue, adjacent to a number of subway lines and the Metro North commuter rail station.

A couple of weeks ago, in an effort to push the project forward, Vornado agreed with Major League Baseball’s new cable television network on a lease that will take up approximately one fifth of the 600,000-square-foot, 21-story tower, including the second and third floors which would serve as network studio space, and the top two floors for executive offices. The deal is still being finalized, and Vornado hopes to break ground sometime this spring now that it has secured an anchor tenant. According to the Times, the developer is also negotiating with Inner City Broadcasting, the country’s second-largest radio company that targets African-American listeners, whose offices are currently in Midtown.

However, the development itself isn’t a done deal. The city is about to rezone 125th Street such that the tower would be approximately 40 feet too tall, and Vornado is applying for an exemption. Community leaders are also concerned that the project might displace local businesses and want assurances that it will provide jobs for residents. The neighborhood successfully defeated a proposal three years ago to build a $236 million mixed-use hotel project, so Vornado will obviously take these concerns seriously.

Provided that the developer does so, the project should be a winner for all parties. Harlem should receive an iconic piece of sustainable architecture and Major League Baseball will gain a foothold in the heart of New York City’s African-American community- a community that the sport has, to its great detriment, largely ignored over the last decade. As Richard J. Rodriguez, the chairman of Community Board 11, told the Times last week, MLB’s new space should be “an exciting way that [baseball] can deepen [its] relationship with the African and Hispanic communities. We’re interested in seeing how that develops. As a community, we recognize how an office development could add vibrancy to the surrounding community. But we remain concerned about how this development proceeds and about jobs for local residents.”

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