The Real Deal New York

Moynihan developers don’t have to choose SOM, but it will take some persuading

Cuomo releases joint solicitation for Penn Station, Farley overhaul

January 22, 2016 04:40PM
By Kathryn Brenzel

Rendering of Farley Building (credit: SOM)

Rendering of Farley Building (credit: SOM)

The freshly released solicitation for the massive overhaul of Penn Station and the Farley Post Office shows that architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is still a big part of the project — at least for now.

The 60-plus page request for proposals (RFP) solicitation for “Empire State Station,” released by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday, is a restart on the long-delayed project. The new solicitation jettisoned the Farley Building’s initial developers, The Related Companies and Vornado Realty Trust, but SOM, the architecture firm that has worked on the project since the late 1990s, still has a seat at the designing table.

Developers who vie for the project must base their proposal off of SOM’s designs for the Farley Building unless the project’s sponsors — Empire State Development, AMTRAK, MTA and LIRR — agree to exceptions, according to the RFP. The developer can ultimately choose to use a different architect for the project, but the bar seems pretty high to convince the project’s sponsors of an alternative — especially since SOM has already agreed to finalize drawings for train hall work. The developers will have to prove that an alternative architect won’t adversely affect the schedule or price of the project — estimated to be $1 billion. Representatives for SOM didn’t immediately return calls for comment.

As for the previous developers, Related has said that it expects to submit a proposal for the project. Counterpart Vornado has remained tight-lipped on the subject and again declined to comment on Friday.

The release of the joint solicitation came two weeks after Cuomo initially planned to kickstart the project. In a prepared statement, the governor didn’t address the delay, instead reiterating the “blight” of Penn Station. The project’s estimated $3 billion cost will primarily be paid through private investment, Cuomo said. Of that cost, Amtrak, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Port Authority are contributing $325 million.

The joint solicitation provides a more detailed look into possible redevelopment plans for Penn Station and the Farley Building. The project will include a redeveloping of the upper and lower levels of Penn Station, and the possible creation of a new grand entrance to the station. One option in the RFP calls for a new entrance along Eighth Avenue spanning between 31st and 33rd Street and demolishing the Madison Square Garden Theater. Another option would close 33rd Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues to create new skylights.

In the Farley Building, the developer will create a 200,000-square-foot train hall — dubbed Moynihan Train Hall — for Amtrak passengers, and will build and operate an additional 640,000 square feet of retail and tech office space, as well as a hotel or convention center.

The project got its start more than two decades ago. The late U.S. Sen. Daniel Moynihan suggested in the late 1990s that the Farley Post Office be converted into a train hall for Amtrak. In 2005, Related and Vornado won an RFP to develop the Moynihan Station project, which included the post office and one million square feet of air rights to be transferred across the street.

An early version of the plan called for moving Madison Square Garden to the post office, which would have allowed for a new commuter station for the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit on the east side of Eight Avenue, along with 5.5 million square feet of commercial space. But in 2008, Madison Square Garden’s owners decided against relocating, and the developers had to switch gears.

The state has already started construction underneath the post office to create a concourse west of Eighth Avenue, and is expected to complete the work by September. The redevelopment of Penn Station and the Farley Building is expected to begin shortly after that work is finished.

Proposals for the redevelopment projects are due by April 22.

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