The Real Deal New York

NYT, Hearst headquarters to spruce up Eighth Ave.

October 15, 2007
By Tom Acitelli

Two architecturally ambitious new buildings, both anchoring old media empires, are set to transform Eighth Avenue in Midtown.

Between 40th and 41st streets, across from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the New York Times Co. headquarters is fulfilling what its architect called “an expression of love” for the city. Several blocks up Eighth Avenue – past other entrenched media headquarters for the likes of Reuters, Conde Nast and Time Warner – the Hearst Tower will realize the dreams of its namesake to loom over Columbus Circle.

Both projects are slated for completion by spring 2006.

The 52-story Times headquarters is under construction on the east side of Eighth Avenue. When architect Renzo Piano unveiled his design for the building in December 2001, he called it “an expression of love for this city and the values it represents.” The 856,000-square-foot Hearst Tower at 959 Eighth Avenue will be the working home for more than 1,800 employees.

New York will need several million more square feet of office space over the next 20 years. The two buildings are not only a step in that practical direction, said Rick Bell, executive director of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects, but they also add continued vitality to an area where so many people work.

“Both are, if not iconic, exceptional accretions to the New York skyline,” Bell said. The Times and Forest City Ratner developed the new building for the Times as a joint venture, with ING Real Estate, a subsidiary of ING Group, as FCRC’s financial partner.

Major tenants have yet to be announced, but the Times’ operations are expected to take up more than half of the building’s 1.54 million square feet, occupying floors 2 through 28. The Times has seven office locations in New York, and is expected to concentrate most of its Manhattan-based employees in the new building.

FCRC will own about 600,000 of the remaining gross square feet, including office space on floors 29 through 50 and retail space on the ground floor. The ground floor will include a garden and a 350-seat auditorium for the Times.

Piano’s design will include a glass curtain wall. Thin horizontal ceramic tubes on a steel framework one to two feet in front of the glass will screen much of the double thermal-pane glass wall, retaining heat and helping cool the building as well, with different colors of light bouncing off the tubes at different angles throughout the day.

“At street level, the building will be open, transparent and permeable,” Piano said at the design unveiling. “Each architecture tells a story, and the story this new building proposes to tell is one of lightness and transparency.”

Winner of the 1998 Pritzker Prize, Piano has also designed the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Kansai Air Terminal in Osaka, Japan.

A stainless steel and glass tower stretching 42 stories, the Hearst Tower fulfills the dreams of the late media baron William Randolph Hearst, who bought up properties around Columbus Circle more than 100 years ago with the idea of making the area a veritable monument to his legacy.

The $500-million tower will rise out of an existing six-story building, which has been torn down except for its façde. The 42-story tower will rise from it, as was the plan all along. The original International Magazine Building was built in 1928 to accommodate a tower on top of it.

But the Great Depression intervened, Hearst’s prospects declined, and the squat building at 56th and Eighth stayed that way until Norman Foster, another Pritzker Prize-winner architect, joined with Tishman Speyer Properties to construct the new tower.

Foster’s recent projects include the reconstructed Reichstag in Berlin, the Independent Television News Headquarters in London, and the headquarters for the Hongkong/Shanghai Banking Corporation in Hong Kong.

The new tower will pull in Hearst employees from several locations around Midtown.

“It really is going to be 100 percent Hearst owned and operated,” said Alex Steinberg, manager of Hearst corporate communications. “It gives us a chance to give back something to the city of New York, which has been so good to us for so long.”

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