Sony Building might get landmarked

Preservationists oppose Olayan's $300M renovation

Hutham Olayan and renderings of the Sony Building (Credit: DBOX)
Hutham Olayan and renderings of the Sony Building (Credit: DBOX)

Preservationists who oppose the Sony Building’s planned $300 million renovation took a step forward in their bid to have the tower landmarked.

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted on Tuesday to put the building at 550 Madison Avenue on its calendar, 6sqft reported.

The 37-story building, designed by Philip Johnson and completed in 1984, became eligible for landmark status in 2014, but efforts to classify it as such emerged only after the current owners, a division of Saudi Arabia-based Olayan Group, disclosed plans for a massive renovation that includes undulating glass curtain wall. The first skyscraper was originally known as the AT&T Building, but earned its current moniker after Sony moved in in the 1990s.

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Olayan America purchased the building from the Chetrit Group and Clipper Equity for $1.4 billion last year after the developers abandoned plans to convert the upper floors into condominiums.

Last month, Olayan said it would pour $300 million into a renovation that would help command higher rents. Snøhetta is designing the renovation, which calls for replacing part of the building’s granite facade with glass.

Although executives from Olayan said the plans will enhance Johnson’s 1980 design, preservationists have pushed back against changes to the distinctive entryway. In addition to a protest and petition, architect Robert A.M. Stern is among those critical of Snøhetta’s design. [6sqft]E.B. Solomont