Macys to Build Commercial Giant Atop Iconic Herald Square Store

There are few better ways to draw attention to your office than the knowledge that it’s above not just Macy’s but the Macy’s. The Herald Square location, while hardly the only Macy’s store in the New York metro area, is one of the largest department stores in the nation and also the flagship of the entire franchise, practically a landmark in its own right. Given its long history and the particular facade it cuts into the New York cityscape, people were surprised to hear CEO Jeff Gennette announce the intention to expand upward into a full skyscraper. It is another, familiar step in the multi-use direction that many a facet of the evolving metropolitan has begun to adopt. 

What is the Current Status of the Project?

At present, the project is still in its infancy, so the details on what’s to come are sparse but still encouraging to developers and commercial properties chomping at the bit for a prime headquarters location. A few of the highlights include:

  • 1.2 million square feet of space that will become available for rent. 
  • The current plan is to zone the floors of the skyscraper for commercial and office use. The potential for drawing revenue from the real estate aspect alone has been a key focus in recent discussions of the project. 
  • The proposed office tower will bring in an estimated additional 6,000 people to the area, and some think it will be a hopeful boost to the Macy’s brand at a time when department stores are not doing so well financially
  • The present hope is to have an outline thoroughly planned and approved by the end of 2019, and then bidding from designers and developers can begin. 

Can a Skyscraper Safely Be Built Atop the 118-Year-Old Department Store? 

There comes the question of whether or not it is safe or feasible to easily construct a skyscraper atop the historic Macy’s site, built in 1901. Will the scaffolding around the building be possible to construct? Will this force the store to close its doors during construction, and for how long? According to Jeffrey Roseman, vice chairman and co-founder of the commercial real estate firms Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, these are minimal worries, and he has nodded to similar undertakings with positive results. 

He particularly noted the One Vanderbilt project helmed by SL Green, which will soon complete a new, 1.7 million square-foot tower. It is being built in very close proximity to the midtown Grand Central Terminal, and is doing so very “uneventfully,” he says, with little or no issue in terms of construction and planning. It did, however, meet some backlash from the owners of the GST over development rights. 

People can see other places where projects around and atop historic landmarks are underway, and some have their own unique challenges to overcome. It was earlier reported that the historic Palace Theatre would be lifted 30 feet above its current, ground-level spot, as part of the Broadway TSX complex development. It is a wildly different endeavor than the one planned for Herald Square, but one cannot overlook the comparison, given the two buildings’ similar ages and historical significance. 

New Yorkers have yet to see what specific hurdles the Macy’s project will hold in its future for architects and tradespersons. Herald Square differs from the above two projects in at least two major aspects: The size of the Macy’s department store sits far above and beyond that of the Palace Theatre, and the skyscraper will not sit near Macy’s as One Vanderbilt does to Grand Central; it will be directly on top of Macy’s. Once ground breaks, it may be like nothing New York construction has seen.

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