Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Putting the Grand Back in Grand Central

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Putting the Grand Back in Grand Central

Article excerpt

A nation's gateway becomes a meeting place for visitors and locals.

Every renovation is tough--but when you have 500,000 people a day walking through your construction site, tough takes on a whole new meaning. Yet that was the challenge facing LaSalle Partners and the retail leasing firm of Williams Jackson Ewing as they undertook a four-year renovation of New York City's Grand Central Terminal.

A public/private partnership between Grand Central Terminal Ventures (made up of LaSalle Partners and Williams Jackson Ewing), a Metropolitan Transportation Authority team headed by Forrest Taylor and Virgil Conway, and a Metro-North Railroad ream, the $196 million renovation had two principal goals--to create manageable passageways for the thousands of commuters who use the terminal daily and to revitalize and convert 120,000 square feet of underutilized space into retail and restaurants for commuters, city dwellers, and tourists.

Much of the underused square footage centered around the main waiting room areas and the mezzanine-level balconies that overlooked the area. When the landmark was opened in 1913, long-distance train travel was the mode of the day, and passengers used the extensive waiting areas to connect from one leg of a trip to another. Today, however, when short commuter hops are the norm and most commuters rush past barely noticing the cornices of a bygone era, the grand waiting rooms cried for transformation.

Retail had existed in the Lexington Passage portion of the terminal, but much of the space was leased to convenience tenants. The revitalization plan called for both the expansion of the retail space and the refocusing of tenant profiles to serve neighborhood residents, office workers, and tourists as well as commuters. Building frontage on 42nd Street was upgraded to attract national retailers such as Kenneth Cole and Banana Republic. The goal was to hit a variety of price points that matched the needs of each of the terminal's customer groups.

The Lexington Passage area was renovated and re-tenanted to reflect the expanded goals of the terminal. The smaller specialty store configuration corresponded to new retailer space needs and freed up access space along the corridor.

Newstands and other service-oriented tenants were incorporated into a reconfiguration of the incoming train room on the west side of the terminal, which was christened the Biltmore Room.

One of the mandates of the revitalization plan was to prevent any interference with train access. In cooperation with Metro-North, traffic patterns were analyzed and retail reconstruction was confined to specific areas, and retailers were phased in over a six-month period.

Dining Above and Below

Additional access also played a part in the success of the four fine-dining restaurants added to the nearly unused balcony areas overlooking the Main Concourse. The original 1913 plan had called for two grand staircases to the second floor, but only one was actually constructed. Now 85 years later, the second staircase was added at the opposite east end. The addition of high-profile tenants was critical in energizing the terminal as a destination instead of a transit point.

Care was taken during the restaurant construction to accommodate the new mechanicals required of restaurant services--as well as the main area's first ever air conditioning--while retaining the landmark fixtures and finishes of the Main Concourse. …

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