420 FIFTH AVENUE

(between 37th & 38th Streets)

Developer: Hammerson Property Corporation

Architect: Brennan Beer Gorman Architects

Erected: 1993

By Carter B. Horsley

420 Fifth AvenueThe first new office building to be built on a full blockfront on Fifth Avenue south of 42nd Street since the Empire State Building, this 30-story project is a nice, clean-cut and stout tower.

Obviously, its architects sought to pay proper homage to the avenue's superb setback towers several blocks north of 42nd Street while adopting a rather calm and cool Post-Modern adaptation of the Art Deco aesthetic.

The architects have also made the best of a ridiculous zoning situation that resulted in a very unnecessary, though fairly attractive, plaza on West 37th Street. The building is relatively innocuous except that it blocks the sensational vistas of the Empire State Building from the employee's open rooftop dining area atop Lord & Taylor, the department store on the avenue across 38th Street.

The area south of 42nd Street on the avenue had fallen on bad times after World War II as fashion- conscious shoppers concentrating much of their spending further north on the avenue. This building, therefore, strongly helps anchor the revival of the 34th to 42nd Street stretch started by the Republic National Bank (see The City Review article) and the splendid new office tower at 461 Fifth Avenue (see The City Review article), diagonally across from one another at 40th Street.

The polished red granite and glass facades are very adroitly handled here to create an interesting texture that emphasizes verticality while its reflectivity tends to lessens its massive bulk.

Despite the fine modulations of the form, the building's granite should probably have been left rough to give it more substantiality.

Fortunately, almost all of the first two retail floors were rented to a computer store, CompUSA, a much needed facility in midtown and a much better retail tenant than many other nearby buildings have.

Sidestreet entrance

Sidestreet entrance

The developers, who are English, have done a good job here. It has always been an historical fluke that the Empire State Building has not been surrounded by other tall buildings. This 540,000-square-foot building, of course, is much smaller than its famous neighbor to the south and wisely does not compete with it and it is certainly one of the better newer buildings on the avenue.

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