550 Madison Ave. to Get $300 Million Renovation

NEW YORK — Formerly known as the AT&T Building and Sony Building, the skyscraper at 550 Madison Avenue is getting a $300 million makeover according to plans unveiled by owners Olayan America and Chelsfield.

The architecture and design firm Snøhetta has been hired to reimagine the lower levels of the 647-square foot tower and update the building with state-of -art systems. Olayan America acquired the 37-story skyscraper in May 2016 for $1.4 billion.

The $300 million renovation will modernize the interior spaces and adds high-quality amenities, retail and restaurants. The building’s proposed public space will nearly double in size to create a lush and verdant outdoor garden for the public’s enjoyment.

While the top of the tower will remain a fixture of the New York City skyline as it has since its completion in 1984, the new design will transform the base into an inviting street front, extending the lively activity of Madison Avenue further south to 55th Street.

The renovation is the first major project to be announced for New York City’s East Midtown, since its revitalization plan was approved earlier this year. The newly modernized building is expected to be completed for tenants by 2019.

“We’re pleased to be working hand in hand with Chelsfield and Snøhetta to achieve a new vision for 550 Madison. Across the board, our team is committed to the long-term success of 550 Madison and the broader Midtown community,” said Tony Fusco, Managing Director and head of real estate at Olayan America. “The plans developed offer a vibrant enhancement of Philip Johnson’s postmodern design, and we believe the renovation will create a space that continues to draw top-tier tenants for generations to come. We look forward to restoring 550 Madison to prominence as a premier location for office and retail in Midtown, as well as an urban oasis for the public.”

“550 Madison is a remarkable building, and we’re thrilled to work with our partners at Olayan America and Snøhetta to revitalize the property,” said David Laurie, Managing Director at Chelsfield America. “At 550 Madison, we have planned a building that puts employees first, from top of the line amenities, market-leading technology, better air quality, inspiring views of Central Park, to a deeply relaxing and serene public urban garden right next door. When our team is through, 550 Madison will be the office building that employees across New York and beyond are nudging their bosses to move in to.”

Snøhetta’s design will breathe new life into the building’s public, retail and office spaces for the contemporary needs of one of the world’s most recognized avenues.

Highlights of Snøhetta’s design include:

  • A proposal to nearly double the size of the nearby public space, allowing the area to breathe with more access to open air and daylight
  • Creating an outdoor garden (the largest in a 5-minute walking radius) for public enjoyment
  • Stitching the life of the building back into the street, including new food offerings and retail
  • Partially replacing the building’s eye-level façade with an undulating glass curtainwall, to both highlight the multi-story arched entry and reveal the energy of the building’s existing steel structure

“The re-imagined 550 Madison reflects how we work and live in New York today,” said Craig Dykers, founding partner and architect at Snøhetta. “The design sensitively transforms a sculpturally monumental building and improves the experience of the building where it meets the street. By updating this inward-looking tower for contemporary society, the redesign will foster a more vibrant, dynamic relationship between the building, the city, and the people who inhabit it. It’s been exciting to work on this project with the teams at Chelsfield and Olayan, and build on our growing portfolio of impactful projects in New York.”

Completed in 1984, 550 Madison was originally designed by Philip Johnson for single-tenant occupancy, serving as the eponymous world headquarters for its corporate owners. Since the departure of the Sony Corporation over a year-and-a-half ago, its office floors have sat vacant.

Snøhetta’s design approach connects the life of the building with the life of the street. Since 550 Madison was first completed, its fortress-like base created an uninviting street front, which was then further compromised by a series of ground-floor renovations that effectively visually closed the building off from its surroundings.

With the updated design, the stone façade will be partially replaced at eye level by an undulating glass curtainwall. From the street, the reconceived façade dramatically highlights the multi-story arched entry, while revealing the craftsmanship of the building’s existing steel structure. Scalloped glass references the sculpted forms of fluted stone columns, creating a lively and identifiable public face for passersby.  With this increased transparency, the activity within the lobby, atrium, and first 2 levels of the building will become part of the vibrant energy of the street.

As part of the renovation, 550 Madison’s proposed public space will be nearly doubled in size and converted to an outdoor garden, providing a verdant landscape with water features and trees as a respite from the dense urban fabric of Manhattan. The existing mid-block passageway at the rear of the tower connecting 55th and 56th Street will be transformed into a serene public space. The design will allow access to open air and daylight.