When the city rezoned the area around Grand Central Terminal in 2017, the idea was that the neighborhood would get a makeover. Most buildings in Midtown East are either stolid masonry prewar offices and hotels — typically about 20 to 40 stories tall, built in the same era as the terminal itself — or the postwar generation of steel-and-glass skyscrapers. The former group (the theory went) would be replaced with sleek new spaces, drawing first-rate tenants back from downtown and beyond. Few people imagined that the 700-foot tower at 270 Park Avenue, dating to only 1960, would be among the first to come down. But it’s gone now — the second-tallest building ever demolished not by a terrorist act — and JPMorgan Chase is well on the way toward supplanting it with 1,400 feet of brawn.
Its form, by Foster + Partners, partly depends on 24 immense steel columns that merge into big knuckles at street level. The base is chamfered away from the street, making the building more approachable because you don’t encounter an enormous sheer wall rising from the sidewalk. The visual effect is to have all that heft balance, quixotically, on ballerinas’ toes.
When 270 Park was being planned, JPMorgan Chase presumably wanted to squeeze more out of its plot, did the math, and decided to build anew. Since 2020, however, any such project has taken on another role, that of human-resources management and willful optimism. The bank’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, has prominently called for employees to come back to their offices and is literally putting his money where his mouth is. This big showy building, set to be complete in 2025, will now exist partly to entice those bankers in from Cos Cob and more broadly to express a corporate bet on the city as a place that’s growing rather than treading water, one where going to a midtown office remains central to our way of life. If you build it, 270 Park says, they will commute.