The city’s Landmark Preservation Commission has designated the former Sony Building at 550 Madison Avenue a landmark. Calling the 37-story office tower a leader in postmodern design, LPC vice chair Frederick Bland said, “This is the building that established postmodernism as a legitimate architectural movement. It deserves to be preserved for future generations.”
Built between 1978 and 1984 by American architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee, the tower was billed as the world’s first postmodernist skyscraper and set the stage for the postmodernism movement.
While it was first known as the AT&T building, the phone company sold the building to Sony in 2002 and it soon became known as Sony Plaza. In 2013, the Chetrit Group and Clipper Realty purchased the building for $1.1 billion with a plan to covert the building into luxury condos.
When that plan fell through, Chetrit and Clipper sold the building in May 2016 for $1.4 billion to Olayan America, the American subsidiary of the Saudi Arabian investment conglomerate, The Olayan Group.
In a statement issued following the LPC decision yesterday (Tuesday) Olayan said, “Since acquiring the building, we have taken our role as stewards of this important building very seriously. We look forward to an ongoing dialogue with the LPC and other stakeholders to preserve 550 Madison’s legacy as a commercial Class A destination in East Midtown, with smart and sensitive modifications to serve modern tenants.”
The Olayan Group has so far invested $300 million to renovate the building and return it to its class A office status.
Olayan expects the upgrades to command higher rents, but will now also have to be compliant with the landmark status of the building’s exterior.
Despite that extra layer of bureaucracy, Olayan said, “We are proud that 550 Madison is now an official New York City landmark, claiming its place in our city’s architectural heritage.
“Ownership strongly supports designation of the iconic office tower and applauds the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s decision.”