See the observation deck proposed for the Chrysler Building

May 19, 2020

Proposed east-west view; Rendering by Gensler/ RFR Realty, courtesy of Landmarks Preservation Commission

An observation deck will return to the Chrysler Building. During a Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing on Tuesday, Aby Rosen’s RFR Realty, which bought the Art Deco landmark last year for $151 million, presented its proposal to revamp the skyscraper’s 61st and 62nd floors to allow for public access. The Chrysler Building previously housed an observatory, which opened on the 71st floor in 1945 as the Celestial.

The visual impact of the deck, from East 40th Street; Rendering by Gensler/ RFR Realty, courtesy of Landmarks Preservation Commission

After picking up the building in 2019 for a bargain of $151 million (the Abu Dhabi Investment Council paid $800 million for it in 2008), Rosen said his revitalization of the Chrysler Building would include bringing restaurants back to the high-rise, drawing inspiration from the former Cloud Club, the highest such club at the time.

The Cloud Club was a lunch spot for executives when it opened in 1930 on the building’s 66th-68th floors. It operated as a speakeasy during Prohibition and attracted affluent members like Pan Am founder Juan Trippe, publisher Condé Montrose Nast, and boxer Gene Tunney, and Walter Chrysler, who had his own private dining room, as 6sqft previously reported.

North-south view with proposed glass screen; Rendering by Gensler/ RFR Realty, courtesy of Landmarks Preservation Commission

Designed by Gensler, the project aims to revive the Cloud Club, part of architect William Van Alen’s original proposal. The restoration focuses on the 61st and 62nd floors, including adding glass panels on the south and north terraces, modifying existing terrace doors to make them accessible to the public, and removing and replacing existing windows with single-lite windows.

Leslie Jabs, principal at Gensler, said that the glass screen and new windows would be barely perceptible from street level. The upgrades on both floors would allow visitors to get an up-close look at the building’s gargoyle eagles.

During Tuesday’s hearing, commissioners voiced unanimous support for the appropriateness of the proposal. A few noted the reflectivity of the new windows could pose an issue for the architects, but Jabs said the firm has conducted an extensive study to find types of glass that have extremely low reflectively.

While the Chrysler Building remains a New York icon, the pre-war building comes with some major baggage, which explains why RFR was able to buy it at such a discounted price. Real estate experts told the Wall Street Journal last year that the tower’s nearly 400,000 square feet of vacant space could require a nearly $200 million investment to attract new tenants. And as the Real Deal reported in March, longtime tenants in the building’s arcade space have been booted from the building.


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