Ask anyone who has ever been to middle school, an invitation to join the exclusive “Pen15” club isn’t exactly a compliment. Nobody told Vornado Realty Trust about the phallic joke, apparently — or maybe they did. Recently, the firm released renderings for Facebook’s possible 1,400-foot-high supertall skyscraper in Midtown at 15 Penn Plaza, which the company is calling “Penn15.”
There’s no escaping the fact that most luxury towers are, in one form or another, phallic signals of capitalist machismo — but branding for this building soars to new heights. Designed by Rafael Vinoly, the luxury offices emerge from Midtown West and occupy a small morsel of empty sky sandwiched between the Empire State Building and Hudson Yards. The skyscraper would provide 2.8 million square feet with generously tall floor-to-ceiling windows and ample green space throughout. The 43 office floors would include staggered gardens topped by a mechanical void, which is colored Facebook blue in the renderings. The tower’s bottom would span three floors and include a lobby, shops, conference space, a restaurant, and two theaters.
So the social media company is moving in, right? Not quite.
According to the publication YIMBY, Facebook has already committed to leasing One Madison Avenue in the NoMad neighborhood almost a dozen blocks away from Penn Plaza. Subsequently, the real estate firm’s decision to release renderings of the building has left pundits stumped for answers. Some have speculated that it is a last-ditch effort to court Facebook back into the project. (The social media platform has not yet committed to the project.) Others believe the firm is using Facebook branding to lure other tech companies into joining the development project.
Penn15 would replace the Hotel Pennsylvania, which has gained a reputation for being “definitely haunted” in recent years. There have been reports of multiple suicides and accidental deaths at the hotel, and last year, a baby’s death at the property was ruled a homicide. Several review sites like TripAdvisor and YouTube describe the building as derelict and disheveled. But faced with destruction, there is a movement seeking to landmark the building for historical preservation.