Apple is ready to begin construction on its most unstore-like store ever if New York City’s transit agency approves the company’s proposal to install a retail operaton on the balcony of the historic Grand Central Terminal (GCT). According to GCT leasing documents and Apple-created renderings, the company cannot and will not build any type of traditional store structure. Instead, Apple will simply partition off former restaurant and vacant space, install its traditional furniture and products, and let the Terminal’s magnificent architecture swirl around and through its retail business. Apple submitted a proposal to occupy the retail space earlier this year, and on Friday the New York Post confirmed that the city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) could approve the company’s bid at its Wednesday meeting. On Saturday The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on lease details, and today printed renderings of the future store. Apple spokesperson Nick Leahy told Cnet today, “We have submitted plans for the store we intend to create in world-renowned Grand Central Terminal and we look forward to working with the MTA.” If approved, Apple has indicated the store would take just four months to complete. Update: On July 27th the full MTA board voted unanimously to approve Apple bid to lease the GCT spaces.
The limitations of occupying a heritage and protected building in this case gives Apple the opportunity to rely solely on its clean and simple interior design, which happens to harmonize well with Grand Central Terminal early 1900s architecture.
According to renderings, the store will have no walls, no ceiling and no other traditional Apple store features like stainless steel, wall graphics or bright lighting. Instead, the store will be open to the 125-foot tall ceiling of the Main Concourse, where at least 250,000 visitors pass each day. It will also occupy certain enclosed spaces on the balcony. The only indications of “Apple” will be its furniture and products.
Apple has previously performed expensive and time-consuming renovations on old and heritage buildings to create its retail stores, both in the United States and in other countries. In fact, several heritage buildings are now under construction, including in Spain, Germany, Holland and France. Two of New York City’s four Apple stores are housed in older buildings. With its philosophy of heritage preservation, and armed with considerable renovation experience, letting the Terminal’s architecture take center stage may have been an easy decision.
In its story, the WSJ outlined the proposed leasing deal, which could give Apple its most impressive, yet least expensive, high-profile store.
As its first step, Apple proposed buying out the remaining eight years of the Metrazur restaurant’s lease for $5 million. That space covers about 9,600 square-feet on the east balcony, according to MTA leasing documents. Apple would then pay the MTA $1.1 million year in rent for that space, another 6,380 square-feet on the northeast balcony, and 8,000 square-feet elsewhere in the Terminal for back-of-house space.
The total 15,300 square-feet for the public retail space would be among the largest in Apple’s chain. The $48 per square-foot rental cost for the space is much lower than most upscale shopping districts of New York City, which can cost up to $2,000 per square-foot.
The building was constructed in 1903 and is a National Historic Landmark, which limits almost all structural changes. The MTA has issued guidelines (pdf) for retailers within the Terminal, including sustainable design requirements, no exposed fluorescent lighting or artificial brick, and no obstructions of the existing glass by other materials. The requirements also prohibit, “materials that, in the Landlord’s opinion, are of low quality, non-durable, and/or difficult to maintain.”
The limitations also apply to interior signage, which cannot be iridescent, flashing, animated, formed plastic or neon. “All luminous signs are prohibited,” the guidelines state. It’s not clear how this would apply to Apple’s white, back-lit logo.
The architectural guidelines allow balcony restaurants to install raised flooring for plumbing and electrical service. It’s not clear what type of floor that Apple has proposed for its space. Walls and ceilings are completely protected and cannot be changed, nor can anything be attached to them.
Lighting is also regulated tightly, with the color temperature required to be 3000°K, to match the warm yellow interior lighting of the terminal. Apple’s renderings of the store have a decidedly yellow tint, perhaps acknowledging the MTA’s requirement.
Interestingly, the MTA requires that renters keep a four to nine-foot area remain clear next to the railing of the balcony, to provide visitors to the Terminal with a view of the main concourse floor.
There will be a single set of stairs on the east side of the concourse floor to access the Apple store. According to comments here, the Terminal is closed overnight, so there will be some type of security closure at the top of the stairs (glass?).
Download (pdf) the MTA’s May 23, 2011 Request for Proposals on the northeast and north balcony locations, which provides much more detail on the spaces. The MTA has also posted supporting documents that provide even more detail. Also download the MTA board minutes where they approved the Apple lease, and a short presentation that contains Apple’s renderings of the future store.
View larger, high-resolution versions of the renderings here.E-mail this story