World Wide Plaza

See Worldwide Plaza page on Wired New York

1 Worldwide Plaza

87th highest building in the world.

778 ft./237 m. 47 floors, completed in 1989. Architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

350 West 50 Street aka 340 West 50 Street Northside West 50 Between 8 & 9 Avenues The residential portion, containing 455 condominium apartments, of this major development is one of the most distinguished in midtown.

The view on World Wide Plaza from the Navy Piers at sunset. The Morgan Stanley Building is on the right.

The World Wide Plaza
The World Wide Plaza

The World Wide Plaza

The view on World Wide Plaza from 9th Avenue (and 50th Street)


The World Wide Plaza A 35-story tower in midblock at 393 East 49th Street faces on a very attractive plaza that separates it from the 50-story office building, designed by Skidore, Owings & Merrill, that has an illuminated crown and is modeled closely after the great New York Life Insurance Company Building on Madison Park at 26th Street.

To the east of the residential tower are a group of six-story residential buildings located at 350 West 50th Street that are also part of this important complex that also has a large cineplex in its basement. The low-rise buildings surround their own large central courtyard. Both the low-rise and high-rise portions of the project have pale orange brick facades with white trim and many corner windows. Although there are no balconies, there are quite a few terraces. The World Wide Plaza

The World Wide Plaza

The view on the World Wide Plaza office building from 8th Avenue (and 50th Street)

The project was completed in 1989 by William Zeckendorf Jr., and the residential portion was designed by Frank Williams. The entire complex is on the former, second site (from 1925-1966) of Madison Square Garden, which moved to new quarters 17 blocks south on Eighth Avenue. World Wide Plaza was the key to the redevelopment of Eighth Avenue, which had for decades been one of the city's sleaziest stretches, especially after the relocation of Madison Square Garden, and had been known mostly for its 'porn' emporiums. The pioneering project was successful in garnering many major prestigious office tenants because of the high quality of its design, its closeness to Rockefeller Center and its relatively low rents at the time of the development.

So important was this project to the future of West Midtown that it was the subject of a book and television special when it was completed. Eighth Avenue traditionally separated the Clinton residential community from the Theater District and midtown. Plans to locate a new convention center in the city on the Hudson River at 47th Street were defeated by civic groups who feared that such a major project would lead to the quick redevelopment of the low-rise Clinton neighborhood and the displacement of its many residents. The convention center eventually was located several blocks to the south with its main entrance at 35th Street. World Wide Plaza's importance cannot be underestimated as it was quite critical in the renaissance of Times Square by demonstrating that major commercial tenants would move to this once dingy area. Its high and significant visibility on the skyline also encouraged the planned westward expansion of Rockefeller Center to Seventh Avenue and several other medium office buildings nearby.

The World Wide Plaza

Closeup on World Wide Plaza office building

Although the 35-story apartment tower is dwarfed by the much larger office tower, it is substantially separated from it by the plaza and offers incredible views because it is so far west. The tower has some very large terraces and one of the grandest and most elegant, modern lobbies in the city. The low-rise buildings, which were designed to fit into the context of Ninth Avenue and the Clinton District, have highly detailed and modulated facades with curved segments. The entire mixed-use project is the handsomest of its kind and size in Manhattan after World War II. Although the design of the office tower with its steep pyramidal roof is Post-Modern, it is very imposing and grand. The residential section is distinctly different stylistically but very compatible with the office tower.

The World Wide Plaza

The view on the World Wide Plaza building from Pier 90. The ship on the right is Carnival Destiny.

The World Wide Plaza

The view on the World Wide Plaza building from Navy Piers. The corner of West Side Highway and West 49th Street.

This is New York at its best: fabulous views from the tower, great architecture, wonderful, landscaped plaza with a large sculpted globe, major, inexpensive cineplex, a mix of housing types, grand entrance, protected courtyard, a mix of housing types and apartment sizes, deference to the surrounding community, the ethnic flavor of Ninth Avenue, famed for its food festivals, the nearby glamor of the Theater District and Times Square and a short walk to some of the most interesting and good-looking office buildings in midtown, to say nothing of Rockefeller Center, and good transportation.

-- Carter B. Horsley


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