Olympic Tower

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641 Fifth Avenue, New York City, NY

Olympic Tower

The Olympic Tower in Midtown Manhattan, New York City
Building Information
Developer Aristotle Onasis
Architect Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill
Number of Units 229
Number of Floors 52
Year Built 1975
Construction Method Concrete
Type of Roof IRMA
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641 Fifth Avenue, New York City, NY
Distance to Public Transit Over 60 nearby routes
Region New York City
Municipality New York City
Zoning C5 - 3
Title of Land Condominium



Over the years, many different buildings have occupied the area where Olympic Tower now stands. As early as the 1800s, the site was the location of an orphanage run by the Roman Catholic Church before being converted into the clubhouse of the Union Club, New York City’s oldest gentleman’s club. When the Union Club moved to its current location on Park Avenue in 1944, the site was bought by the Best & Company retail company, who built one of their flagship stores on the location in 1947.

By 1970, Best & Company closed the location and turned to Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onasis and Arlan Properties to develop an office building to replace the store. Architect Morris Lapidus was hired to design the building. He turned in a design that would have kept the original Best & Company store intact and would have replaced the Olympic Airlines Building just next to it. Lapidus’ design most likely would have gone through had the zoning requirements not been changed at that time regarding buildings constructed along Fifth Avenue.

Facing criticism over Fifth Avenue’s loss of retail clout, city planners changed the rules in 1971 to dictate that buildings built along Fifth Avenue had to set aside up to 85% of their commercial space for use by retail stores. After an editorial in The New York Times suggested that Lapidus was not an appropriate choice as architect for the project, Lapidus was replaced first by architects Kahn & Jacobs, and finally by Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill.[1]


Located on Fifth Avenue between 51st and 52nd Streets, owners would be hard pressed to find a more convenient location in New York City. Situated at the heart of Midtown Manhattan, The Olympic Tower is close to all that New York has to offer. With its address of Fifth Avenue, Olympic Tower is literally in a retail paradise with numerous high end and world renowned shops sharing the same address, including Gucci, Versace, Louis Vitton, Apple, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany’s, and Bergdorf Goodman.

For those looking for culture, The Olympic Tower is walking distance to world famous venues such as Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, and the theater district of Broadway. Midtown Manhattan is New York City’s central business district, offering people of all professions an extremely short commute, while tourists can find many of New York’s most famous buildings in this neighborhood, including the Empire State Building, the New York Public Library, the Chrysler Building, and Rockefeller Center.[2]


Although the project was begun by Best & Company in 1970, zoning and design delays meant that construction was not started until 1974 with construction finishing in 1976. The Olympic Tower was considered a groundbreaking concept at the time of its opening as it was the first mixed use building to be zoned on Fifth Avenue and one of the first to combine residential apartments with both office and retail space.[3]

The first floor of this building houses over 38,000 square feet of retail space and contains a through block public arcade made of grey granite where the entrance for the office space is located. Floors 2 through 21 house over 250,000 square feet of office space including the offices of the NBA while the remaining floors hold the 229 residential apartments.

Described as a designed in the International Style of architecture, Olympic Tower has two separate frameworks to the building. The lower commercial floors are made of steel frames, while the upper residential floors used concrete cast walls and slabs. The entire building features floor to ceiling windows and these windows are made from a dark brown glass giving the building an extremely reflective surface that can look almost black in the right lighting conditions.[4]

Layout and Features

Residents of Olympic Tower have their own separate entrance that is located on 51st Street, but do have the option of passing under The Olympic Place Gallery. This is the building’s impressive granite block arcade the public uses to reach the retail and office space of the building’s lower floors. This arcade features a 30 foot ceiling, a public cafe, potted trees, and a magnificent multilevel cascading waterfall. The resident entrance is impressive with a street level marquee, elevator attendants, and a fully staffed lobby waiting inside.

Apartments within Olympic Tower range in size from studios to sprawling four bedroom condos. All units have three meter high ceilings and dramatic floor to ceiling windows that offer stunning views of midtown Manhattan including the neighboring St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Center. Kitchens are equipped with granite counters, kitchen islands, wooden cabinetry, and stainless steel appliances. Bathrooms feature marble finishes and stainless steel fixtures, while the apartments as a whole have hardwood flooring.[5]

Floor Plans

With over 60 floor plans available, a selection is presented.


The amenities in this building have frequently been cited as the reason for The Olympic Tower being consistently rated as one of the top residential buildings in New York City. In particular, the staff at this building are known for their discretion and professionalism in dealing with the many high profile tenants this building houses and many of the staff are fluent in several languages.

Staff at Olympic Tower include 24 hour doormen, concierge, security personnel, and elevator attendants.

Additional services provided include a fitness center, a barber and hair-dressing salon, roof deck, resident lounge, and a spacious secured bicycle storage room.

Amenities in this building are managed by Douglas Elliman Property Management.


Olympic Tower Bylaws
Rentals Yes
Pets No
Age No
Barbecues No

  • This building does not allow pets
  • There are no age restrictions towards ownership within this building
  • In the absence of balconies, barbecues are not allowed
  • Rentals and sublets are allowed
  • Purchasing rules for this building allow both pied-a-terre and corporate purchases.[6]


While The Olympic Tower was designed and built before sustainability awareness, its location and walk score of 98 means that residents who are looking to lower their carbon footprint do not need a car for daily necessities.

This building has not been certified as a green building.[7]


  • The Olympic Tower opened around the same time as The Galleria located several blocks to the North on 57th Street. The Galleria was not initially successful in selling its apartments despite the positive critical reception to the building’s design. The Olympic Tower managed to avoid this fate by courting more foreign buyers through its developer, Aristotle Onasis.
  • When The Olympic Tower opened, it held the highest profile among mixed use buildings on Fifth Avenue. This title was conceded in the 1980s with the construction of Trump Tower a couple of blocks to the North of Olympic Tower.
  • The Olympic Tower holds the distinction of being the first skyscraper in New York City to house retail stores, office space, and residential units.[8]
  • The Olympic Tower has had the reputation of attracting some of the world’s wealthiest people as residents over the years. Adnan Khashoggi, considered in the 1980s as one of the wealthiest people in the world, was one such resident who had a swimming pool installed in his apartment.[9]
  • Another famous resident is Arthur Erickson, the famous Canadian architect, who decided that three meter ceilings were not enough, and actually raised the ceiling in his living room to improve upon his view.
  • Currently, The Olympic Tower is home to the office of the NBA, taking up office space in the 14th - 20th floors.
  • The Olympic Tower has the unique distinction of having its own postage stamp, featuring a color photo of itself.


  1. City Realty - Review
  2. Wikipedia - Mid Town Manhattan
  3. Wikipedia - Olympic Tower
  4. Emporis
  5. Manhattan Scout
  6. Street Easy
  7. Manhattan Scout
  8. Emporis
  9. Wikipedia - Olympic Tower

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