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Grand Central Food Hall Proposal Nears Approval

The cavernous and elegant Vanderbilt Hall, in Grand Central Terminal, has recently been home to many temporary displays, holiday retail shops and private events. Now it is moving one step closer to housing its first permanent installation, a food hall and a fine-dining restaurant that would be run by Claus Meyer, the founder of Noma in Copenhagen, considered one of the world's best.

On Friday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the 100-year-old terminal, unveiled the food hall plan, which has been endorsed by a committee charged with vetting proposals for the best use of the marble-floored space that was the station's main waiting room until 1996. On Monday, the Metro-North Railroad committee and the authority's finance committee will hold a preliminary vote on the plan, and on Wednesday, the full board will make its final decision. Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for the authority, said it was "highly unlikely" that the board would reject it.

David Clapp | Stone | Getty Images

The project will provide the busy terminal with a variety of new dining choices on the main level in addition to the lower-level food court.

It will include a Nordic-themed food hall that will feature a combination of retail and casual restaurants and a balcony cafe occupying 16,000 square feet, the western half of the soaring Vanderbilt Hall. In addition, there will be a 100-seat Nordic brasserie in a space that is currently not in use adjacent to the hall. There will also be a grab-and-go food outlet in the spot where there is now a Hot & Crusty stand, next to the ramp to 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue. The entire development is expected to be in operation in two years.

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Nancy Marshall, the director of retail leasing for Grand Central Terminal, said the appeal of the Meyer project was not only that it is unique, but also that it "engaged all price points from a cup of coffee to fine dining."

Mr. Meyer and his partner, Heyer Performance, a restaurant development company based in New York, were the highest bidders among 15 groups that responded to the request for proposals to use Vanderbilt Hall and adjoining areas in the terminal.

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Jeff Rosen, the director of real estate for the M.T.A., said officials were looking for a high-quality project that would generate traffic for the other tenants. "Grand Central Terminal is a magnificent entity," he said. "It just so happened that the highest rent proposal was also of the highest quality." Of the Nordic theme, Mr. Rosen said, "We're very happy to embrace the unusual when it makes economic sense."

The developers will pay $1.8 million in rent the first year, a figure that will escalate annually. Their contract will be for 10 years, with an option for a five-year renewal. The eastern half of Vanderbilt Hall will continue to be used for private events, and the popular holiday market that has occupied part of Vanderbilt Hall for the past few years will also continue.

The landmark status of Grand Central means that it cannot be altered; any fixtures for the food hall have to be free-standing, not built into the walls or floor.

Mr. Meyer, reached by phone in Copenhagen, said he relished the opportunity to come to New York. "It's a great chance and an interesting time to bring the Nordic concept to a wider world," he said. Though he realized that New Yorkers would expect "some kind of Scandinavian flavor," he did not plan to fill the food hall with only imported goods. "Nordic cuisine is very much about capturing the local flavor," he said, "so I will have to find a way to bring my philosophy to the New York restaurant landscape."

Noma was voted best restaurant in the world by Restaurant Magazine for several years. Mr. Meyer, 50, also owns Studio, a new restaurant in Copenhagen, and Gustu restaurant in La Paz, Bolivia.

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