(Part 1 of a multi-part series on New York City’s Hudson Yards)

By Royce PinkwaterHudson Yards

It is NYC’s largest real estate development project in nearly a century, and the nation’s largest private development ever – a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly, transit-oriented mixed-use neighborhood literally created from thin air.

It represents a huge $20 Billion bet by The Related Companies that they can create a new center of gravity in Manhattan in the area just south of the Javits Center, bounded by 30th and 34th Streets and 10th and 12th Avenues. It will be home to high-end brands such as Nieman-Marcus, Dior, Chanel, SAP, and Time Warner.

Covering 28 acres and, when completed in 2024, totaling 17 million square feet of commercial and residential space, including 5000+ new apartments, it is also home to the city’s first new subway stop in 25 years, as well as the first of 75 fitness-centric hotels planned around the world by fitness chain Equinox.

It, of course, is Hudson Yards.


Situated in what was for decades an uninviting district of warehouses, parking lots, factories, and tenements, the location has long been hungrily eyed by some of the most powerful interests in the city. Names like Zeckendorf and Steinbrenner. The Jets, the Yankees, the Mets. And Bloomberg.

Early in his tenure, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg had an idea. The idea was to build an enormous West Side Stadium sports / convention complex on a site that for decades was an uninviting district of warehouses, parking lots, factories, and tenements.  That complex would lure the 2012 Summer Olympics to New York City, and the stadium would later be turned over to the New York Jets. That plan — highly controversial because of its $1.2 Billion taxpayer price tag – was ultimately defeated.

 

However, in the course of its planning, the city rezoned the site and most of the surrounding neighborhood (a total of 60 blocks) from manufacturing to residential and commercial, opening it to large-scale development. That, along with a historically low interest rate environment and various economic stimulus measures resulting from the market meltdown of 2008, created the necessary backdrop for a Plan of historic proportion and engineering mastery.


The Plan

Hudson Yards' Site Plan

Click to Enlarge (From: www.hudsonyardsnewyork.com)

The Hudson Yards Plan consists of two separate construction areas — the Eastern and Western Yards – being built in two phases. First, currently underway and expected to be completed in 2018, is the Eastern Yard.  It will consist of five towers plus a seven-story retail mall of one million sq ft.  The mall will house 20 restaurants and 100 stores, including Nieman-Marcus, Dior, and Chanel. Time Warner will occupy one million sq ft in a 92-story office building at the northeast corner of the Eastern Yard. 

Also on the Eastern Yard will be a six acre public square with 28,000 plants and 225 trees, and at least one large fountain. However, the most interesting building on the Yard sits at its southwest corner.  

 

Screenshot 2015-10-26 at 1.39.01 PM

This is the Culture Shed, a futuristic glass and steel art and performance venue designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group. A breathtaking transparent building, it will host productions and events of every type across a number of versatile spaces, including an egalitarian mixed indoor/outdoor concert space enabled by an enormous sliding wall. It is expected to open in 2019.

Screenshot 2015-10-26 at 1.39.15 PM

 (Photos from http://nyccultureshed.org/)

 

Phase Two of the project is the development of the Western Yard, which will comprise 6.2 million sq ft: 2.0 million of office space, 4.0 million residential, as well as some retail and the neighborhoods own 750 seat public school.  

 

Phase Two has yet to begin, although the extension of the High Line, an integral part of the Western Yard, has recently been completed.  Your reporter went to the site to walk the extension and found that it enters Hudson Yards and curves along 30th Street and up 12th Avenue to 34th Street, with a spur along 30th Street to 10th Avenue. The developers have planned to integrate this portion of the High Line into its surroundings much more tightly than the southern portion, snaking it through and around the proposed buildings.

Below, from www.hudsonyardsnewyork.com, is an artist’s rendering of the completed neighborhood.

Map of Hudson Yards' Nearby Offerings

(Click to enlarge)


The Site

The engineering mastery of the Plan comes from the fact that the site itself is not your normal construction location. It is the air rights above a rail yard owned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Hudson Yards itself will sit upon two enormous 14 acre platforms built over the train yard, which will still function as usual.  

Aerial of Hudson Yards and The West Side

(Photo from The New York Times) (click to enlarge)

 

The site (see photo above) was originally home to a train depot and later a freight terminal.  In 1987, it was rebuilt as the John D. Cammerer West Side Yard, a storage yard for Long Island Railroad trains, enabling those trains to park there during non-rush hours rather than go back to Long Island. This increased peak capacity out of Penn Station and lowered fuel and maintenance costs.

Presciently, the Yard was designed to be able to accommodate future building based on its air rights.  But it is unlikely that its designers foresaw building on the scale taking place there now.


In the coming weeks, The Pinkwater Report’s in-depth look at Hudson Yards will explore in detail the individual components of the project and will include interviews with some of the stakeholders and participants.  Next week’s installment will focus on Hudson Yards’ residential elements.