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September 20, 2018 - Comments Off on Hudson Yards is becoming NYC’s next great neighborhood

Hudson Yards is becoming NYC’s next great neighborhood

Hudson Yards is becoming NYC’s next great neighborhood

Photographed by: Related / Curbed

It’s nearly impossible to talk about Hudson Yards over the phone—or at least, that’s what I’m told by the people who are behind the megaproject. It’s not so much a development, a number of urban planners will explain, as it is an effort in city building.

Hudson Yards is the largest private real estate development in the United States, spanning 28 acres and accommodating upward of 18 million square feet of office, retail, and residential space. It will eventually hold 14 acres of public space, anchored by a public plaza with Thomas Heatherwick’s 150-foot-tall, painted steel “stairway to nowhere” as its centerpiece. There will be more than a dozen buildings, including a number of glassy supertall skyscrapers (one with the city’s highest open-air observation deck). And the whole thing is being constructed on a platform atop the sprawling, still-operating West Side rail yards, with trains passing beneath it every day.

With that in mind, I’m encouraged to ditch a telephone conversation and instead visit the Midtown offices of Kohn Pedersen Fox, the architecture firm that master planned the development, where I can better envision the whole thing. There, KPF design director Marianne Kwok, who has collaborated on the design of Hudson Yards, is ready with a PowerPoint presentation and model of the Eastern Yard, the first phase of the megaproject. She points out nuances in the design of each skyscraper, the well-thought-out entry points from the megaproject to the rest of the city, and where the neighborhood integrates with the High Line. Just outside the conference room where we meet, photographs and renderings plaster the walls of the open office, as if reminding the architects they’re designing an entire neighborhood, not just one or two buildings.

I have to admit: It’s strange looking upon the planning of an entire neighborhood from afar, the grand task of envisioning a piece of the city out of nothing. As the first phase gets closer to completion, Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group, the megaproject’s developers, are making the case to New York they’re building an important—they would also argue authentic—extension of Manhattan. But the question remains: Will New York buy it?

Hudson Yards is unlike anything that’s been built before, even in New York City, where massive urban-planning schemes are regularly used to spin entire neighborhoods out of whole cloth. (Often to the detriment of those who lived there previously—see Lincoln Center, which displaced the mostly black and Latino residents who once called the area San Juan Hill.)

Its foundation, for one, is its own complex beast. The site where Hudson Yards is currently on the rise—roughly bounded by 10th and 11th avenues, and 30th and 34th streets—was home to one of New York’s first freight lines, the Hudson River Railroad, whose tracks were laid in the late 1840s. After decades of use for shipping cargo up and down the island of Manhattan, ownership of the rail line and its yards ended up in the hands of Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, and the Metro-North Railroad.

Developers have long eyed the site for its potential, with now-President Donald Trump purchasing a chunk of the freight yards back in the 1970s. (That portion became the site of the Jacob K. Javits Center, just north of Hudson Yards, in 1975, and Riverside South/Trump Place in 1997, which he later sold.) But the first mention of “Hudson Yards” as a potential development came in 2001, as part of the city’s ultimately unsuccessful bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics.



Dan Doctoroff, the founder and CEO of urban innovation group Sidewalk Labs, was then the president of NYC2012, a pro-Olympics group backed by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He helped city officials devise a $3.7 billion package with a master vision for the site, which incorporated a stadium, an extension of the 7 train, and more. “When I first presented the idea of the Olympics [in 1996], I had two plans,” says Doctoroff, who also wrote about the experience in his recent book, Greater Than Ever. “One became West Chelsea and the High Line, and the other was Hudson Yards.” Developing the railyards and surrounding underutilized industrial lots was “obvious,” he says.

“It was clear this was the last frontier in Manhattan,” Doctoroff notes. “The question was, What do you do with it?”

The NYC2012 team saw the Olympics bid not only as an opportunity to build a stadium—for the Olympics, and after that, the New York Jets—but to “rethink the whole neighborhood around the rail yards,” as Doctoroff puts it. New York City ultimately lost the Olympic bid, but the dream of a massive new development remained: The city rezoned the area, and by 2009, the New York City Council had approved Related’s revised plan. The developer, in partnership with Goldman Sachs (which eventually withdrew from the project), hit the ground running, kicking off caisson drilling and decking over the rail yards in 2014 and opening the first office building, 10 Hudson Yards, in 2016.



Donald Clinton, a partner with Cooper Robertson, the architecture and urban design firm that prepared the master plan for Hudson Yards, says early concepts for the site have mostly remained intact. The plan was envisioned to be heavily mixed-use, anchored by a cultural facility (what is now the Shed) and stuffed with green space. And they knew its success would depend on the extension of the 7 train, which ultimately opened in 2015. “The plan turned into zoning, and Related is now building within the framework of that zoning,” Clinton notes.

KPF is the main architect of record and behind the distinctive towers at 10, 30, and 55 Hudson Yards, but Related hired a mix of firms to create a diverse skyline. Kwok breaks down the level of texture, from a shingled-glass facade on 30 Hudson Yards to James Carpenter Design Associates’ West Podium Art Wall, in which glass “scallops” reflect the sky above and plantings below, positioned so not to reflect the Vessel in front. The Shed, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group, will even boast a retractable glass canopy.



But it’s the surrounding parks and newly built open space the team believes will open Hudson Yards to the rest of the city. “What absolutely turned out to be a godsend is the High Line,” says Clinton. Back when Hudson Yards’ urban design framework was in the works, no one predicted what the elevated rail park would become. “We knew it had a future, but it hadn’t happened yet,” Clinton says. Some RFPs, he adds, called for tearing down the portion that swerves toward the yards. Instead, the popular park will be a tremendous boon for Hudson Yards, as well as the perfect elevated entryway into an elevated neighborhood.

Credit Curbed NY / Full Article