The west side of midtown Manhattan is probably one of the more unexplored areas of New York City by residents and tourists alike. Aside from the Jacob Javits Center, and the different programs off of the Hudson River Parkway that runs parallel to the waterfront, there is very little reason to walk through this industry – and infrastructure – dominated expanse of land full of manufacturers, body shops, parking facilities and vacant lots. The NYC government and various agencies, aware of the lost potential of this area, began hatching plans in 2001 to develop this 48-block, 26-acre section, bound by 43rd Street to the North, 8th Ave to the East, 30th Street to the South and the West Side Highway to the West.
The new Hudson Yards, NYC’s largest development, will be a feat of collaboration between many agencies and designers. The result will be 26 million square feet of new office development, 20,000 units of housing, 2 million square feet of retail, and 3 million square feet of hotel space, mixed use development featuring cultural and parking uses, 12 acres of public open space, a new public school and an extension of a subway line the 7 that currently terminates at Times Square-42nd Street, reintroducing the otherwise infrastructurally isolated portion of the city back into the life of midtown Manhattan. All this for $800 million with up to $3 billion in public money.
Join us after the break for details and images.
The Hudson Yards Development Project is a fascinating collaboration produced by many of the city’s agencies, private developers and state authority. Putting the pieces together has enabled a comprehensive planning strategy that appears to make this large scale development possible. Beginning with bureaucratic considerations of the zoning regulations, the use of public and private space, and the infrastructural elements so vital to the life and pace of the city, the New York City Council redeveloped the blocks and lots to accommodate the potential programs to increase the vitality of the area.
The bureaucratic side of the development was approved in 2005 with the rezoning of the 48 blocks to allow for new offices spaces, housing, retail and a hotel. These new amenities to the neighborhood will likely create a new community, provide new revenue for the city and give visitors to the Jacob Javits Center, which will also be expanded to the north, a broader range of options in the area. The other stage of rezoning from 2009 gave the MTA permission to develop the Western Railyards – the open air railroad storage yard – into a transportation hub with a variety of public, cultural and community programs.
The new zoning encourages a variety of uses throughout the area and varying degrees of commercial and residential spaces across the development. The 2005 plan features mixed use areas along the northern and eastern blocks, the portion of the development closest to Times Square. The southern and western blocks are predominantly commercial: areas that are an extension of the shopping district of 34th Street, connections to Madison Square Garden and the planned Moynihan Station to the East and the Jacob Javits Center to the West. Predominantly residential areas are situated at the center of the development with access to the different mixed use and commercial programs and abutting a spine of open space, a crucial void among the dense skyscrapers, between 11th and 10th Avenues running from the corner of 31st Street to the corner of 41st Street.
The new zoning regulations for this area also have a series of bonuses and air rights transfers that will allow the square footages of the buildings to vary by program and developer. It will likely encourage the inclusion of public spaces and community facilities in exchange for permission to build taller buildings on individual lots. Developers will also be granted bonuses for funding the infrastructure in the area. Now imagine that six of those blocks will have MTA-LIRR railroad storage yards, maintenance facility, and substation operating below the site. This is the Eastern Rail Yard, which will remain functional as the development moves forward. Developers and architects will face a number of challenges to bring the site to completion. Many infrastructural conditions will have to be taken into account, including the extension of the 7 train underground and access points to the subway stations. Considering the traffic flows is equally as important as the Lincoln Tunnel traffic moves through this area.
Justin Davidson, of New York Magazine, writes from the first meeting held by the developer, Related Companies, that brought together the various design and architecture firms that will bring their vision to the site and develop a neighborhood. Among them are William Pedersen of Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, David Childs of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, Elizabeth Diller of Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, David Rockwell, Howard Elkus of Elkus Manfredi and Thomas Woltz. Related Companies is faced with the challenge of designing a neighborhood from scratch. Most of New York City is an ad-hoc assembly of design choices and regulatory influences – new stacked atop the old. This “built in one go” transformation will be a result of collaboration, debate, and coordination. This enterprise, writes Davidson, is more ambitious than any other urban transformation that NYC has seen and has no former precedent.
Two KPF towers will greet visitors from the south, heading from the Highline towards Hudson. The otherwise bulky and high rise towers are broken up at ground level, providing an experience of the ground that shares an edge with the rising towers, notes Davidson. “Planners have tried to soften the borders of their domain. That’s not just civic-mindedness; it’s good business. If Hudson Yards is going to be a truly urban place, it will have to lure people who neither work nor live there but who come because everyone else does. The development will have two major magnets, one for commerce, food, and entertainment, the other for that primal necessity of New York life: culture,” he writes.
The visibly accessible portions of these office towers are dominated by cultural and social spaces. Shopping, restaurants and plazas dominate the base and provide natural transitions between the street and interiors of these towers. Further north into the Hudson Yards is Elizabeth Diller and David Rockwell’s version of Culture Shed that will feature traveling exhibits and events. This cultural fixture has the potential to bring extend the corridor from the new Whitney Museum, through the Chelsea art galleries and on to Lincoln Center.
Davidson predicts that the most crucial and challenging portion of the design will be the public space which will need to be both welcoming to the visiting public and secure for the residents and office workers that will call this new plaza their backyard. The plaza should be an inspired work of architecture and planning, providing a forum for interactions, multiple uses, bustling gatherings and moments of solitary meditation. The balance of the landscaped void among 1,000 foot towers is delicate. For now, the design has been postponed as the pieces of the architecture giants come together.