By Orlando Lee Rodriguez
After years of competing visions, proposals, community battles and governmental compromises, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn yesterday (Tuesday) joined developer Stephen Ross to break ground on the long-awaited project that will eventually become Hudson Yards.
The groundbreaking took place in the shadow and construction clammer of the already-underway 47-story South Office Tower, which, when completed, will become the headquarters of Coach Inc.
“Today’s groundbreaking means that the market has spoken and, even in this challenging economy, we’re moving forward to make the far West Side’s economic potential a reality,” said Mayor Bloomberg.
“This process started with the city council’s approval in 2005 of our proposed rezoning of the Hudson Yards area,” the Mayor said.
“The city’s $3 billion in public infastructure investment has unlocked even bigger private investment, more than $6 billion of private projects have been completed since 2005. It really can have a multiplier effect and bring real business and real growth to our city.”
A key portion of the mayor’s long term economic agenda, the city had attempted to get a multitude of different projects off the ground on the west side rail yards for years. A new stadium for the New York Jets was once proposed but failed after public outcry that the project was out of scope.
“There was a lot of discussion about what would happen here, there were some ideas of which there were disagreement and some of ideas of which there had potential for agreement,” said Speaker Quinn.
“It’s important to remember that the process was difficult and contentious. What happened here is different than most stories of neighborhood government disagreement. We believed that if people who had a vision for their city kept talking and kept working, we would ultimately find a point of commonality.”
The massive $15 billion public-private 26-acre development will be built mostly atop the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s West Side Rail Yards, the largest tract of undeveloped land on Manhattan Island.
When completed the project is set to host six million square feet of commercial space, 750,000 s/f of which will be for retail. “The tower we begin starts a new neighborhood that will become the heart of New York,” said Stephen Ross, head of Related Companies, the project’s co-developer along with Oxford Properties. “I am proud to say that Hudson Yards will become the new home of Related as well as my new residence.”
Hudson Yards has been touted as the most transformative neighborhood creation project in the city since Lincoln Center changed the Upper West Side in the 1960’s. As more tenants commit to the area, work will begin on the platform atop the MTA rail yards where approximately 5,000 new residences will be built, some of which will be designated for affordable housing.
A public park is also planned as well as a museum. The neighborhood will get its own subway station on the Number 7 line, the first expansion of the subway in decades.
“It’s not only going to be something you rarely ever see in New York — the creation of a new neighborhood,” said Joseph Lhota, chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the owner of the West Side Yards. “It will be a new place where people will live, go to school, raise their children and they will actually work.
“As the owner of the property I am looking forward to completing the entire project.”
The first phase is expected to be complete by 2017. The office towers will be built as new tenants are signed.
Architects invovled in the project include Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, Skidmore Owings & Merrill, Diller Scofidio & Renfro.