Noticeable Progress at Hudson Yards

​Op-Ed by Ryan Harris, APA-NYM Operations Planning Lead

Many planners have been disappointed with the selection of the Javits Center as the venue for this year’s National Planning Conference taking place on May 6 to 9. Located at the far West side of Midtown, the convention center was once surrounded by abandoned buildings. Its poor pedestrian environment was seldomly visited by New Yorkers. But this historically desolate neighborhood is changing rapidly!

Hudson Yards prior site conditions

Whether or not you agree with the area’s ambitious $20 billion redevelopment — hailed by some as an economic driver and criticized by others for the tax incentives awarded to its developers — the massive glass and steel construction projects are transforming this once forlorn district. New York is creating a new business district of international stature from scratch, much like Canary Wharf in London or La Defense in Paris.

The Hudson Yards Project is projected to create as much commercial office space as downtown Miami. The economic impact to the city and the region is expected to be immense. While the redevelopment of the far West Side will take decades to materialize, various elements of the plan are nearing completion. Thousands of transit riders are already streaming in and out of the cavernous 7 line station at 34th Street and 11th Avenue that opened in late 2015.

Illustrative Site Plan of the Far West Side

Ten Hudson Yards has been open for nearly a year and its lobby will soon open directly onto the High Line, one of NYC’s most popular visitor attractions. Thirty Hudson Yards is will soon be one of the tallest buildings in the city and the intricate ironwork of the Culture Shed — destined to be one of the most transformational buildings in the city — is now clearly visible from the street. The companion art installation by Thomas Heatherwick is sure to become an attraction in its own right. Meanwhile, four additional commercial and residential buildings are in various stages of construction.

The shell of the Culture Shed will roll open or closed on enormous wheels, providing a flexible indoor/outdoor event space

Just beyond Hudson Yards, the Empire State Development Corporation recently broke ground on a 1.2 million square feet expansion  of the Javits Center, which will include streetscape improvements and the  largest ballroom in the northeast. While the improvements will not be apparent at this year’s National Planning Conference, the expansion will increase the usefulness and appeal of the space in the long-term.

East of the Hudson Yards, the Manhattan West Project is also underway. The 1969 brutalist concrete ziggurat building at 450 West 33rd Street has been re-clad in glass and renamed into 5 Manhattan West. It will soon be flanked by three new commercial and residential towers bordered by a public plaza. Other projects are also transforming the area. Approved projects from Bjark Ingels and Norman Foster are in the pipeline, while a handful of residential towers have gone up in the past few years. The overcrowded New York Penn Station is finally receiving a long-awaited extension on the former beaux-arts style General Post Office across 8th Avenue. Named Moynihan Train Hall, the extension is slated to open in 2020. A pedestrian walkway will connect Hudson Yards to Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit and the NYC subway once Phase II of the new the Moynihan Station is complete.

Manhattan West is located immediately to the east of Hudson Yards

Hudson Yards will become a landmark for New York — perhaps even one day rivaling Rockefeller Center as an identifiable commercial district. Those familiar with such intense development can foresee the challenges and opportunities likely to result .  I hope APA-NYM members attending NPC17 take this opportunity to enlighten our city’s guests about the enormous project unfolding directly across the street from the largest gathering of planners of the year.

The opinions and statements that appear in this post are not endorsed by the American Planning Association, the American Planning Association New York Metro Chapter, nor its affiliates.