Construction Update: The World Trade Center Transit Hub

The World Trade Center Transit Hub and One World Trade Center; 175 Greenwich at left

Construction has made major headway on all fronts at the World Trade Center’s Transportation Hub, where spokes are now being attached to the rib-cage. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is building the $3.94 billion structure, which was designed by Santiago Calatrava.

Totaling 800,000 square-feet, the Transit Hub will connect major arteries to a central node directly underneath the new World Trade Center complex. While construction has taken many years, it will soon connect eleven subway lines, also servicing the PATH with three permanent platforms.

The World Trade Center Transit Hub

The World Trade Center Transit Hub

The design is impressive, and includes a retractable roof 150 feet above the street. The six underground floors will be warmed by sunlight from above; Calatrava’s inspiration originated with the idea of taking flight, and he has previously stated The Hub “resembles a bird being released from a child’s hand.”

All 114 ribs, or the steel portions that extend upward from street level to the angled sections, have now been installed; the arches above are also complete. Construction is currently focused on the wings that protrude outward, capping the structure. As of mid-June, over a dozen have been added, though — so far — the majority are on the site’s western side, removed from pedestrian access.

The World Trade Center Transit Hub

The World Trade Center Transit Hub

The Westfield Group is developing the retail portion of the Transit Hub, which will have a 365,000 square foot and 150-store underground mall. The Wall Street Journal has reported that 80% of the slots have already signed leases, with rents reportedly running between $400 and $500 per square foot. Big-name tenants already include Tom Ford, Zadig & Voltaire, and Apple; pictures of the interior’s progress have been posted on the site’s Facebook page.

The opening of the Transit Hub should jump-start the rest of the World Trade Center. Fighting between Silverstein and The Port Authority has jeopardized the future of 175 Greenwich Street — aka Three World Trade Center — which could remain on-hold if an agreement is not reached soon. GroupM’s lease has the potential to unravel if private financing is not secured by the end of this month, and the PA has seemingly walked away from the project.

150 & 175 Greenwich and the World Trade Center Transit Hub

150 & 175 Greenwich and the World Trade Center Transit Hub

Two World Trade Center’s completion is even further off, and that tower remains in a perpetual state of limbo. Construction fencing lining the site will continue to blight Church Street, and the chaotic pedestrian bottleneck at the intersection of Church and Vesey will remain impassable for the foreseeable future.

WTC Transit Hub

WTC Transit Hub

Luckily there’s light at the end of one tunnel, and the Transit Hub is set to open in December of 2015.

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Posted in 1 WTC | 175 Greenwich | 200 Greenwich | Calatrava | One World Trade Center | Port Authority | Silverstein | The Westfield Group | WTC Transit Center

Seaport City: Development Dream, Feasible Reality?

Seaport City concept rendering, via the NYC EDC

Last summer, as part of a plan to protect New York from flooding due to climate change, the Bloomberg administration proposed building “Seaport City,” a Battery Park City-type development on the East River in Lower Manhattan. Landfill would be used to create a “multi-purpose levee”—19 feet high at its peak and reaching 500 feet into the East River—which would not only shield inland areas from floodwaters, but also support new commercial and residential development. Over time, the revenues from new development would help pay for flood-mitigation projects.

The idea is as intriguing as it is ambitious. To think: new land in Lower Manhattan! This alone is certainly enough to pique the interests of the city’s power elite. What’s more, it is perfectly clear that something must be done to protect Lower Manhattan from future flooding. The fact that new development could help finance flood protection is the cherry on top, and the primary rationale for Seaport City is the city’s belief it would be “self-financing.”

Five billion in city funds have already been put aside for resiliency measures; the federal government will kick in another $10 billion. Still, the city is $4.5 billion short of what it estimates will be needed to make New York stronger against climate change.

Seaport City

Seaport City concept site plan, via NYC EDC

According to a report by the city’s Economic Development Corporation, the Seaport City concept could indeed be self-financing. The presentation details six different proposals for storm protection, ranging from a series of waterproof barriers and flood-fortified buildings along the existing shoreline to 500 feet of new land extending into the East River with new offices and apartments on top.

All six options—including the least ambitious—were “designed to achieve the same level of flood protection,” according to the study. But only two options would be self-financing. They would both extend 500 feet into the East River, with one featuring a destination park between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.

According to the EDC’s analysis, the “North Park” option is preferred, not only because it would bring in the biggest surplus–$900 million that could be used for other resiliency projects—but would also allow redevelopment projects at Pier 17 and the New Market Building to proceed.

This project would accommodate 12,000 new units of housing, 6.3 million square feet of commercial space, 1.4 million square feet of community facilities, and 26 acres of open space. Most of the new towers would rise south of Maiden Lane, with some smaller-scale development just north of Pier 17 and on another parcel north of the Manhattan Bridge.

It’s likely the city would take on most of the initial risk, establishing an authority or development corporation that would then issue bonds. Battery Park City and Hudson Yards offer precedents. In both cases a new entity was established to both finance the project and to act as a partner with the private sector. A private developer would purchase the right to develop, along with payments in lieu of taxes.

But will any developers bite? If things don’t go as planned at Hudson Yards there might not be much appetite for such a grand project. Will there even be demand for over six million square feet of new office space in lower Manhattan in the next 25 years? The city’s Independent Budget Office predicts that New York City will need anywhere between 30 and 87 million square feet of new office space by 2040, but with such a wide margin, there is a wide potential for errors.

Developers would also have to contend with NIMBYs, as well as building owners upset about losing river views. The project has already drawn the ire of Community Board 3, some of whom were skeptical of the city’s motives. Demands will also include affordable housing.

Could Lower Manhattan get the same level of flood protection for much less hassle? One proposal, called the Big U, would wrap around Manhattan from 57th on the west side, south to the Battery, and back up to 42nd. Along the East River in lower Manhattan, the Big U plan would rely on a “series of pavilions” underneath the FDR Drive and deployable flood barriers. The Big U would not support new apartments and offices.

According to the EDC’s study, these measures would not be sufficient by themselves, but would rather “act as an interim flood protection system.” Land reclamation is the best long-term solution, the report asserts, because it is “passive in nature, consisting only of earthen levee.”

Seaport City

Seaport City & Lower Manhattan topographic map

Ultimately, a vision that plans for the worst-case scenario would most benefit New York. The ice sheets and glaciers of Antarctica and Greenland are receding faster than anticipated, potentially yielding a future with significantly higher sea levels.

Land reclamation does seem to be the city’s best option for flood protection, offering a permanent, 19-foot barrier. Building Seaport City would thus satisfy several city goals: job creation, new housing, and resiliency.

Mayor de Blasio has yet to weigh in on the merits of the Seaport City concept since learning of its feasibility. The mayor has positioned himself as pro-development and pro-density. Seaport City would certainly be big, and would have more than twice the number of apartments set to rise at Hunter’s Point South, currently the city’s largest residential project.

Seaport City

Seaport City rendering, from the draft plan

Building Seaport City would be a major headache for any mayoral administration, and its creation will require a mayor with mettle. Reward is seldom gained without risk — but if New York does not swim, it will surely sink. And if that’s the case, then everyone loses.

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Posted in Architecture | Downtown | Hurricane Sandy | New York | Residential | Seaport | Seaport City

Construction Update: The Hudson Yards

7-Line Station and Hudson Boulevard

As spring has sprung, the pace of construction has picked up at Related’s Hudson Yards development, and the formwork for 10 Hudson Yards is beginning to command local prominence. Besides progress at Coach’s future headquarters, activity is also occurring across the rest of the site, and the rest of phase I will soon begin to rise.

10 Hudson Yards

10 Hudson Yards

The intricacies of 10 Hudson Yards’ cantilever over The High Line are obvious, as extensive formwork is now in place over the elevated park. As the Coach Tower ascends beyond the complicated lower floors, the pace of its construction should begin to speed up. The building is already looming over the end of The High Line, and by the summer, it will likely surpass 500 West 30th Street, beginning its short-lived domination of the local skyline.

10 Hudson Yards

10 Hudson Yards at center; 500 West 30th Street at right, the AVA High line at left

Progress on the platform that will support several of the development’s towers is also evident, as is work on the right-of-way for Amtrak’s Gateway project, which will hopefully link New York to New Jersey with additional tunnels. Excavation equipment is well below street-level, and concrete pours for the tunnel’s foundation are evident closer to Tenth Avenue.

Amtrak Gateway Excavation

Amtrak Gateway Excavation

The scope of work at The Hudson Yards is enormous, though one piece of the puzzle is nearing completion; construction appears to be wrapping up on the new 7-line stop at 34th Street. The station is expected to open this year, along with the adjacent landscaped plaza, which will eventually be integrated into the ‘Hudson Boulevard,’ forming the neighborhood’s key pedestrian arterial.

Pavers for the new park-plaza-hybrid beckon pedestrian access, and clumps of dirt denote future hills for landscaping purposes. The 7-station’s surrounds underscore how even the ‘natural’ parts of Manhattan are man-made, though Hudson Boulevard certainly takes technology to a level that Frederick Law Olmstead could have only imagined.

Hudson Boulevard Pavers

Hudson Boulevard Pavers

Completion of the Hudson Yards’ first phase of construction is expected in 2018.

The Hudson Yards

The Hudson Yards

The Hudson Yards

The Hudson Yards

10 Hudson Yards

10 Hudson Yards

10 Hudson Yards

10 Hudson Yards

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Posted in 10 Hudson Yards | Architecture | Construction Update | Hudson Yards | Kohn Pedersen Fox | Midtown | New York | Office | Related | Residential | Supertall

New Look: The Plaza at Hudson Yards

The Plaza at Hudson Yards -- image from Nelson Byrd Woltz

While the vertical element of Related’s Hudson Yards may be the site’s most prominent attribute, the creation of a public square at the ground-level will cement the mega-project’s iconic status, and new renderings from landscape architects Nelson Byrd Woltz reveal the latest plans.

The renderings look to be missing the most visually significant aspect of the plaza, which is a sculptural element that Related Chairman Stephen Ross has described as greater than “the Christmas tree [at] Rockefeller Center, but 365 days a year. It will be to this city what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris.”

The Plaza at Hudson Yards

The Plaza at Hudson Yards — image from Nelson Byrd Woltz

Nevertheless, the images give a glimpse of what the pedestrian experience will be like when traversing the Hudson Yards, and the thoughtfulness and interactivity of the site is impressive. Per Nelson Byrd Woltz’ page on the project, “landscape design for Hudson Yards employs spectacle, fountains, art, and horticulture to set it apart from its neighbors,” and the description looks spot-0n; Thomas Heatherwick‘s mark on the park is also apparent, as flowing stairs — one of his trademarks — are incorporated into the plaza.

The Plaza at Hudson Yards

The Plaza at Hudson Yards — image from Nelson Byrd Woltz

Even with the admitted spectacle, the landscaping will help develop a context for the surrounding buildings, as the new neighborhood is literally sprouting from nothing. While the renderings do not offer a complete perspective, the most notable beneficiary of the park’s aesthetics appears to be the ‘Culture Shed’ at the base of the Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed ‘D’ tower.

Besides providing a visual anchor to the pedestrian realm, integrating the Shed into the new park is important because it will be the only truly human-scaled structure of the Hudson Yards, providing a link between the ground-level plaza, The High Line, and the skyscrapers that will tower above.

The Plaza at Hudson Yards

The Plaza at Hudson Yards — image from Nelson Byrd Woltz

Work on the new plaza will begin shortly; the first office towers are already rising, and completion of the park should occur well before 2020.

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Posted in Architecture | Hudson Yards | Midtown | Midtown West | Nelson Byrd Woltz | New York | Parks | Related

Beyond Railyards: Related to Create Entire Mini-City

Phase I of Related's Hudson Yards, with the eastern railyards visible - image from KPF

While Related’s Hudson Yards is an enormous development in and of itself, the company has entered into a series of deals over the past year that have greatly expanded its real estate in the neighborhood. Now, after several purchases, Related’s holdings give it the unprecedented ability to develop an entire mini-city beyond the actual rail-yards.

The largest potential extends along Hudson Boulevard, which will be a new pedestrian spine for the neighborhood, extending north from the center of the rail-yards redevelopment, which will consist of a new public square. Millions of square feet of new air rights were created in the 2005 re-zoning, and the boulevard will divide the blocks between 10th and 11th Avenues, allowing for the creation of at least seven new office towers – each of which has the ability to rise 1,000 feet, or more.

Related has made bold moves to extend beyond the rail-yards, and may soon own the entire block to the north. One Hudson Yards, originally proposed by Extell, was acquired in a land-swap last summer; a recent presentation by the Hudson Yards Development Corp indicates Related has now downsized that project to one million square feet, from a prior figure of 1.7 MSF. The branding conflict caused by the building’s address – and its ownership by rival developer Extell – has now been resolved, though no plans for the site’s new design have been made public. Re-named ‘One Hudson Boulevard’ – averting potential confusion with Related’s Hudson Yards towers – the site could begin rising shortly, as sub-grade levels were completed with the 7-train’s extension. The HYDC report on the site indicates construction will begin in 2014, though whether the tower remains entirely commercial is unknown.

To the east lies the future Two Hudson Boulevard, which could become the largest tower of the entire district – possibly surpassing the 1,337-foot Hudson Yards North Tower. The site is significantly larger than One Hudson Boulevard and, accordingly, holds 2.3 million square feet of air rights. The parcel is partially occupied by a drive-through McDonald’s – a testament to the neighborhood’s current neglect – but per a recent press release, Related now controls both One and Two Hudson Boulevard, giving them ownership of the entire block. This would explain the down-sizing of One Hudson Boulevard, as Related could transfer the unused square footage to Two Hudson Boulevard – resulting in a tower that holds three million square feet of space. The site’s available air rights indicate a massive scope, as the building could become one of the largest in New York City; indeed, if Related does manage to transfer the air rights, the tower will rank as Manhattan’s third largest, behind only 55 Water Street and the MetLife Building. With the modern preference for high ceilings, the tower will be significantly taller than either of the aforementioned, possibly taking the title of New York’s tallest.

Beyond the block immediately above the rail-yards, Crain’s reports that Related acquired a parcel between 35th and 36th Streets, and is also in talks with Alloy to buy their site at 450 Hudson Boulevard, which had illustrative mock-ups released back in 2007. If Related manages to strike a deal with Alloy – and their persistence in negotiating with both the city and Extell would seem to make that a likely outcome – the company would control the entire block between 35th and 36th Streets.

Ignoring the potential for future acquisitions – which seem likely – Related is poised to control four of the seven sites along Hudson Boulevard that can accommodate major towers. The company’s new real estate is significant for several reasons, but the most obvious is their excision of control over the area’s office market, which could become saturated with new developments quite quickly, especially if rival developers build projects of their own. Though Related’s expansion borders on a monopolization of the re-zoning, it’s actually a good thing, as the new skyscrapers can be built with eye for visual cohesion in mind – and the possibility of a glut in new space will also be minimized. While the twelve million square feet of air rights associated with the rail-yards are enormous on their own, the adjacent properties Related has acquired complete the package, and now represent the largest development undertaken in New York City’s history, surpassing both Rockefeller Center and the World Trade Center.

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Posted in Architecture | Construction Update | Hudson Yards | Megaproject | Midtown | New York | Office | Related | Residential | Supertall | Zoning

Construction Update: Coach Tower

The Hudson Yards - Coach Tower

Construction on Related’s Hudson Yards is speeding right along, as the Coach Tower is just about ready to ascend into visible range. The office building’s foundation is creeping above ground level, and now stands level with The High Line. More work is visible from Eleventh Avenue, which offers a window into the below-ground happenings of the enormous site.

Eventually the Kohn Pederson Fox-designed Coach Tower will rise 895 feet and 52 floors, and the building will contain 1.7 million square feet of space; in terms of volume that is not enormous, but it will still be one of the larger office towers to rise in New York in the past ten years, surpassed only by the towers of the World Trade Center and One Bryant Park. In this regard, the entire Hudson Yards development is significant because it represents the creation of a whole new central business district, given its removal from the traditional prime avenues of Midtown.

Besides work on the Coach Tower’s superstructure, demolition has also begun on old ancillary buildings on the railyard site, paving the way for future construction of the Hudson Yards’ North Tower, along with the enormous retail complex that will connect the two office towers. The North Tower, which Time Warner has tentatively committed to lease, will sit on the northeastern corner of the site, with the retail podium filling the gap between the two towers; its scale is hard to imagine, but once built, the complex will transform the far West Side with over 750,000 square feet of shopping space, in addition to the two office buildings. Work will also soon begin on the Equinox and DSR towers, both of which will also be taller than Coach’s building.

The Coach Tower is scheduled to open in 2015.

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Posted in Architecture | Coach Tower | Construction Update | Hudson Yards | Kohn Pedersen Fox | Midtown | Midtown West | New York | Office | Related | Supertall

Seaport City Coming Closer to Reality?

Seaport City rendering, from the draft plan

Mayor Bloomberg’s vision to protect New York from future storm surge events and effects relating to ongoing climate change may be coming closer to reality, as NYEDC is now soliciting RFPs for the planned Seaport City development, which will form a new buffer between Manhattan and New York Harbor along the island’s southeast corner – the development is described as a ‘multi-purpose levee.’

Originally unveiled earlier this summer – as part of ‘A Stronger, More Resilient New York‘ – the Seaport City project may actually be legitimate, and not just a pipe dream. New York has seen several proposals involving landfill go nowhere, including an ambitious plan to connect Governor’s Island to Manhattan – that has obviously not yet occurred. Still, much of coastal Manhattan is landfill, and past projects like Battery Park City show the idea to be feasible.

Battery Park City is an especially apt comparison in light of Sandy, which barely touched the neighborhood despite the fact that it juts into New York Harbor. According to The New York Times’ Sandy flood map, much of the neighborhood actually avoided the rise of the Hudson – and the entirety actually became a separate island at the height of the surge. Adjacent blocks of Tribeca and the Financial District were devastated, and parts of the World Trade Center site were also flooded.

NYC Flooding During Sandy

NYC Flooding During Sandy, map via The New York Times

Much like the Financial District, the South Street Seaport vicinity was heavily damaged, with water rising up to ten feet. Many establishments have only just begun to re-open, as the damage was so great – the neighborhood is home to an older building stock, and many buildings power equipment was completely destroyed.

There is enormous pressure for new real estate in New York, so planning a new neighborhood that also functions as an enormous levee makes sense, and also makes storm protection more cost-efficient – though one thing the city must address is FDR Drive, which would bisect the new neighborhood from Manhattan. Making the same mistakes that have occurred with Battery Park City would be unwise, and leaving FDR Drive elevated would divide the new Seaport City, potentially creating a sterile environment.

As the new neighborhood could stretch from Battery Park to 14th Street - if the scope does follow what the initial plans indicate, as seen below – an inventive solution could put FDR at the existing shoreline, and capping it with the new neighborhood. This way, the levee could serve to protect from flooding, while also fixing traffic and re-unifying the East Side with the waterfront.

Proposed Defenses

Proposals for NYC – the levee would stretch from Battery Park to 14th Street, via NYC.Gov

A truly bold move would have buildings face the harbor themselves; there is no reason seawall-quality steel could not be integrated into a facade, and a design for Seaport City that integrates its structures into a sea wall would be innovative and save an enormous amount of money, while allowing the sea wall to rise higher in the few unprotected spots between new buildings. Humans have gone beyond creating shorelines, and are now on the verge of controlling them; Manhattan would be an excellent first example.

Posted in Architecture | Downtown | Megaproject | New York | Seaport City

Construction Update: Fulton Center

Fulton Center

Exterior work is wrapping up on Fulton Center, which is looking better and better as it approaches completion – opening is slated for 2014. Even in the summer, much of the building is stuck in the shade; the genius behind the oculus is already apparent in the above photo set, as it will allow for significantly more light to enter the transit hall, even while much of the building is in the shade.

Fulton Center will also contain 65,000 square feet of retail space, another major contribution to future pedestrian activity in the neighborhood. With both Fulton Center and the World Trade Center’s mall set to open in the near future, the FiDi may actually be on its way to becoming a prime shopping destination for tourists.

Besides the shopping, eleven subway lines will be linked beneath Fulton Center; it may not be the largest station, but it will prove to be an important waypoint for many commuters. Fulton Center is a vast improvement from the old subway stop, which was simply a maze of passageways, and will hopefully help further accelerate the FiDi renaissance.

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Posted in Architecture | Construction Update | Downtown | Fulton Street Transit Center | New York | Transit

Construction Update: Calatrava’s Transit Hub

World Trade Center Transit Hub

Calatrava’s Transit Hub is now rising out of its enormous pit, and the first sign of visible progress is the beginning of the steel spine which will connect all of the enormous ‘wings,’ the Transit Hub’s most distinguishing design element. The terminal will eventually reach 150 feet in height, far greater than the current stub, and the Hub will be an integral part of the new World Trade Center.

With construction wrapping up on both One World Trade and 150 Greenwich, the greater World Trade Center site is now two years away from regaining some semblance of normalcy; the completion of the Transit Hub will be pivotal in returning the site back to the pedestrian realm.

The Transit Hub’s cost has skyrocketed to $3.9 billion, which is almost as much as One World Trade Center – originally, the project was expected to cost $1.9 billion. No design is justified by such an exorbitant price-tag, and though the Transit Hub will probably look phenomenal, $3.9 billion could certainly have been spent on far better things.

Completion of the Transit Hub is expected for 2015, which is one year after Fulton Center is expected to open – taken together, the opening of both train stations will have a dramatic impact on the Financial District, which will finally have dramatic, visible, and attractive focal points for mass transit.

Posted in 1 WTC | Architecture | Construction Update | Downtown | New York | Transit | World Trade Center | WTC Transit Center

Construction Update: Fulton Transit Center

The Fulton Center is almost finished, and glass is finally being installed along the base. The project will connect 11 different MTA lines, so it will be incredibly important once complete. The actual transit center is quite underwhelming for a price-tag of $1.4 Billion, though perhaps the interiors will prove otherwise. The architects of the project are James Carpenter Design Associates.

The ‘oculus,’ which rests on top of the base, is the Fulton Center’s distinguishing element. Unfortunately it lacks prominence, and the below photos show the oculus’ lack of visibility from most angles. The aesthetic of the oculus is secondary to its function–allowing natural light into Fulton Center, in turn creating an open and inviting public space. This is something all public works projects should strive for.

Completion of the Fulton Center is slated for mid-2014 per the MTA. Like all timetables released by the MTA, that is probably tentative.

Fulton Center
Fulton Center

Fulton Center
Fulton Center

Fulton Center
Fulton Center

Posted in Construction Update | Downtown | Fulton Street Transit Center | Transit

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