West Side development projects on track to transform city's future
The Far West Side's transformation into the city's 21st century hot spot is on the fast track, and Manhattanites can already see some of the changes.
For nearly 30 years, developers and city leaders pushed to change the once-industrial area into a tourist spot and a place where New Yorkers and businesses could find a home.
"I used to call it the city's utility closet," said Ann Weisbrod, president of Hudson Yards Development Corporation. "It provided the city with a lot of opportunities for people to build."
Here's a look at the major projects composing the "new" West Side:
Weisbrod said the city has long tried to develop the West Side, especially after the Jacob Javits Center on 11th Avenue opened in 1986. But there were too many hurdles, she said, including financial and zoning issues. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who represents the area, shared the Hudson Yards Development Corporation's interest in revitalizing the area.
The mayor and City Council OKd two rezonings allowing residential and commercial buildings to replace industrial ones.
"Through much hard work and negotiation, we have been able to create an area of New York City that has embarked on a period of rational and exciting development," Quinn said.
Gary E. Handel, the president of Handel Architects, which designed the Caledonia at West 17th Street and a residential tower at 505 West 37th Street, said the West Side inspired his team to create new designs that embraced the Hudson River.
In the past the "trend was to build away from the water; now it's the other way," he said.
The largest project for the area is the development of the Hudson rail yards on 34th Street, between 10th and 11th avenues. The 50-million-square-foot development will include 20,000 housing units, retail space, a hotel and 25 million square feet of office space. Demand for the real estate is already hot, Weisbrod said.
"There is a whole set of groups that are looking here. It'll be a microcosm of a larger city as a whole," she said.
Hudson Yards will also have 15 acres of green space that's slated to open in 2014.
No. 7 Train
For years, the city and the MTA have been working to bring more transit to the West Side. By 2014, the goal is expected to be accomplished with the opening of a new No. 7 train stop at 11th Avenue and 34th Street. The MTA said construction of the $2.4 billion extension from Times Square is 74% complete and slated to be done by the end of next year.
Weisbrod said the train's expansion is essential because all the amenities and great properties in the area are moot without efficient public transportation.
The exit for the 34th Street station will lead into Hudson Yard's park and have a modern-designed stairway filled with artwork.
Of course, the West Side's other big railroad project is already a popular attraction. There have been 10 million visitors to the Highline since its first section opened near Gansevoort Street in 2009, according to the mayor.
The elevated park sports great views of the Hudson and features special programs during the warmer months.
When it opens in 2014, the final part of the former railroad's track near 34th Street will wrap around the Hudson Yards building to give visitors an elevated view of the brand new neighborhood.
"The rail yard's section will extend and expand on the Highline's distinct design," the mayor said during the groundbreaking.
Weisbrod said the neighborhood's revitalization could not have happened at a better time, since the city is experiencing a new boom of commercial, residential and lifestyle evolution.
"Nothing is as great as an idea whose time has finally come," she said.