City Winery moving to Pr. 57 in Hudson River Pk.

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Along with googling at Pier 57, people will soon be grooving there, too — as in listening to good music.

City Winery recently announced that it has signed a 25-year lease with RXR/Young Woo for 32,000 square feet at Pier 57 in Hudson River Park.

City Winery, which is owned by Michael Dorf, who formerly ran the Knitting Factory in Tribeca, has spent 10 years at 155 Varick St., at Vandam St. Last July, Disney bought the square block bounded by Varick, Vandam, Spring and Hudson Sts. for $650 million with plans to redevelop it as the company’s New York headquarters.

Pier 57, at W. 15th St., will be anchored by Google, which has leased 250,000 square feet on the former “Marine and Aviation Pier.” The pier will also feature food and public spaces.

“We are excited and honored to have found a home in Hudson River Park and to be amongst so many architecturally significant buildings in this area,” said Michael Dorf, City Winery’s founder and C.E.O. “Pier 57 is going to be an amazing adaptive reuse with its own market, Google and an 80,000-square-foot rooftop public park.

City Winery is leasing more than 30,000 square feet of space at Pier 57, in Hudson River Park, at W. 15th St. (Courtesy City Winery)

“We are so happy to be part of this unique space and instantly felt a connection to it. To bring our winemaking, food and music to this market complex feels like a karmic honor.”

Construction on the new City Winery will be underway shortly with plans to open in early 2020.   

Pier 57 is listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places and is near Chelsea Market, the Meatpacking District, the High Line and the recently opened Whitney Museum of American Art. The new City Winery will also have a view of Barry Diller’s Pier 55 “entertainment island” project, just to the south of it.

The 5-mile-long waterfront park is operated by the Hudson River Park Trust. RXR and Young Woo are redeveloping Pier 57 and hold its master lease.

Madelyn Wils, the Trust’s president and C.E.O. said, “City Winery is loved both in the community and across the city by New Yorkers who know there’s nowhere better to see a concert while enjoying locally produced food and wine. As part of a larger marketplace, City Winery will add to the amenities and cultural opportunities available at Pier 57, and will offer additional indoor public space alongside Google.”

City Winery’s new flagship location in New York City will feature two performance venues — a 350-seat concert hall and a smaller 150-person capacity loft space — plus a 100-seat capacity restaurant and tasting room with views of Hudson River Park and a fully functioning winery/wine production facility.  

The wine-making facility and barrel storage room will be visible from both from the park’s esplanade and the Hudson River bikeway, as well as the West Side Highway and from the main entrance to the pier.

A rendering of what the “seated” performance venue at the new City Winery will look like. There will also be a smaller “loft”-style space for performances. (Courtesy City Winery)

Within the restaurant area will be a pizza bar and coffee roasting station to add to the “maker” feel of the venue’s offerings.  

The tasting bars will feature the company’s proprietary tap system featuring more than 12 wines straight from the keg. City Winery strives not only to create wine that contains low to no sulfites, but also to reduce the carbon footprint they leave behind. City Winery at Pier 57 will be open seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Dorf opened City Winery on Varick St. in 2008, blending an urban winery, concert venue space, restaurant and private event space. The company has since expanded and now has more than 10 locations nationwide.  

Dorf already has one venue in Hudson River Park, City Vineyard, at Pier 26 in Tribeca, which is much smaller, at around 3,000 square feet.

Scott Rechler, C.E.O. and chairperson of RXR Realty, said of the deal, “RXR and Young Woo are thrilled to be welcoming City Winery, a true New York institution, to Pier 57. City Winery’s combination of maker, food and beverage and cultural spaces will not only advance the long-standing vision of the pier as a premier public destination in Hudson River Park, but will also complement and enhance the other food-related uses that are planned for the balance of the pier’s retail areas. We are confident that, in its new location at Pier 57, City Winery will, for many years to come, continue to play the leading role in the city’s culinary and cultural scene that it has played at its current location in Lower Manhattan.”  The deal was brokered by Peter Braus, Lee & Associates.

While Dorf is elated to be moving to a new home on the waterfront, he’s leaving Varick St. on a decidedly sour note. In fact, he’s suing Trinity Real Estate, his landlord there, to recover funds he says Trinity encouraged him to invest funds into the small building, but which he will now never see a return on.

Speaking to this paper shortly before the Pier 57 deal was announced, Dorf expressed frustration at Trinity for having urged him to expand his space, only for him to be left in the lurch when he found out that he had 12 months to vacate.

“We had a good, long relationship with them,” Dorf said of Trinity. “We always had a 12-month demolition clause, so I was always on the hook. They told us — three months before they sold the building to Disney — that we would have three years there, if not five. They approached us and said, ‘Would you like the second floor and put a rooftop deck on as a further amenity for the neighborhood.’ They even presented some structural-steel designs for other rooftops they have.”

Based on Trinity’s assurances, Dorf had planned to invest $2 million, but actually wound up pouring in $2.8 million to expand City Winery on Varick St. to the second floor and add a rooftop deck, estimating it would take three years to get a return on his investment. He had installed an elevator and also stairways to the roof when the new owner Disney suddenly gave him notice he had one year to vacate.

“They misled us,” Dorf said. “And I can’t tell you why. The only explanation is they didn’t expect the deal to be consummated that quickly.

“Disney did nothing wrong,” he added. “Trinity induced us to put this money into the building. We just want the money [back] that we invested into this building, to recover what is owed us. … So, we had to sue them. This is the first time I’ve sued anyone in my 31 years of doing business in New York City.”

Roxanne Donovan, a spokesperson for Trinity Real Estate, said, “We believe the lawsuit is entirely without merit.”

Referring to Trinity Church’s colonial roots in having gotten a massive land grant from the English crown, Dorf noted the irony of his winery getting the runaround.

“They got all their property for agricultural purposes and we’re the only one that is an agricultural business,” he said.

Dorf said City Winery will operate at Varick St. through July 31.

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