Five Visions for Manhattan SuperBlocks
Firms design five visions for New York City’s midtow
By Alex Ulam
Located on the far west side of Midtown Manhattan,
surrounded by tall concrete walls and chain-link fences, the two gigantic superblocks
that comprise Hudson River Rail Yards constitute one of the most unwelcoming
pedestrian zones in the city. A walk at any time of day past the long empty
expanse of the looming walls that stretch for three blocks along 11th Avenue is
disconcerting in a city known for its vibrant street life. Nor is there any
nature here—even the hilly topography is man-made, and the streets and avenues
are built up and over the rail yards, which occupy enormous sooty open pits
jammed with tracks and trains.
However, dramatic changes are coming to this bleak area in
the form of one of the largest redevelopment projects in the city’s history.
Last October, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which controls
rail yards, issued a request for proposals (RFP) that in addition to allowing
for a whopping 12 million square feet of residential and commercial development
contains strict open-space guidelines and requires that approximately 12 acres
of the 26-acre site be developed as open space and public parks.
Even by New York City standards, this project is enormous.
First, at 26 acres, Hudson Yards is the largest undeveloped tract of land in
Manhattan—significantly larger than the 16-acre World Trade Center site in
lower Manhattan. Second, the scale of the buildings will be immense—the 12
million square feet of new buildings is roughly 12 times the size of the Time
Warner Center at Columbus Circle, the largest building project completed in
recent city history.
Five different developers are bidding for the opportunity to
redevelop Hudson Yards into a new mixed-use neighborhood. The design teams for
the development proposals are some of the biggest names in landscape
architecture: the Olin Partnership, Field Operations, Peter Walker and Partners
Landscape Architecture, WRT Planning and Design, and West 8.
The MTA is expected to select a developer sometime late this
month or next. In the meantime, the agency has launched an outreach effort,
which has included a display of the models and plans of the competing proposals
at a storefront near the city’s Grand Central Station. Civic groups and
community organizations have been reviewing plans at packed public meetings.
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