Developers connect Hudson Yards to other projects

By Alec Appelbaum | November 20, 2007 11:01AM

Proposals for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Hudson Yards land on the far West Side, which the agency put on display today, might reveal less about the waterfront site’s potential to become a real neighborhood by 2015 than they how they connect to other big projects by the five bidders.

All five proposals for the 26 acres are energy-efficient and pedestrian-friendly, with acres of open space. But they differ in ways that reflect their bidders’ existing portfolios.

Some would complement their bidders’ key holdings. The Related Companies, which owns the Time Warner Center, proposes to build an office-retail beachhead for News Corporation that would let Related play huge media brands against each other. “We will also have similar retail to what we have at Time Warner,” said Related executive Bruce Warwick.

Tishman Speyer’s bid with Morgan Stanley, for a mix of offices and waterfront apartment towers, seeks to complement Rockefeller Center, which the developer owns. President Rob Speyer said it “didn’t want to end up with a canyon of buildings.” Plans include an amphitheater and a grand staircase bridging the Eastern and Western railyards.

A joint venture of the Durst Organization and Vornado Realty Trust imagines an underground people-mover to the future Moynihan Station, where Vornado is working with Related on a huge chunk of commercial space around Penn Station.

Extell Development’s bid, with suspension-hung concrete and steel supporting a pastoral mid-site park, begins with a skybridge from a tower Extell is constructing to the High Line along Hudson Yards’ southern edge at Tenth Avenue. “This is great cafeacute; space,” said Extell chief Gary Barnett, “and we will do a four or five star hotel.”

And Brookfield Properties’ design emphasizes the street grid’s continuity from West Chelsea, where it controls two building sites. Brookfield CEO Richard Clark says he would likely build residential towers first, giving the commercial market time to settle.

Developers’ immediate concerns might reflect the MTA’s brief window for design development. The authority requested proposals in July and collected them in October: it hopes to award the site to a bidder by early next year.

The lack of time to study options may have induced three bidders to include all of the High Line, a railroad trestle becoming a city park that has sparked lucrative condo projects further south.

Durst-Vornado plans of preserving most of it. It imagines replacing it with a new elevated walkway at the waterfront’s edge, where a drop in elevation might raise construction headaches if the High Line is preserved. Some observers expected Durst-Vornado to erase the High Line from most of its site.

For some bidders, the High Line makes an anchor. “It’s exciting on the northern end of the High Line,” Barnett said.