Developers place their bets on Hudson Yards

By Alec Appelbaum | November 21, 2007 11:25AM

The design proposals on display for a 26-acre site on Manhattan’s Far West Side represent antes in a long contest. Each proposed mix of residential and commercial space reveals developers’ bigger bets about how the city will evolve.

The bids contain different recipes for residential and commercial use, and the highest and lowest residential and office counts divulge distinct assumptions about the highest and best use of the waterfront.

The two bids with the most office space, Tishman Speyer’s and the Related Companies, are also the two with investment banks as partners — Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, respectively.

Steven Coutts, a Studley senior vice president, says a developer with a bank on its team could start with more office space, which tends to be more valuable than residential space. But later on, any mix that seems profitable could be built.

Durst/Vornado proposes the most apartments with 7,000 apartments and imagines Hudson Yards as a livable neighborhood. It also proposes 5.4 million square feet of office space in four buildings.

Dan Kaplan, the FXFowle partner who guided Durst/Vornado’s master planning, said the right blend of uses at the site would emerge over time as New Yorkers use it — but argued that his bid’s mix of living, working and civic spaces would make that possible.

“What we don’t want to do is what Lincoln Center and the first World Trade Center did and create a canyon,” he said.

With the second-highest amount of office space, the Related Companies proposes only 2,000 apartments, including a neoclassicist clutch that one executive described as a “Tudor Village.” It pictures a programmed zone with one dominant user: News Corporation. “It’s Rupert Murdoch’s dream to put all his properties under one roof,” Related CEO Stephen Ross told reporters.

The Related proposal, which includes 5.7 million square feet of commercial space, features a tower for all News Corporation’s New York employees, plus branded public space like a MySpace concert pavilion. The apartments, hotel and a supermarket, in this context, look more like a village.

Other bids play on existing patterns. Brookfield Properties proposes about 3,300 apartments, 2,000 hotel rooms and 6 million square feet of commercial space, built along a street grid that could turn the area into a greener extension of West Chelsea. “There are times and places for a mall-like atmosphere, and this is not one of them,” said CEO Richard Clark.

Tishman Speyer proposes over 10 million square feet of commercial space and 3,000 apartments. Tishman president Rob Speyer said his bid echoes Rockefeller Center and Sony Center (which Tishman owns) in its rooftop gardens and circular forum: its plan to cantilever waterfront apartments over the High Line plays on that rail trestle’s glamour as a new elevated park.

Extell Development proposes nearly 5.5 million square feet of residential space and 5.4 million commercial square feet, including mixed-use towers. Extell claims its use of a suspension-hung park over the railyards would get built more quickly and spare the MTA any service interruptions.

Each proposal provides a real test for PlaNYC 2030, Mayor Bloomberg’s 127-point agenda to make us use fewer fossil fuels while absorbing a million new city residents. It’s an experiment developers want in on — each proposal includes reuse of buildings’ water, and many involve on-site power generation.

“This involves a lot of the same things we’re doing at individual buildings, but at scale,” says Rafael Pelli, a principal in Pelli Clarke Pelli who helped lead the Durst/Vornado design.