When the bidding for Pier 57 kicked off in the early 2000s, developer Young Woo wasn’t quite ready to commit to the mammoth 480,000-square-foot project. But he’s been fascinated by the structure for a long time, he said, and when the city put it back on the market in 2009, though Woo was up against the Durst Organization and the Related Companies, he wasn’t going to miss his shot.
“We were competing against two of the most prominent and respected developers,” Woo told The Real Deal at the opening of an interactive art installation by artist Garson Yu at the pier Thursday evening. “But we convinced the crowd.”
During a tour of the cavernous space — which is larger than all the retail space available in Nolita and is slated to house restaurants, art galleries and shops in repurposed shipping containers — Woo told The Real Deal that he intends to make it a “powerhouse for creative people.”
Indeed, the crowd at the event — a menagerie of artists in tie-dye shirts, waifish models in stilettos and trendy young business professionals in crisp blazers and jeans — was reflective of the type of tenants that Woo wishes to lure to the space, he said.
After walking down several flights of stairs to the basement, Woo, dressed in a white shirt and blue blazer, animatedly discussed the history of the structure, which he likened to a “Greek temple.” The pier burnt down in 1947 and the city rebuilt it with the intent of making it fireproof.
“They sunk the cassions and then they built this space on top of it,” he said. “This is the only pier from here to Boston sitting on concrete cassions.”
Woo’s director of marketing, Zachary Beloff, said Pier 57 would allow leasing through an online platform, an innovation he said would enable it to attract tenants from Asia and Europe who had yet to establish presence in the United States.
“They can design their space from abroad with our architect and group,” Beloff said.
The project was in advanced talks with several tenants, Beloff said, and the current focus was on leasing the anchor retail spaces — which average between 3,000 to 5,000 square feet with some larger spaces up to 20,000 square feet.
“All have very large openings to the water that will provide unobstructed views.”
City Council unanimously approved Woo’s plan for the pier in April. Among the pop-up shops that set up space after Memorial Day were Nolita-based fresh juice bar Butcher’s Daughter, Gowanus-based eatery Fletcher’s BBQ, shoe retailer Soludos and design firm Grey Area. The summer leases, Beloff said, were a taste of what’s to come, as the developer expects to attract a myriad of design, fashion and foreign retail stores.
Through the summer, Pier 57 will continue to host arts-driven events, Beloff said, including BOFFO Building Fashion, an annual program that pairs an architect with a fashion designer to create a retail installation.
“If one person can create a magic carpet,” Woo said, referring to a sculptural installation of 36 hanging shipping containers designed by Spanish architecture firm CH + QS Arquitectos, “imagine if we have hundreds of them in one location. It’s going to be very interesting.”
Additional reporting by Candace Taylor