Redeveloping the six-block-long property overlooking the Hudson will give a huge boost to efforts by the government and a growing number of developers to recreate the long-desolate far West Side of Manhattan.
Even Richard Kahan thinks it’s time to demolish the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center—and he built the facility 26 years ago, as head of the Convention Center Development Corp. Mr. Kahan also praises Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to transform the site into a mixed-use development modeled on Battery Park City—a project he also once led as the head of the BPC Authority.
“I don’t like seeing my buildings torn down, but a mixed-use project is the highest and best use for that site,” said Mr. Kahan.
Legions of real estate executives agree with him. They say that redeveloping the six-block-long property overlooking the Hudson will give a huge boost to efforts by the government and a growing number of developers to re-create the long-desolate far West Side of Manhattan. The governor’s vision of a mix of office buildings, apartment houses, museums and parkland for the 18-acre site would close a key gap. To the south below West 33rd Street is a fast-rising area along the hyper successful High Line and the ambitious Hudson Yards redevelopment. To the north across West 41st Street stands a bevy of newly constructed high-rise apartment towers.
“It’s a great location,” said Douglas Durst, chairman of the Durst Organization, a prominent family development firm. “I’m sure my family would be interested in it.”
New York history, however, is littered with big, bold plans that have gone nowhere, including plans for expanding Javits. The governor’s latest plans are particularly complicated. To move the project forward on the West Side, an immense new convention center must first be built in Queens, a task that carries its own challenges. Beyond that, crafting a new neighborhood on the Hudson will require billions of dollars, community consensus and a slew of government studies and approvals. And it comes as a time when financing for big projects has all but evaporated as developers from the neighboring Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards in downtown Brooklyn can attest.
Lots of Upsides
Still, the proposal has significant advantages. The governor has anointed it a top priority, so he will likely use his considerable power to see it through. In addition, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has long set developing the far West Side and the city’s waterfront as goals of his administration. Meanwhile, the extension of the No. 7 subway line, slated to open in December 2013, will make it much easier to get there.
“There’s no reason this can’t be done,” said Mitchell Korbey, chair of the land use and environmental practice group at law firm Herrick Feinstein. “But projects like this take maybe 30 or 40 years.”
He said devising a detailed master plan that complements other initiatives in the area will be more important than building quickly. That means considering what Related Cos. and Oxford Properties Group are developing at Hudson Yards, a 26-acre site bounded by West 30th and West 33rd streets, on a platform over the rail yards west of Penn Station. Meanwhile, Brookfield Office Properties plans to build 5.2 million square feet of office space over the yards west of Ninth Avenue from West 31st to West 33rd streets. Hope also springs eternal that long-delayed plans to turn the stately post office across from Penn Station into a grand train depot named after the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan will materialize.
The developer with the most at stake is Related. It has several projects under way there. Late last year, Related and partner Oxford announced they would build the site’s first tower, a 51-story spire at West 30th Street that will be home for luxury leather-goods maker Coach. To build out the rest of the site, however, the developers must first erect a $1.6 billion platform over the tracks.
The timing of the Javits project could be critical for Hudson Yards. If it comes to fruition before Hudson Yards has lined up big tenants, Javits could pose a threat as a cheaper alternative, since it won’t require building a pricey platform. On the other hand, if the project takes too long, it could be an eyesore that drags down Hudson Yards’ value.
“We look forward to reviewing the details of the proposal, which is even further evidence of the potential of Manhattan’s West Side,” said a Related spokeswoman.
Source: Crain’s NY