Volume 78 - Number 27 / December 3 - 9, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

LEFT: The Related Companies’ design includes parking in Pier 57’s underwater caissons. The pier’s support system of caissons — which are essentially huge, floating boxes — is a marvel of modern engineering. RIGHT: A rendering of the Durst Organization/C&K Properties proposal for Pier 57, which features a rooftop “pleasure garden.”

From parking to ‘pleasure garden,’ pier plans entice

By Heather Murray

The Hudson River Park Trust unveiled grandiose plans from a trio of developers at the end of last month vying to turn the dilapidated Pier 57 into a destination hotspot for culture, entertainment, dining and relaxation on the waterfront.

The three development teams — The Related Companies; a joint venture between C&K Properties and the Durst Organization, and the lesser-known Young Woo and Associates — all provided unique visions for the Chelsea pier at W. 16th St.

A previous proposal by The Related Companies for a massive Cirque du Soleil-centered entertainment complex for Pier 40, at W. Houston St., earned the Village community’s ire. That Related scheme was ultimately rejected by the Trust in March because the $626 million plan could not work within the required 30-year lease.

Related’s new plan for the smaller Pier 57 has a price tag of $353 million. The plan includes a pool deck and cafe, restaurant, park, movie theater, food marketplace, event space and multipurpose room. A marina and automated parking also make up the megadeveloper’s vision for the 300,000-square-foot space.

Related described its vision for Pier 57 as a “diverse and accessible collection of uses that local residents, parkgoers and New Yorkers would enjoy on a daily basis,” according to its proposal submitted to the Trust. Shoppers could pick up produce, fish, meat, cheese and breads and stop in at cafes and raw bars at the pier’s food marketplace. Movie theaters would afford the local independent film industry a venue for emerging talent, festivals and outdoor screenings, with Sundance Films expressing interest in Related’s proposal.

A multipurpose room planned for the pier’s tip would be created with input from the Trust and the community, and could serve as a community center or perhaps house studios and gallery space. A 1-acre roof park would offer bleacher seats from which to gaze comfortably at the High Line park and Meatpacking District, and the shared roof deck would feature space for concerts and public events.

Under Related’s plan, the floating concrete caissons that support the pier would be open to the public to allow visitors to experience this engineering feat that makes the structure unique.

A 75,000-square-foot event space, including a ballroom, would “host a range of events including a wide variety of business and social functions serving practically every industry sector that is important to New York City’s economy,” the proposal states, adding that the rooftop deck could be used at times in conjunction with event space programming.

The public would also be able to view the robotic vehicle storage system Related plans to create, which will provide 520 parking spaces — addressing one of the community’s key desires for the pier. Historic boats docked at the marina would recall the New York waterfront’s commercial past, and the 91-slip marina would improve access to the harbor for boaters, kayakers and sailors.

Related spokesperson Joanna Rose said her company realizes that the “revitalization of our waterfront is important to the city” and that it’s exciting to be involved in creating a new amenity for a community that Related is deeply involved with, having recently developed a number of new buildings in Chelsea.

In a competing proposal, C&K Properties/the Durst Organization envisions five anchor tenants for Pier 57: the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, a live-music venue and restaurant, the Harbor at Pier 57, the Event Space at Pier 57 and a rooftop “pleasure garden.” The developers’ $330 million proposal includes temporary art exhibits, public markets, cafes and space for street musicians and public programming interspersed around the pier.

The live-music venue and restaurant would provide a destination similar to the House of Blues, the proposal stated.

The Children’s Museum of Manhattan, currently located on the Upper West Side, would have roughly one-quarter of the pier and attract an estimated 500,000 visitors a year.

Ben Korman, principal of C&K Properties, stated, “We see Pier 57 as a center of activity within Hudson River Park that celebrates the pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly fabric of the existing neighborhood. Our plan extends the unique and vibrant mixture of public space, cultural amenities, restaurants and retail in the West Village and Chelsea out onto the pier, and we look forward to collaborating with the community to create an exciting destination with a true sense of place.”

C&K/Durst previously submitted a proposal to redevelop Pier 40 under the first request-for-proposals, or R.F.P., process for that pier about five years ago.

Their new Pier 57 proposal also provides berthing for historic vessels, educational floats, sightseeing ships, ferries and private watercraft and a small-craft marina that could eventually connect with Chelsea Piers.

The development team designed the public programming around 10 public spaces on the pier — a concept that the organization Project for Public Spaces calls the “Power of 10” — which include locations such as the Hudson River “lookout point,” a “winter garden,” a rooftop amphitheater and a “rooftop pleasure garden.” The garden, dubbed Hudson Gardens at Pier 57, features food, entertainment, retail and restaurants.

The developer is also proposing a 30,000-square-foot, 1,000-person-plus event space with ballrooms, conference rooms and meeting rooms.

One of C&K/Durst’s goals is to encourage the building of a pedestrian bridge connecting the new High Line park to Pier 57 and the Hudson River Park — another of the community’s requests for the pier. C&K Properties noted that it has previously managed and operated facilities on Piers 25 and 26; the bulkhead from Pier 32 to 40; redeveloped and operated Pier 64; and redeveloped and held the operating lease for Pier 40. C&K runs car-parking operations — as it formerly did at Pier 40 — and also owns commercial office buildings.

The third prospective development group, Young Woo and Associates, is based in the West Village. They are best known in the community for the W. 25th St. Chelsea Arts Tower building. Their $191 million proposal for Pier 57 puts a focus on “celebrating culture, history and innovation.”

Young Woo spokesperson Greg Carney noted his company’s vision “is a great fit for our firm and the team we’ve put together. We feel the anchor tenants speak for themselves.”

The developer sees Pier 57 as “the urban gathering place” for not only West Chelsea and the Meatpacking District, but the entire Hudson River Park.

Two companies founded in London would be the major tenants at Young Woo’s Pier 57, with Phillips de Pury & Company moving its global headquarters from just across the highway on W. 15th St. The auction house/art dealership would establish a contemporary cultural center on the pier, featuring open galleries, fine-art auctions and concerts.

A public market in the vein of Pike Place in Seattle or Camden Lock in London would sprawl across the pier’s second floor. Urban Space Management, a company that created Camden Lock in 1973 and specializes in economic renewal of rundown and underutilized spaces, would lease the space and provide subleases to more than 80 small businesses, restaurants and food vendors. Young Woo stated in its proposal that the company is committed to bringing in as many local and arts-related tenants for the second floor as possible. A rooftop park would be designed in conjunction with the Trust and community, and could include a wide variety of uses, such as a wildflower garden, dog run, tree grove, vegetable garden and lawn.

The Tribeca Film Festival has expressed interest in Young Woo’s proposal and would hold a number of its programs on the rooftop.

In addition, the pier’s westernmost caisson would provide an “Underwater Discovery” experience for visitors seeking to reconnect with the Hudson River, allowing them to descend below the water to view sea life. The middle caisson would hold Phillips’s back-of-house needs, and in the third caisson would be a long-term parking garage for the neighborhood. Historic boats would also line the pier, and the south side would have a small marina for sailboats and a kayak launch.

“We’re really pleased by the richness of the proposals,” said Noreen Doyle, Hudson River Park Trust executive vice president. “They all have exciting things that people are going to be talking about in terms of how they fit into the park.” The Trust put out a second R.F.P. for Pier 57 over the summer after the Witkoff Group withdrew its plans to redevelop the pier at the end of last year.

Doyle called the latest round of Pier 57 proposals “inventive and thoughtful.” She said she was glad to see that water-related uses were touched upon by all three developers “after years of trying to get developers to understand that the water is a place, too.”

Doyle is confident that this time around, the Trust, the Pier 57 Working Group and the community will “get out the door faster with some of our questions,” rather than the “back and forth and back and forth” that plagued the previous quest to choose a developer for the Chelsea pier.

Doyle noted the developers will present their plans to the pier’s working group, which is made up of local officials and community members, next month.

A public presentation of the proposals is tentatively scheduled for the end of January or early February, she added.

Ed Kirkland, chairperson of the Pier 57 Working Group, said he thought the proposals were “very promising on the whole, relative to the first round, where very little public space was proposed.”

He said he expected traffic again to be a concern raised by the community, especially in regard to the large event spaces proposed.

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