Residential Towers to Sprout Soon on Far West Side
A rezoning of a 310-acre stretch of factories, parking lots and warehouses on the Far West Side has led the way for plans for residential towers.
By CHARLES V. BAGLI
February 4, 2007
The developer H. Henry Elghanayan likes to be at the head of the line.
He said that his company, Rockrose Development Corporation, was one of the first to build new residential towers in Lower Manhattan and the West Village and at Queens West in Long Island City and Battery City Park.
This month, Mr. Elghanayan will be the first developer to start building a residential complex on the Far West Side of Manhattan, which is the direct result of the Bloomberg administration’s rezoning of a 310-acre stretch of factories, parking lots and warehouses for large-scale development two years ago.
Rockrose is constructing 44-story and 24-story apartment buildings on opposite sides of 10th Avenue, between 37th and 38th Streets
, in what has been officially renamed the Hudson Yards district. “Once people see that we are indeed going forward,” Mr. Elghanayan said, “you’re going to see an explosion of growth in that whole area.”
Builders are already flocking to the once-sleepy Hudson Yards, an area crisscrossed by bus ramps and Lincoln Tunnel entrances.
Indeed, a half-dozen developers plan to start residential projects there in the next six months, with a combined total of nearly 6,000 apartments
, 20 percent of which will be for low- and moderate-income families.
There are also five slim-budget hotels either under construction or in development on the block bounded by 39th and 40th Streets, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues.
Most developers say that commercial towers will be slower to follow in a district that stretches from roughly 30th to 42nd Streets, west of Eighth Avenue. But Brookfield Financial Properties is talking to at least one investment bank interested in its office site on Ninth Avenue, between 31st and 33rd Streets.
City officials say they are making progress on plans for the $2.1 billion extension of the No. 7 subway line from Times Square to 11th Avenue and 34th Street, which, they add, will spur the development of office towers in the area. The Bloomberg administration sold $2 billion in bonds in December, much of it for the subway project. It hopes to issue the tunneling contract later this year and begin construction.
The city is also working with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to devise a plan for selling the development rights over the West Side railyards, which sit on both sides of 11th Avenue, between 30th and 33rd Streets. “There’s an extraordinary amount of activity going on, precipitated by high rents in Midtown,” said Daniel L. Doctoroff, deputy mayor for economic development. “You’re really beginning to see the outlines of what Hudson Yards is going to look like.”
But just north of the yards, the fate of the long-planned expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center is up in the air again, at least temporarily. Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s administration has said that the convention center is one of several projects “under review.”
According to hotel industry executives and city officials, Mr. Spitzer has questioned the wisdom and cost of the $1.7 billion project, in part because of the vertical nature of the expansion, which runs counter to the horizontal layout of most convention centers.
Critics contend that adding floors to the convention center could make it more difficult and expensive to present successful trade shows and conventions. Some state officials prefer an expansion that would go south, over the West Side railyards.
That, however, would clash with the Bloomberg administration’s plan to develop residential and commercial towers on platforms over the railyards. It could also affect the three developers and hotel operators who submitted competing bids to build a 1,500-room hotel across 11th Avenue from the convention center.
But it remains to be seen what the Spitzer administration will do with the convention center after the review. Patrick J. Foye, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, declined to comment.
Mr. Doctoroff said he respected the governor’s right to evaluate the project and would participate in those discussions.
“There will be no ideal solution as long as Javits is still there and you want to continue to operate it during construction,” he said. “We continue to believe it is a very good solution and we ought to go ahead with Phase II at the same time.”
The second phase, however, could add $1 billion to the price and require closing the convention center for several years. The hotel industry has no enthusiasm for raising the $1.50 a night room tax dedicated to the expansion plan. City officials have suggested raising the tax to $2, noting that average room rates soared 12.6 percent last year.
Mr. Doctoroff and the transportation authority have met with real estate developers and community leaders to discuss the eventual sale of development rights over the railyards in August. The initial plan called for rights to be sold to one or two developers, who would build platforms over the yards for residential and commercial towers. But most developers now say that government should finance the platform construction, which could cost $1 billion.
There is also debate over whether the development rights should be sold to one developer, or divided and sold to a variety of builders, a strategy that could generate more money over time for the transportation authority.
Developers also want the city to demolish the elevated railroad line, known as the High Line, that hugs the western and southern perimeter of the railyards. That proposal is opposed by several community groups, which want to see the entire length of the High Line converted to a park.
In the meantime, the residential juggernaut continues. The developer Joseph Moinian is starting work on a $760 million, 60-story apartment tower on the north side of 42nd Street, west of 11th Avenue, next to his 46-story Atelier condominium tower.
Directly across 42nd Street, Larry Silverstein is close to starting construction of two 58-story glass towers, where 20 percent of the 1,276 apartments will be set aside for low-income families.
An adjacent 16-story building will have 83 apartments for moderate-income tenants. The new buildings will be next to the River Place complex that Mr. Silverstein built in 1999.
All five buildings, designed by the architect Costas Condylis, sit within the Hudson Yards district. The area differs from most of the district in that developers have long been able to build high-rises along 42nd Street.
At the southeast corner of 10th and 42nd Street, Stephen J. Ross, chief executive of Related Companies, said he expected to start construction this spring on a roughly 60-story tower with 500 apartments, 250 hotel rooms and a set of theaters.
The Dermot Company said it would start building its $450 million Hudson Mews project, two 18-story buildings over platforms on opposite sides of 37th Street, west of Ninth Avenue, along with a public park. Stephen Benjamin, a principal at Dermot, said the company was completing its financing and negotiations with the Port Authority to buy development rights over ramps leading to the Lincoln Tunnel.
Farther east, on the north side of 37th Street, Glenwood Management plans to break ground later this year for a 24-story building with 550 apartments.
Jeff Levine of Douglas Development expects to start this spring on a 34-story building with 370 apartments just outside the Hudson Yards district, at the southeast corner of 30th Street and 11th Avenue.
Like most of the developers, Mr. Moinian is bullish on the future. He has bid in partnership with the Marriott hotel chain to build the convention hotel and banquet hall. He also owns two sites for commercial projects in the area, although he cannot begin construction for at least five years because the sites lay within the path of the subway extension.
“Our commitment to the area is very, very strong,” Mr. Moinian said. “There’s no question that this is the next part of town where the action takes place.”