The area where a maze of entrances and exits to the often gridlocked Lincoln Tunnel meets the rear end of the current Penn Station, the one with the character and charm of a Wonder Bread loaf, is just to the south of one of the most outdated convention centers of any major city. Still, I predict it is a place elite travelers will end up visiting and liking in the future.
Unevenly repaired potholes provided an obstacle course for women in their high heels last night, and a street normally filled with double-parked delivery trucks and commuter busses instead was jammed with an array of black sedans and SUVs.
While it’s normal in New York City for event planners to inconvenience guests by inviting them to parties at hard to reach spaces that provide converted factory ambiance just for a good view, there was actually a legitimate reason for so many movers and shakers to descend on one of the grittiest areas of Gotham on a Friday night.
With the sun setting over the Hudson River and commuter trains rumbling below, September 5, 2014 may be remembered as the day Hudson Yards finally got some style credibility. For New Yorkers, the area has been a subject of so many various development plans that at one point it included a football stadium for The New York Jets. Unless you’re in the real estate business, it is in fact hard to keep track of the various renditions except for that for the better part of a decade there was nothing tangible.
The Hudson Yards developer, Stephen M. Ross, is fairly high profile, but many know him for different reasons. For some, it is his ownership of the Miami Dolphins. Jewelry collectors know his wife, the designer Kara Ross. And for others it is via the Time Warner Center, even if they didn’t know he was the mastermind converting a similarly unattractive portion of Manhattan, the site of the old New York Coliseum. From a dead spot, today the area on Central Park’s southwest corner is a tourism and business hub with an attractive mix of an indoor shopping mall, top end restaurants (Per Se, A Voce, Masa, Asiate), entertainment (Jazz at Lincoln Center), offices, luxury residences and a Mandarin Oriental Hotel. .
The plans for Hudson Yards is impressive with 17 million square feet of buildings on 26 acres making it “the largest private real estate project in the history of the United States,” according to a cover story by Fortune Magazine. When completed there will be some 100 shops in an indoor mall, dozens of restaurants, 5,000 residences, a 175-room luxury hotel, the city’s highest outdoor observation deck, 14 acres of open space and even a public school.
Of course, Manhattanites are used to hyperbole and skyscrapers. After all, New York has everything. That is except a Neiman Marcus. And while the Dallas based department store has long had a stake in the city via its ownership of Bergdorf Goodman, Hudson Yards will be the first time it flies its flag on the island. At 250,000 square feet, it will be about a third bigger than its sister. And for elite travelers, there is instant access via the West 30th Street Heliport if you are coming from the suburbs.
So when the made to measure suits of real estate’s power players met the short skirts and high heels of the city’s style crowd, already primed for Fashion Week, it was easy to say New York has far more good looking people than LA. And it seemed a good lot of them were in the still gritty Chelsea/Hell’s Kitchen area that Ross believes will become a new center for New York.
Karen Katz, President & CEO of Neiman Marcus Group, with Ross, made a brief champagne toast to their collaboration, and in about 48 months the train yards and access roads to the Lincoln Tunnel will be covered by the new mini-city.
One can only wonder if perhaps Katz and Ross weren’t already thinking about how much more pleasant the venue will be the next time they clink their flutes.