Hudson Yards, the largest private real estate development in the United States by square footage, opened its doors to 17,000 people on March 14, 2019 in the most epic party New York has ever seen. The massive $25 billion project, developed by Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group, has been in the works since 2012 with the official opening of the mall on Friday March 15th at noon.
The entirety of the project which covers the area running from 30th Street in the south, 41st Street in the north, 11th Avenue in the west and 8th Avenue in the east is expected to be completed in 2024. Phase 1, the eastern phase of the project, contains two office towers on Tenth Avenue, plus a retail center between them. Situated nearby is the permanent art installation called the “Vessel”, which cost $200 million to complete and was designed by Thomas Heatherwick whose inspiration was Indian stepwells.
Heatherwick recounted being given an extraordinary one mile space six years ago with the intention of transforming it into something uniquely New York akin to Central Park or the High Line. Thousands of hours later Heatherwick produced a magnificent edifice comprised of 16 climbable floors, 154 flights of stairs, 2,500 steps and 80 landings that CEO of Related, Stephen Ross, has accurately compared to the Eiffel Tower. 1,000 people at a time can climb and explore this contraption that is New York’s first grown-up jungle gym.
As if there wasn’t enough to do in New York this “city within a city” will feature an entertainment space entitled “The Shed” that will open in April 2019 and feature cultural programmings similar to Lincoln Center. Architectural firm Kohn Pederson Fox is the primary architect on all of the structures including the retail space, the office towers, and the condominiums. Tonight was all about celebrating Phase 1 which includes a seven-story mall containing 100 shops and 20 restaurants with 1 million square feet of space. Dean Shapiro, head of US development at Oxford Properties which owns half of the complex, told me there was only 650,000 square feet of rentable space.
The development which has been in contract since 2010 was most notable for its diversity, according to Shapiro. When I asked if he was excited to meet Tom Brady who was sitting nearby he replied, “No I’m a Jets fan.” However, upon mentioning Gisele Bundchen being in the room his excitement grew exponentially. Shapiro went on to discuss anchor tenant Neiman Marcus which occupies 250,000 square feet or one-quarter of the mall with Fairway expected in the lower floors of the building as well as a mix of high-low stores including Dior, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Brooks Brothers, Dunhill, Kenzo, Coach, H&M, Zara and Sephora. Thomas Keller’s restaurant “TAK Room” is the hottest ticket in New York with dozens of private parties booked there for the upcoming months.
The retail space which is 83% occupied featured so much eye candy in terms of guests and stores that nearly walking through the floors produced a dizzying effect. The evening started at 5 PM with thousands of people lining up outside with invitations to experience this once-in-a-lifetime extravaganza. Real Estate moguls Larry Silverstein, Jeff Sutton, Ziel Feldman, Stephen Ross, Dean Shapiro and Jorge Perez socialized with glitterati such as Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway while Liza Minnelli belted out “New York, New York,” nearby (at Neiman Marcus.) This was a who’s who of New York and the crowd’s eclecticism produced one of those “Ah-ha now I know why people love New York” moments. There was an open bar on every floor along with samples of sushi, chocolates, meat offerings and gift bags as ballerinas, tap dancers and drum players entertained the masses.
Every chronic partygoer I spoke to remarked they had never seen the likes of this anywhere, anytime in New York or elsewhere. The question on everyone’s mind was whether this mall located on 10th Avenue would be able to succeed in the cutthroat world of retail where online shopping has prevailed. The resounding sentiment was that this development was so extraordinary that it would create a whole new dynamic in the cultural sphere of New York and would indeed become a destination spot for those who normally gather in more centrally located regions. Hudson Yards is indicative of the growing notion that there is no undesirable neighborhood in New York as exemplified by the gentrification of Harlem, Bedford Stuyvesant and Brooklyn. To hell with Amazon this locale will catapult New York into a different sphere.
In the incipient stages of the project, Related lured tenants to the far West Side by offering lower than normal prices; however, with the increasing demand from companies such as BlackRock, SAP and L’Oreal office rents have jumped more than 40 percent in a year. Adding to the demand, was the convenience of the No. 7 subway line which will serve the Hudson Yards where eventually 40,000 office workers will occupy five skyscrapers. Traipsing through the endless edifice left me wishing I had worn more comfortable shoes as walking up and down the five concrete floors proved exhausting.
I headed to the fifth floor where restaurant “Milos” was holding the party of the evening where real estate titans Stephen Ross, Jon Mechanic, Joel Marcus, and others socialized while Gisele Bundchen, Tom Brady and Maggie Gyllenhaal sat sheltered in a nearby room where dozens of security guards stood watch to prohibit entry into this private inner sanctum. Brady and Bundchen are even more otherworldly in person -I can see why socializing with mere mortals might be distasteful to them. At 10:30 PM most of the crowd had left or gone to the 51st floor of 15 Hudson Yards where an after-party was taking place.
|Marc Bouwer and Ken Downing|
I decided to head home as the overwhelming experience of spending five consecutive hours clumping through a massive mall left me drained. On the way down I bumped into Ken Downing, Fashion Director of Neiman Marcus, who also designed the model apartments at 15 Hudson Yards. Downing remarked that this Neiman Marcus was all about experiencing the confluence of art, food and clothing in one prodigious space. When I asked if he would be at the store opening tomorrow morning he replied, “are you kidding, I’m a Virgo I control everything, I’ll be there an hour before it opens to the public and spend the rest of the day micromanaging each detail”-spoken like a true neurotically perfectionist New Yorker