Related Companies’ redevelopment of Hudson Yards, which will transform it from an industrial zone to an entirely new neighborhood on Manhattan’s West Side, is an ambitious project. “No one has ever built anything like this,” said CEO Jeff Blau during a panel discussion at Fast Company’s Innovation Festival. “This is the largest real estate development ever done.” Well, at least in America.
Slated to open on March 15, 2019, Hudson Yards will be composed of 16 buildings, as well as a metal canopied area that will host public events and open parkland. Then there’s Thomas Heatherwick’s giant copper honey comb-like maze of stairs that pedestrians can climb to capture Instagram-worthy photos. At the festival, attendees got a hard-hat tour of the site outside of 10 Hudson Yards where the climbable artwork is currently being built. When completed, it will directly connect the development to the High Line–an artery into the rest of Manhattan.
Related wants to make Hudson Yards a draw in its own right. The company is bringing in a variety of retailers and restaurants to appeal to a broad range of customers. It’s important to get all these partners in before the neighborhood officially opens says Blau, “You need to build critical mass, because no one wants to move into one building in a construction site.” So far this year Related Companies has sold over $600 million worth of condominium space at 15 Hudson Yards, its first residential facility. But Hudson Yards won’t just be home to luxury condos; roughly 1,000 units will be affordable housing. “You don’t want to just be building luxury housing. It’s not good for the cities,” says Blau. “It’s also not good politics.” Retailers too will represent a variety of price points, he says.
There’s a lot of pressure for Thomas Heatherwick’s sculpture, currently known as “the Vessel,” to serve as a unifying force for the development—a centerpiece that will welcome both tourists and locals from all backgrounds. Stephen Ross has said repeatedly that he hopes the Vessel will be New York’s version of the Eiffel Tower. Like the Eiffel Tower, the structure will have ticketed access to manage crowds, says Ross, though it will be free to the public. It will be also be carefully managed. “I don’t want to have all these kids here all the time running up and down it,” says Ross. “It can be a public nuisance if it’s not managed the right way.”