In 2016, New Yorkers got their first taste of what was to come for the Hudson Yards mega-project, with the completion of its first sky-piercing building. Since then, they’ve watched the fast rise of a new neighbourhood in what were formerly rail yards, in an area sandwiched between Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea along the Hudson River. Today, the transformation is nearly complete, with sumptuous skyscrapers and public spaces creating a new landscape in Manhattan.
The new neighbourhood was constructed from scratch in a matter of years, officially debuting its first phase in March 2019. The 11-hectare project costs a whopping US$25 billion and is the largest private development in US history. When complete in 2025, it will include six hectares of public space, more than 100 shops and restaurants, multiple cultural landmarks, 4,000 homes, a school, the largest observation deck in the western hemisphere and the first hotel opened by high-end gym chain Equinox.
‘Building a neighbourhood from the ground up in Manhattan was both a challenge and a tremendous opportunity,’ says Jay Cross, president of Related Hudson Yards, one of the developers behind the project. ‘We had the chance to think about what the city of the future should look like and pioneer a model for 21st-century urban innovation. At Hudson Yards, we took all the elements that make up a modern community – the amenities people enjoy, the kind of buildings they want to live and work in, where and how they want spend their free time – and created an efficient, sustainable neighbourhood tailor-made to suit those needs.’
With restaurants from a number of internationally known chefs found at the one-million-square-foot mall Shop & Restaurants at Hudson Yards, dining is a big draw. Take José Andrés’ project, the 35,000-square-foot Mercado Little Spain, which is home to three full-service spots, two bars and 15 stands. ‘It’s a way to show America the diversity of Spanish cuisine and culture – a love letter to my homeland,’ says Andrés. ‘New York has always been one of the most amazing, diverse and culturally rich cities in the world, and now it has this new centre of gravity. It’s exciting.’
From David Chang’s Momofuku empire comes Kawi, run by chef Eunjo Park, whose seafood dishes, rice cakes and stews are inspired by both her Korean background and experience working at Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurants like Per Se and Daniel. And Belcampo Meat Co owner Anya Fernald is opening her first location outside California; diners can expect protein-focused dishes made with the brand’s organic, grass-fed meat, as well as healthy bone broths. For those craving something sweet, there are branches of Bouchon Bakery, Li-Lac Chocolates, Dylan’s Candy Bar and Van Leeuwan Artisan Ice Cream.
The shopping options are equally impressive, anchored by the first Neiman Marcus department store in New York City. In addition to big-name international brands – everything from Dior and Louis Vuitton to Muji and Zara – there’s an entire floor dedicated to debut shops, including the first-ever brick-and-mortar store for Mack Weldon (an online retailer known for its men’s undergarments and basics) and UK swimwear designer Heidi Klein’s first store in the US.
But Hudson Yards is as much a cultural destination as it is a shopping and dining one, and leading the art charge is The Shed, a cultural centre that commissions works in everything from theatre, dance and classical music to literature and visual arts. The futuristic, eight-level centre features a moveable exterior shell that can extend over an outdoor courtyard to create a 17,000-square-foot performance space.
There’s high demand for what The Shed is creating; all eight shows of Icelandic musician Björk’s staged concert ‘Björk’s Cornucopia’ sold out before the building even opened. The inaugural season also includes ‘Open Call’, an exhibit that features pieces from 52 local emerging artists (on view from 30 May to 25 August) and Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise, a kung-fu musical incorporating original songs by Sia (staged from 22 June to 27 July).
Public art has been a major talking point surrounding Hudson Yards, and its official emblem and centrepiece is the Vessel. Resembling a bee hive, the sculpture towers 45 metres high and is made up of staircases. The idea is to climb the 154 connected flights and pause on the landings to take in the view, the activity below and the intricate workings of the sculpture itself.
The New York-based design firm Snarkitecture is also making an artistic mark on the development with its first permanent exhibition space, called Snark Park, which will host rotating exhibitions throughout the year. First up is ‘Lost and Found’, a playful show that has visitors wind through a labyrinth of columns, textured with faux fur, mirrored tiles, ping-pong balls and other material. ‘Cultural projects are what anchor a city,’ says Snarkitecture partner Ben Porto. ‘In this way, we feel projects like Snark Park, together with the Vessel and Shed, will bring similar colour to Manhattan’s newest neighbourhood.’
For travellers looking to stay within Hudson Yards, there’s the Equinox Hotel, expected to open in June 2019. The wellness-focused luxury hotel will be home to an outpost of indoor cycling studio SoulCycle, the largest Equinox gym ever built (complete with three pools), a spa and an all-day restaurant and bar.
Whether visitors stay overnight or just for an hour, it’ll quickly be clear that they are experiencing New York City’s next big thing. As Fernald of Belcampo Meat Co puts it: ‘The team behind Hudson Yards has done a great job bringing art, design and a sense of spaciousness to the development. It’s beautiful and offers serene spaces, which, along with the selection of retailers, will draw tourists and locals alike.’