Long a dilapidated hulk on the Hudson River waterfront, Pier 57 has seen its share of grand designs get launched with fanfare, debated, then scrapped. Now the Hudson River Park Trust is set to select a finalist from the latest trio of contenders to reshape the historic, T-shaped structure at West 15th Street, once a municipal bus depot and lately all but derelict amid hopes to reinvent it as a waterfront destination.
The three developer-led teams—Related Companies, the Durst Organization with C & K Properties, and YoungWoo & Associates—have taken markedly differing approaches to the Trust’s request for proposals, released last summer, to turn the 1952 pier into a revenue-generating piece of Hudson River Park while providing plentiful public space. The teams must also tread carefully upon the pier itself, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and known for its innovative engineering that uses three concrete caissons to support the structure instead of piles.
Related’s team proposes a $353 million development designed by Elkus Manfredi Architects and featuring a movie theater, restaurants, retail, and a marina. The pier’s roof would become a three-acre public park by Field Operations, creating a visual connection to that firm’s other celebrated West Side park, the soon-to-open High Line across the street. The concrete caissons that form the pier’s foundation would house a fully automated parking system for up to 520 cars at a time. “This would be one of the city’s first adaptive-reuse parking garages,” said Related project manager Anthony Fioravanti.
The Durst team opts to create a wide-open public space at street level that will accommodate a changing mix of activities. “The public space is really what our whole design element has been about from day one,” said Stan Eckstut, principal in the team’s Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects, which was assisted by Project for Public Spaces. Main attractions of the $330 million plan include the Children’s Museum, which would be built into the caissons and every level of the pier, and a public “fantasy-like roof garden,” with nautical-themed fabric structures housing various restaurants and activities. “We shied away from doing another green lawn [on the roof],” said Eckstut. “We think there’s enough of that in Hudson River Park already.”
Lastly, there is YoungWoo’s $191 million plan, created with design firm LOT-EK, which would fill the pier shed with their trademark shipping containers, fitted with glass and rented out as studio and gallery spaces for artisans. An educational center concerned with maritime and Hudson River history would be set within the caissons. Unlike the other two teams, YoungWoo would retain the pier’s wide service ramp, extending it up through the roof and turning it into open-air seating for a rooftop park that would host the Tribeca Film Festival in the summer. The ramp and other public walkways through the marketplace would be protected from the elements but not climatized—much like European porticos, said LOT-EK principal Ada Tolla. “The intention was to think of it as an urban pedestrian space,” she said. “Very much a continuation of the Meatpacking District.”
A winning team could be announced as early as next month, according to Connie Fishman, president of the Hudson River Park Trust. “We have a real estate consultant looking at suggested revenue numbers and construction cost numbers to make sure they sound realistic,” she said. “We are also working on traffic studies, because one of the thornier issues is how the traffic circulates in and around the development.”
Though the final decision is the Trust’s, a community advisory board has been involved from the beginning, keeping the developers focused on community priorities such as respect for the pier’s unique floating structure. At a February public hearing, it was clear that the teams have very different attitudes toward the past: The Related and Durst teams touted their adaptive reuse of the caissons, while the YoungWoo team defended their own, more hands-off, approach. “We looked at [the caissons] kind of like archaeological spaces,” Tolla said. “That really is the history of the pier.”