News
05.21.2009
Jumpin' Javits
After years of delays, scaled-down expansion approaches construction
The Pei Cobb Freed-designed Javits Center may finally receive a new renovation starting in June.
wallyg/Flickr

After years of shifting plans and uncertainty, it looks as though the expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center may finally be going forward. Today, the board of directors of the Empire State Development Corporation voted in favor of the proposal announced last fall, which will cost $1 billion, most of which money will go to repairs.

First announced by the Pataki administration in June 2004, the original expansion would have nearly doubled the space. Designed by Richard Rogers and FXFowle, it was projected to cost $1.4 billion. Ground was broken in a showy ceremony in 2006, at which point the cost had ballooned $2.1 billion dollars. By the time the initial plans were killed by the Spitzer administration early last year, the cost topped $3 billion.

With the proposal for something more modest, Rogers walked, leaving FXFowle in charge of what is now basically a restoration of the leaky, aging structure, which was originally designed by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners and completed in 1986. The plan calls for adding 100,000 square feet of space on a vacant site between 39th and 40th street. Of that, 40,000 square feet will be dedicated to new exhibition space (for a total of 715,000 square feet) with the rest serving as pre-exhibtion, ticketing, and ancillary space, including expaned truck parking. It is a considerable reduction from the previous plan, which would have nearly doubled the convention center’s area to 1.1 million square feet.

Still, the state seems happy to have finally gotten the project meaningfully underway. “I am pleased that the ESD Board of Directors has taken this final step in moving the Javits renovation and expansion project forward,” Governor Paterson said in a statement. “Millions travel from around the world to visit and do business in Manhattan. It is essential for the City of New York to have a suitable convention center that can be home to countless international visitors, and attractions for residents and visitors alike.”

Brien McDaniel, director of public relations for FXFowle, said the building had been designed and steel is even on site waiting for construction to begin, but no renderings can be released until the project receives approval from the Public Authorities Control Board, which is expected on by mid-June. As for those designs, McDaniel said: “It’s not about renovating or expanding the space but making it more inviting, a real catalyst for a neighborhood-to-be.”

In other words, think of it more as a new front door than patching the roof.

And in other PACB news, the board yesterday approved Columbia University’s controversial plans to create a new campus in the West Harlem neighborhood of Manhattanville. It was the final step needed before the state could exercise eminent domain against the two remaining holdouts who have yet to sell their property to the university for its 17-acre Renzo Piano- and SOM-designed project.

Long seen as a job creation opportunity for a neighborhood consisting mostly of boarded up warehouses and auto body shops, the project has taken on special resonance during the recession.

“The expansion of one of New York’s oldest educational institutions will enhance the vitality of both the University and its neighboring community, while meeting the long-term needs of its residents,” Paterson said in a statement. “While the national recession has led to a decline in development in New York, this $6.3 billion project will be one of the largest to move forward this year.”

Matt Chaban