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08.03.2009
LOT-EK Lands Pier 57
Hudson River Park Trust picks container-centric community favorite for West Chelsea pier
The existing service ramp will be repurposed as an open-air, studio-lined corridor.
Courtesy LOT-EK

On Thursday, the Hudson River Park Trust announced a winning plan for Pier 57, the brooding hulk at West 15th Street: a rooftop park crowning a small city of local artisans working out of shipping containers, the vision of developer YoungWoo & Associates with New York architects LOT-EK.

The Hudson River Park board and community advocates both picked YoungWoo over competing plans from the Related Companies and the Durst Organization, but for different reasons, said board president Connie Fishman. “The community working group liked the fact that it generated fewer vehicular trips,” she said, while the board focused on the plan’s financial feasibility (YoungWoo’s proposed cost was $191 million, compared to Durst’s $330 million and Related’s $353 million). Both the board and the community cited YoungWoo’s emphasis on the arts and innovative mix of uses.

While some observers have called the team a shoo-in, approval was anything but easy, said LOT-EK principal Ada Tolla. She described the scrutiny their plan underwent, with the board paying particular attention to whether the shipping-container design would satisfy building codes and create a high-quality experience. Visiting one of LOT-EK’s earlier projects—Puma City, a portable, mixed-use structure made from 24 shipping containers that recently landed in Boston—helped convince the Hudson River Park community of its feasibility for Pier 57, said Tolla. 


The pier's basic structure will be preserved, with layers of containers housing a mix of studio, retail, and community spaces.
Renderings courtesy LOT-EK 

The board also scrutinized YoungWoo and LOT-EK’s approach to historic preservation, in particular their balance between transforming the pier and preserving it, adding transparency, light, and greenery while remaining true to the pier’s industrial history. The tall trees on the rooftop, for instance, were agreed to be a boon for the park, but had no connection to the pier’s history, and were therefore set back so as not to be visible from the street.

Team members for the project include Beyer Blinder Belle as historic preservation architect and architect of record, and West 8 as landscape architects. Also on the YoungWoo team is Urban Space Management (USM), the company behind the success of London’s Camden Lock, a large urban market with train tracks separating it from the city, much like the West Side Highway cuts off Pier 57. YoungWoo is banking on USM’s strategies to help Pier 57 succeed, using tactics such as renting many small, work-sell spaces as incubators to local artisans, which will bring in revenue, keep the market active during off-hours, and give the pier street-credibility and community ties. 


exhibition and educational spaces will inhabit the pier's lower levels. 
 

The broad service ramp will connect to the rooftop park and seating area, where the tribeca film festival will host screenings.
 
USM already has a sizeable pool of tenants lined up for the work-sell spaces, reports Tolla, and the Tribeca Film Festival has also committed to renting rooftop space. For now, other tenants are less certain. The “educational space” planned inside the hollow, below-grade caissons still lacks a tenant, and auction house Phillips de Pury has eased away from its commitment to rent ground floor space since they changed management last year. 

Of course, YoungWoo will have plenty of time to search for tenants: Their plan still has to clear the ULURP and environmental review hurdles, and Fishman estimates it will still be at least another two years until Pier 57 sees new construction.
Julia Galef