Today, thousands of tourists and New Yorkers make a loop on the Staten Island Ferry between the borough and Manhattan, but as soon as 2016, they will also be able to make a vertical loop on the world’s tallest Ferris wheel, anchoring a new mixed-use project on the North Shore waterfront in St. George. Mayor Bloomberg today unveiled plans for Harbor Commons, which includes 350,000 square feet of retail space for 100 outlet mall stores, a 200-room, 120,000 square foot hotel, and a massive green-roofed parking structure, but all eyes were on the project’s neighbor; the 625-foot-tall New York Wheel will offer stunning views of New York City and its Harbor to an estimated 4.5 million people per year.
The Harbor Commons and New York Wheel developments flank the Richmond County Bank Ballpark, home of the minor league Staten Island Yankees, and rise from the site of two large surface parking lots at the ferry landing. SHoP Architects with Lee Weintraub Landscape Architects designed the $230 million mixed-use outlet mall-entertainment-hotel complex at Harbor Commons to relate to the surrounding Staten Island community while still providing a monumental presence on the waterfront and ferry landing. “At SHoP, we like taking typologies traditionally considered suburban or car-dominated and turning them inside out, making them urban in their experience” said Vishaan Chakrabarti, principal at SHoP. “It’s not a mall in the traditional sense.”
A series of undulating ribbon-like green roof structures are arrayed at Harbor Commons to define three open-air pedestrian corridors through the site. Each ribbon is punctuated by grids skylights where north-south passages connect the corridors. “It’s about organizing pedestrian corridors,” said Chakrabarti. “We looked to create a contemporary version of an Italian hill town. The great hill towns have interesting spines.” Floor plates gradually shift as the site negotiates a 25-foot grade change.
Facade treatments and materials are still being determined, but will reflect the industrial waterfront site. Chakrabarti said SHoP is exploring a signage and art program that will enliven the waterfront facade. “As day turns to night, the ribbons’ presence on the waterfront is elevated as they start to glow.” Chakrabarti said. Whatever the final design, however, it “needs to be respectful of the waterfront.”
The Ferris wheel on the north side of the ballpark will take the world’s tallest title, topping the current title holder, the Singapore Flyer, by 84 feet and dwarfing other iconic wheels like the London Eye which stands just over 440 feet tall. The $250 million wheel will contain 36 football-shaped pods carrying 40 passengers each for the 38 minute ride. The NYC Economic Development Corporation estimated that at peak season the wheel will spin up to 30,000 visitors a day. The New York Wheel’s resemblance to its London equivalent is more than passing; it’s being designed by Starneth, whose team includes members who built the Eye. “This wheel is a game changer for Staten Island,” said Staten Island borough president James Molinaro in a statement. “Going forward, Staten Island will be known as the Borough with the largest wheel in the world.”
Surrounding the New York Wheel, a 100,000 square foot commercial terminal building designed by Perkins Eastman continues the theme of green ribbon roofs, adding an array of wind turbines and solar panels to generate sustainable energy for what’s envisioned as a LEED Platinum facility. The structure will include restaurant, retail, theater, and exhibition space over a nearly 1,000-car parking structure.
New York Wheel and BFC Partners will sign a 99-year lease for the two development sites, paying the city $2.5 million per year, and plan to begin construction in early 2014 with an anticipated opening in 2016.