On March 15, as the setting sun bathed the Hudson River in shades of pink on New York City’s far West Side, a river of Champagne and tequila was flowing nearby, inside the 1 million-square-foot Hudson Yards shopping center. Convene was a guest at a party celebrating the center’s opening — an event so gigantic that we only learned about the celebrities in attendance (Whoopi Goldberg, Anne Hathaway, and Lin-Manuel Miranda among them) on social media the next day.
The party has been years in the making, marking the public debut of the $25-billion, 28-acre Hudson Yards project — the largest private real-estate development in U.S. history.
Along with the seven-story shopping center — officially named the Shops & Restaurants at 20 Hudson Yards — the development includes the Vessel, a monumental basket-like spiral sculpture, made up of 154 interconnecting flights of stairs the public is invited to climb. (Admission to the Vessel is free, but would-be climbers have to make reservations in advance.)
Beside the Vessel sits the Shed, a 200,000-square-foot cultural center scheduled to open on April 5. The building’s design — so unconventional that my eyes had to adjust to what I was seeing the first time I glimpsed it — includes a movable outer shell that opens out over an adjoining plaza, creating a 17,000-square-foot space for performances, art installations, and special events. Stretching between 10th and 12th avenues and from West 30th to West 34th Street, Hudson Yards holds 18 million square feet of commercial and residential space, more than 100 shops and restaurants, 14 acres of open space, and a new hotel brand, Equinox Hotels, set to open in June.
For the meetings and events industry, it’s game changer, filling in the blank, industrial spaces formerly surrounding the Javits Center. The Hudson Yards shopping center holds more than two-dozen restaurants and cafés, in a range of cuisines and price points, just steps away from the convention center, including restaurants by celebrity chefs Thomas Keller, Jose Andres, and David Chang.
A Javits expansion currently underway will add 1.2 million square feet to the convention center, bringing the center’s total up to 3.3 million square feet in 2021, and adding meeting rooms and a rooftop terrace. In total, Javits will contain 3.3 million square feet of space under one roof by 2021.
Getting to Javits — which once meant a four-avenue hike from the closest subway station or a scramble for a cab — has been simplified by the extension of the city’s 7 subway line, which brings passengers to a point between the convention center and Hudson Yards.
And tying it all together like a big green ribbon is the High Line, which begins outside the Javits Center and ends a mile-and-a-half to the south, at the Whitney Museum of American Art. An art-filled public park built along a historic elevated freight railway, the High Line has become one of the city’s most-visited attractions.
And there is more to come. The recent opening was the first phase of the project; Phase 2, scheduled to open in 2023, will bring a park with an open lawn that will be turned into an ice-skating rink in winter.
Barbara Palmer is Convene‘s deputy editor.