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Hudson River Park’s Pier 97 will transform into ‘otherworldly’ green space

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The $38 million revamp is the latest upgrade at the West Side waterfront park

Melk courtesy of the Hudson River Park Trust

The northernmost pier within Hudson River Park will transform from a concrete blank slate into vibrant parkland as part of a $38 million revamp.

Design firm Melk has partnered with the Hudson River Park Trust to reimagine Pier 97, located off of 12th Avenue and 57th Street in Hell’s Kitchen, as well as an esplanade that will stretch up to 59th Street. The nearly two acres of new amenities will create “a distinct place in the city,” according to the design team.

“We wanted to give the pier a significant identity because it’s kind of like the gateway to Hudson River Park,” says Jerry van Eyck, the principal at Melk, which is known for designing the first public park on the Las Vagas strip. “What we tried to do was bring a sort of romanticism back, all squeezed into the limited real estate that we have.”

Local residents told van Eyck’s team that they wanted a departure from boxed-in fields and amenities in favor of an open, integrated approach. To that end, Pier 97 is envisioned as a series of spaces that seamlessly flow into one another, from walkways with sculptural canopies, to a playground with a towering jungle gym, to an elevated “belvedere” with river views.

Melk courtesy of the Hudson River Park Trust

While the pier is too narrow for large-scale sports fields, it will feature a small field ideal for young soccer and tee-ball players. Those looking to lounge can sprawl out on the pier’s gently sloped sun lawn, pause for a respite on one of several seating areas, or gather with friends at picnic tables overlooking the Hudson.

Since the West Side Highway is practically on the pier’s doorstep, foliage and rock formations at the entrance will work to block some of the bustle. Pier 97 will also feature a Toshiko Mori-designed park building just north of the pier that will serve as a maintenance and operations hub with an eatery and restrooms for visitors.

The idea, as with all Hudson River Park piers, is to serve as a reprieve from the city with a space that almost feels as though you’re stepping out of it, says Madelyn Wils, the president and CEO of Hudson River Park Trust.

Melk courtesy of the Hudson River Park Trust

“It’s quite a different feeling when you’re able to go out onto the river and look at the sunset and sit under a tree,” says Wils. “It really makes you feel like you’re in an otherworldly place.”

Shovels are expected to hit the ground at Pier 97 by September 2020. The space is slated for a spring 2022 opening. Pier 97’s reconstruction is part of $1 billion worth of work underway at the 4.5-mile waterfront park, which spans several neighborhoods from Tribeca up to Hell’s Kitchen.

At Gansevoort Peninsula in the West Village, Manhattan’s first public beach is shaping up and is expected to open around the same time as Pier 97. And just a few blocks north, in Chelsea, Pier 57 is slated to launch a mixed-used development with a food market, offices, and public space by early 2021.