This week’s opening of the Hudson Yards megaproject is the culmination of nearly 20 years of work—on the part of city and state officials, developers, and other stakeholders—to create an entirely new neighborhood where one didn’t exist before.
And indeed, the process was a lot of work: The city officially began planning for Hudson Yards in 2001, but it took until 2019 for the first buildings to open to the public. Along the way, there were plenty of delays and missteps (see: the entire 2012 Olympic bid), but once funding was secured in 2010, progress on the site happened at a rapid clip.
“[A] lot of these plans require a very long-term perspective,” former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff—who was one of the earliest proponents of Hudson Yards—told Curbed in 2017. “I first came up with the idea of Hudson Yards as part of the Olympic bid in 1996,” he said, but after 20 years, “it’s really coming to fruition.”
Now, six years after shovels hit the ground, Hudson Yards is ready to welcome its first visitors—but for a look at what it took to get here, read on.
Plans to redevelop the West Side rail yards were made—and scrapped—several times before 2001, the first year the name “Hudson Yards” was mentioned publicly in connection with the city’s 2012 Olympic bid. In the New York Times, it’s described as “an 86,000-seat retractable-domed stadium to be built south of the Javits Convention Center, along with an Olympic Square Park-cum-hotel-and-office mall.” (The same article notes “critics see aspects of the 2012 bid as a profit-churning ploy by private real estate developers”—some things never change.) Dan Doctoroff, who later became one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s deputy mayors, leads the charge for the bid.
New York is officially selected by the International Olympic Committee to bid for the 2012 games. “Over this next year we will show the world that we have what it takes to host the 2012 Olympic Games,” Gov. George Pataki says at the time. “New York City has unrivaled spirit and determination, and we also have a plan in place that will make our city an ideal Olympic host.”
June 21, 2004
An environmental impact study commissioned by the Bloomberg administration in anticipation of a rezoning gives gawkers the first real glimpse at what a West Side megaproject could entail. It includes some components that end up coming to fruition—millions of square feet of office and residential space, a park connecting the buildings, a new subway stop—and others that didn’t. (A stadium—but we’ll get to that.)
November 17, 2004
The Bloomberg administration, led by Doctoroff, unveils its bid for the 2012 Olympics, a wide-ranging plan that proposes more than 4,000 apartments in Queens to house athletes, a waterfront aquatics center in Brooklyn, and—most controversially—a new stadium on the west side of Manhattan, close to the site that ultimately became Hudson Yards. The total projected capital investment: a whopping $7.6 billion—this includes the Olympics operating budget and the west side redevelopment—to be accrued through private funding, government bonds, and other sources.
The stadium proves to be the most unpopular part of the plan, spurring more protests and even two lawsuits.
January 19, 2005
The first key zoning hurdle is cleared when the City Council approves the Bloomberg administration’s Hudson Yards master plan, which includes the creation of a 59-block special district between Eighth and Eleventh avenues, and between 30th and 41st streets. This area, outside of the parcel that will eventually be leased to Related Companies, sees an explosion in new development—including the creation of the High Line—adjacent to the Hudson Yards project. Bloomberg calls it “probably the single most important economic project that this city has undertaken in decades,” according to the New York Times.
June 6, 2005
Bloomberg’s West Side stadium dreams are crushed when the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) vetoes the project. The necessary approval ultimately rested on the shoulders of Sheldon Silver, the state assemblymember who was later convicted on federal corruption charges; he said he would not support the stadium because, in the wake of 9/11, funding should have been diverted to lower Manhattan. The PACB’s move immediately puts the city’s Olympic future into question, but the Mets agree to build a new stadium in Queens—what is now Citi Field—helping to ensure the bid will move forward.
July 6, 2005
One month after the stadium bid is blocked, the Olympics bid is also tanked: The IOC announces that it’s selected London for the 2012 games. Six years after the failed attempt, Bloomberg’s attitude about the debacle was sanguine. “We thought the Olympics would be the catalyst to get a lot of things that many people thought the city needed,” he told the New York Times in 2011. “In fact, many got done”—including Hudson Yards.
October 12, 2007
The Olympics dream may have died, but Hudson Yards lives on: Two years later, developers formally submit bids for the site, all of which include a commitment from high-profile architects. (Three of those—SOM, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and KPF—eventually go on to design buildings for the final project.) Alas, a wacky “people mover” proposed by Vornado never gets off the ground.
December 3, 2007
Construction kicks off on the 7 line extension, with an anticipated completion date of 2013. (The MTA does not hit that target.)
The first few months of 2008 are a whirlwind: In March, Tishman Speyer wins the bid to develop the rail yards; by May, the deal had “reached an impasse”—the MTA’s words—over the developer’s desire to postpone payments until the full rezoning was finished. Chaos ensues for about a week, until Related—which had previously bid on (and lost) the project—comes out of the woodwork and agrees to a $1 billion deal to develop the site. How serious was Related CEO Stephen Ross about sealing the deal? He reportedly cut a trip to China short to ensure it went through. “It’s not often that you get a second chance at a dream of a lifetime,” he told the Times at the time.
Thanks to the Great Recession, progress on Hudson Yards is delayed: The MTA and Related agree to hold off on closing the deal until the economy recovers.
December 22, 2009
The final, crucial component of the Hudson Yards saga (from the zoning side of things, anyway) wraps up at the end of 2009, when the City Council approves the rezoning of the West Side rail yards. This piece of land—which sits between 30th and 33rd streets and 11th and 12th avenues—will eventually have as many as eight buildings, most of which will house apartments. A decade on, Related has yet to announce any firm plans for the site.
May 26, 2010
Now that the zoning is buttoned up, Related moves on getting the financial side of things finished. Oxford Properties Group comes on as a co-developer, providing a necessary influx of cash to begin work at the site.
Say hello to the Culture Shed: The multidisciplinary arts center at the southern end of the megaproject is unveiled the same day that it receives a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The building, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and the Rockwell Group, is notable for its quirky design, in which two structures can expand and contract to allow for changeable gallery and performance space.
December 16, 2010
The first “preparatory work” begins at the Hudson Yards site.
November 1, 2011
Coach becomes the first big-name tenant to sign on for one of Hudson Yards’s office towers, taking more than 600,000 square feet in the KPF-designed 10 Hudson Yards.
December 4, 2012
More than a decade after the name “Hudson Yards” was coined, elected officials—including then-mayor Michael Bloomberg—gather for the megaproject’s official groundbreaking. “Developing Manhattan’s final frontier is the next major step in our city’s ongoing economic revival,” the mayor says at a press conference celebrating the milestone.
The development’s first four skyscrapers get their names: 10, 15, 30, and 35 Hudson Yards. (The other two, 50 and 55, are unveiled later.)
December 20, 2013
At the tail end of his third term as mayor, Bloomberg takes a ceremonial ride on the 7 line extension—one of the key pieces of the Hudson Yards puzzle—to prove that he could, in fact, finish something in the megaproject before leaving office. Alas, the ride—from an event in Queens to the still-under-construction station at 34th Street-Hudson Yards—wouldn’t be replicated for more than a year, as the station’s opening was delayed until 2015.
September 4, 2014
Neiman Marcus signs on as the anchor tenant for the high-end mall that will anchor the western edge of Hudson Yards, with plans for a 250,000 flagship store. The mall will eventually go on to attract tenants that are both super-luxe (Cartier, Dior) and more, well, mall-like (H&M, Sephora, Banana Republic).
Hudson Park and Boulevard, designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, opens to the public. The new public space connects 36th and 34th streets, and brings a decent place to chill out—with benches, seating, and even a small playground—to a once-barren stretch in Hell’s Kitchen.
September 13, 2015
After years of delays and false starts, the 7 line extension to 34th Street finally welcomes its first riders. The station is designed by Dattner Architects, with above-ground design by Toshiko Mori Architects and landscape design by Michael Van Valkenburgh. It’s the 469th subway stop to open in the city. As of 2017, its annual ridership was just over 3 million.
October 7, 2015
The megaproject hits a construction milestone with the topping out of 10 Hudson Yards, the first skyscraper within the development to reach that point.
May 31, 2016
More than four years after the official groundbreaking, the first Hudson Yards tower officially opens. KPF created what it calls a “vertical campus” for Coach, with a large atrium that reaches up into the structure. Later, Related opens a sales gallery—which isn’t selling a particular building as much as the whole “Hudson Yards experience”—on the 24th floor of the building.
September 14, 2016
The centerpiece of the Hudson Yards public square—an “interactive landmark” designed by the so-called “Pied Piper of design,” Thomas Heatherwick—is unveiled. The structure, known as Vessel (temporarily, anyway) is composed of 154 interconnected staircases that are meant to be climbed. Its shape—inspired, according to the designer, by Indian stepwells—evokes a beehive, or a ribcage, or perhaps a doner kebab, depending on your perspective.
July 20, 2018
The tallest building within the megaproject, 30 Hudson Yards, tops out—though it’s still a ways off from opening. Once it does, the KPF-designed building will be the new headquarters for Time Warner, HBO, and CNN. It’ll also be home to Edge, the glass-bottomed observation deck that juts 65 feet out from the skyscraper, and is perched 1,000 feet above the city.
March 15, 2019
The first pieces of the megaproject, including Vessel and the Shops & Restaurants, are due to open to the public, making real a project that has been nearly 20 years in the making.