A new year and a new convention center for New York
In his State of the State address last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo grabbed headlines with the news that he wants to abandon plans to expand the Jacob Javits Convention Center on Manhattan’s far West Side in favor of building a new one in Queens. And what a convention center it will be! To be designed by Arquitectonica, the new center will be 3.8 million sq ft, eclipsing the 2.6 million sq ft McCormick Place in Chicago, to become the largest convention center in North America. The first phase of the project (2.6 million sq ft) is slated for completion in 2014.
The decision to build the new facility is motivated in a large part by Malaysian developer Genting Organization’s interest to invest $4bn in the project if the state provides the land. The announcement was welcome news to the community surrounding the Javits, which has long desired to have better access to Hudson River Park. With Javits out of commission, the 18-acre five-block site could be reworked with an eye toward restoring the street grid and connecting the community to the waterfront. The model is Battery Park City, said Cuomo. With the area currently undergoing significant change, including construction of the new Hudson Yards project and the Moynihan Station, it is likely a smaller venue for medium-size trade shows and events would replace the Javits.
The new convention center will be located near JFK International Airport alongside the Genting Organization’s new casino at Aqueduct Racetrack, which opened last October. Critics of the plan say the location is too far out and lacks good public transportation access from Manhattan. While the project promises to bring the largest events to New York and drive demand for hotel rooms and restaurants meals, the biggest upside is the jobs it would create and the tax revenues.
But before everyone gets caught up in the excitement a word of caution. New York has a history of making big plans that never get off the drawing board, including expanding the Javits. Crane’s Business news reports that the deal is ‘particularly complicated’. “To move the project forward on the West side, the new convention center must first be built. Beyond that, crafting a new neighbourhood on the Hudson will require billions of dollars, community consensus and slew of government approvals” and at a time when financing for such initiatives have all but evaporated.
The good news is that both Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg are on the same page with regards their commitment to see the projects through. Cuomo has made the new convention center a top priority of his administration and Bloomberg has made a similar commitment to redeveloping of the far West Side. Beyond gaining approval, the timing of Javits’ redevelopment will be critical for the Hudson Yards project. A spokesperson for the Related Cos., the developer of Hudson Yards, told Crains, “If it comes to fruition before Hudson Yards has lined up big tenants, Javits could pose a threat as a cheaper alternative, since it won't require building a pricey platform.” On the other hand, if the project takes too long, it could be an eyesore that drags down Hudson Yards' value. Regardless, the redevelopment project is further evidence of increased interest in the transformation of Manahttan’s West Side.