And we thought Hudson Yards was huge. If the State gets a go-ahead for a proposed “Empire Station Complex” around Penn Station, it will dwarf Hudson Yards. The proposal calls for 14 million square feet of new office space, 800,000 square feet of retail and nearly 1,300 new hotel rooms. The Complex would overrule local zoning and impose no height limits on new buildings.
Empire Station Complex illustration. – Click here to enlarge map and go to report
Empire State Development (ESD) began advancing the proposal yesterday, holding a virtual “scoping session” that drew speakers pro and con. A Community Board 4 member criticized “a Robert Moses like approach” displacing residents and businesses. Many persons said the proposal emphasized density over transit and criticized a lack of information about transit improvements. Community Board 5 called for federal funding to allow less density and protecting a view corridor to the Empire State Building. Others called for including affordable housing and community services. There was support for saving historic buildings and adapting other buildings in the area. Business groups and unions spoke in support.
Under the plan, which Governor Cuomo announced in January, the State would buy, or take buildings by eminent domain, on eight large sites. ESD describes the area as “substandard and insanitary” with “outdated office buildings” and “bland nondescript retail offerings.” The area also contains several historic buildings on, or eligible for, the National Register of Historic Places. These include a power station service building on West 30th Street that is the last building remaining from the original Penn Station, a West 31st Street church designed by noted architect Napoleon LeBrun, and the Hotel Pennsylvania.
The stated goal is for the new development to provide funding for improvements at Penn Station and public realm benefits. There are no details yet on how the money would be raised, spent, or administered. Yesterday was the start of a lengthy public review process. We will participate and report on how it progresses.