New York City's massive Hudson Yards development gives Atlantans a preview of the Gulch transformation.
The $25 billion Hudson Yards extravaganza is of a much more massive scale than the Gulch, which will cost up to $5 billion. The first phase of the Hudson Yards' super high-rise cluster on Manhattan's far west side has opened to reactions ranging from amazement to revulsion.
The massive enclave on the edge of the High Line includes a seven-story shopping mall, four towering office buildings, a $500 million public arts center called the Shed, and a bizarre 150-foot structure known as the Vessel.
Similar to plans for the Gulch, Hudson Yards lies upon a platform built above railroad tracks. The Hudson Yards platform cost $1 billion, while Gulch developer Richard Ressler plans a $500 million structure over the Gulch's current wasteland of railroad tracks and parking lots. Ressler would create 15 new city blocks converted from public to private streets.
Like Ressler, CEO of the California-based CIM company, Hudson Yards developer Stephen M. Ross received tax incentives from the city, in promise of future jobs and tax revenue. Hudson Yards is being developed by Ross' Related Companies, and Oxford Properties Group.
The New York City tax incentive plan was structured differently than that awarded Ressler by Atlanta's city government. New York City apparently gave more direct tax breaks to Ross, while Ressler will receive relief from any future taxes generated by the development.
Noted New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman in a front-page article Friday gave Hudson Yards' first phase a lukewarm review. Kimmelman said the development resembles a suburban mixed-use project, and faulted Hudson Yards for clashing with Manhattan's surrounding cityscape. He characterized Hudson Yards as a gated community for the city's upper 1 percent. As with the Gulch, a percentage of the Hudson Yards' apartments will be subsidized housing.
"The terms du jour are corporate welfare or socialism for billionaires," Kimmelman concluded.
A number of law firms, hedge funds and companies like CNN and Time Warner are moving to Hudson Yards, Kimmelman reported, pointing out that its economic benefits are coming at the expense of Midtown buildings losing the tenants. That echoes critics who claim that the Gulch will hurt economic development in the rest of Atlanta.
Gulch critics who believe that Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the Atlanta City Council capitulated to Ressler's demands will shudder at Kimmelman's assessment that Hudson Yards "gives physical form to a crisis of city leadership, asleep at the wheel through two administrations, and to a pernicious theory of civic welfare that presumes private development is New York's primary goal, the truest measure of urban vitality and health, with money the city's only real currency."
The same criticism of civic apathy could be leveled at Kimmelman's Times. I don't remember the newspaper ever doing in-depth stories on New York City's consideration of the Hudson Yards tax incentives. While sounding alarms after the monoliths have already risen, Kimmelman's piece is another indictment of how New York City is sacrificing its urban vitality for the elitist dreams of wealthy developers.
For the record, I support the Gulch plans as a boon to downtown Atlanta, crippled for years by the gaping wound of the Gulch's railroad tracks and dark, menacing parking lots. But Kimmelman's piece made me wonder if the Gulch will be another monument to Atlanta's soulless corporate uniformity.