New York’s Newest, Hugest Attraction

With Martha Chapman

Ya gotta love New York. The city that never sleeps also is never completed. Hence its newest, gob-smackingest attraction:  The US$25 billion Hudson Yards.

Created over 28 acres of unloved and unlovely railway yards on Manhattan’s west side, this imaginative combo comprises condos, office towers, hotels, a shopping mall, cultural space, 6 acres of park and one massive climb-able sculpture.  Much of the project, which has proven to be a massive exercise in coordination and collaboration, opened last March to a great deal of noise.

How do you get there?  Parking in Manhattan is notoriously expensive, so the good news is that the No. 7 subway has been extended to have its very own Hudson Yards stop. Additionally, the uber-popular High Line (a disused elevated railway track which has been repurposed to be a green-space walking park) delivers what seems like a conveyer belt of tourists and locals alike directly into the attraction.

Once there, one of the main drawing cards is the shiny-new 7-storey mall, home to an array of options from New York’s first, chic, Nieman Marcus but also more mainstream brands such as H&M.  I was surprised to also see an actual Amazon store.

The biggest buzziest and most fun area the day I visited is the Mercado – a mash-up of food-court, wine-bar, food and souvenir shops all with a Spanish theme.  Suit-and-tie office workers mingled with tourists from Topeka to Tokyo enjoying tapas, gazpacho-in-a-glass, ice cream and flatbread sandwiches.

Outside, dozens joined the line to climb The Vessel, a 150 foot tall honeycomb of open staircases.  There’s no charge to climb The Vessel, but advance tickets seriously recommended. It’s the perfect attraction for the Instagram age.

Adjacent to The Vessel is a massive, boxy, windowless cultural space called The Shed, cleverly designed with moveable walls and floors to be a highly flexible venue for concerts, plays and other live performances.  

Adjacent, looming skyscrapers house condos and offices; and linking it all are public squares and gardens. To come?  A 100-storey glass viewing deck called The Edge, due next year.

So.  Should you recommend your clients visit it? Architecture critics have been vocal (“Clumsy and soulless”), and locals grumble that it’s all a “non-descript mall for the wealthy”.  I’m of two minds: Yes, it’s a bit of a hodge-podge, design-wise. No, I don’t have US$1,700 for a pair of shoes. And yet…in an era of such boring blandness, you have to applaud the panache and the sheer New Yorkiness that Hudson Yards represent. It takes guts to take a grimy and vast space in one of the world’s great cities and create something completely daring and new.  Bravo, New York.

Martha Chapman

Martha Chapman Columnist

An OJ columnist since 2006, Martha is responsible for the Biting Questions features as well as special seasonal series. A travel industry lifer known to all in the biz, she frequently covers industry events for Open Jaw.

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