MTA Selects Tishman Speyer’s LEED Gold Bid for Hudson Yards

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s selection of Tishman Speyer to develop Hudson Yards promises a massive, mixed-use, Helmut Jahn-designed LEED Gold development that will transform the West Side of Manhattan for decades to come.

On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority chose Tishman Speyer to develop the Hudson Yards site on the far West Side of Manhattan. Tishman’s $1 billion bid for a 99-year ground lease from the MTA was $39 million more than a joint venture proposal from the Durst Organization and Vornado. As you may recall, the MTA opened bidding back in October for the right to build at the 26-acre site, which spans from 30th to 33rd Streets and between 10th Avenue and the Hudson River. Designed by Helmut Jahn, Cooper Robertson, and landscape architect Peter Walker, Tishman’s scheme contemplates 8.1 million square feet of office space across 5 towers, 3,230 rental and condominium units, cultural and community space, 379 affordable housing units, and the promise of a LEED Gold rating for the development. Tishman will first spend $2 billion to build a platform over the MTA’s John D. Caemmerer Yards, which stores Long Island Rail Road trains in close proximity to Penn Station.

Tishman’s chances were recently shrouded in some doubt after Morgan Stanley, its proposed anchor tenant, withdrew from the project; Vornado and Durst had proposed media outfit Conde-Nast (which would have moved from green landmark 4 Times Square into the Yards) as their anchor tenant. Nevertheless, according to MTA Chief Financial Officer Gary Dellaverson, Morgan Stanley “remains interested in the project, and Tishman is negotiating with other potential occupants.” Jahn’s design concept for the project is a European-style forum revolving around the “New York Steps,” a landscaped terrace overlooking the Hudson that echoes Rome’s Spanish Steps. Tishman has worked with Jahn before, developing Berlin’s Sony Center- a project similar in size and scope.

Tishman will seek LEED Gold for the project, though no specific details are available regarding whether that rating will be for individual towers or a broader LEED-ND application for the entire project. The firm calls its proposal “one of the most significant commitments to green development in the United States.” In fact, the Hudson Yards site is actually larger than the overall redevelopment effort at Ground Zero. Specific green features that Tishman’s proposal features include green roofs and graywater systems, individual buildings designed to a high level of energy efficiency with high-performance glazing, a cogeneration system that will aim to keep Hudson Yards removed from the local electric grid, extensive use of recycled-content construction materials, and a Hudson River Nature Center that will educate visitors about the local ecosystem. The plan also calls for the transformation of most of the northern section of the High Line (which the MTA had initially claimed was an obstacle to any redevelopment scheme) into public park space.

In addition to its on-going green efforts at Rockefeller Center, which include the installations of an 18,000-square-foot green roof on top of Radio City Music Hall and a 70kW solar panel array, the largest privately-owned source of solar power generation in Manhattan, Tishman currently has 4 million square feet of office space under development in the U.S. for which it intends to seek LEED certification. The firm also served as the development manager at LEED Gold-certified Court Square Two in Long Island City.

Despite Tishman’s commitment to sustainable construction practices in connection with the project, community organizations are nevertheless concerned about the proposal’s scope. Tishman is planning on 3 million more square feet of office space than Vornado/Durst, as well as half as many apartment units and 200 fewer affordable housing units. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said yesterday that ensuring the project has the maximum number of affordable housing units “is going to be [her] highest priority.” Anna Levin, chair of Community Board 4’s land use committee, said that “[i]t’s really disappointing that they [the MTA] seem to have selected the one plan that from a design standpoint was the least appealing to the community. It seems the MTA’s driving premise, I would say almost exclusive premise, was reaping the highest price.” Nevertheless, Tishman head Rob Speyer said that the firm will “keep an open mind” with respect to adding more affordable housing units to its plan, and the Real Deal speculates that the MTA may enter into a side agreement with Vornado and Durst for additional residential development- including affordable housing.

We’ll obviously be following the Hudson Yards project as it heads towards its environmental review and ULURP- it’s a critical project both for Manhattan generally and green building specifically. Although we have similar concerns as Community Board 4 with respect to the project’s affordable housing elements, we are pleased that a developer with a track record of sustainable initiatives will be responsible for one of the largest development projects in the history of the city. As the Real Deal also reported earlier this week, Tishman Speyer is a large developer with a history of successfully executing and operating large-scale projects, particularly during economic downturns. “This is not a short-term money play,” a source told TRD. “This is a play for people who have a vision and track record of building and creating things with vision.” Check out much more information plus images via the links below.

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