West Side Rail Yards Proposal No. 2: Durst-Vornado Floats, Moves, Relocates People

The joint proposal for the West Side Rail Yards by the Durst Organization and Vornado Realty Trust is obsessed with getting people to the far West Side. The developers propose a subterranean “people mover” below 33rd Street that would carry up to 20,000 riders an hour from Penn Station to 11th Avenue (although it was not clear just who would pay for it); a pedestrian skyway that floats over the entire site and Hudson River Park; and a new headquarters for Condé Nast.

“We felt that we wanted to maintain the kind of porosity that we get in the best parts of the city,” said architect Rafael Pelli, who designed the plan along with FxFowle. “We are really trying to relate it to Union Square, Bryant Park or even a Times Square. We are thinking about how this is going to be a diverse and useful area and attract people from a greater catchment area rather than an enclave.”

The plan, one of five submitted to purchase the yards from the MTA, envisions four office or mixed-use towers, the tallest of which will be 1,205 feet tall. (It’s online here.) The new Condé Nast headquarters would go at the southeast corner of 33rd Street and 11th Avenue. Overall, the plan is heavier on residential space than the other four proposals, with about 7,000 apartments, an unspecified number of which would be affordable.

A broad low-lying kunsthalle on the southeastern flank would house a cultural institution; its 120,000-square-foot floor plates, Mr. Pelli said, would be ideal for flower and antique shows (and, one might add, provide competition for the troubled Javits Convention Center expansion plan on the other side of 34th street).

The project, in keeping with Douglas Durst’s environmentally progressive reputation, includes a number of green features, among them a co-generation plant to capture the heat thrown off by generating electricity; a treatment plant that would allow the complex to reuse wastewater for plumbing purposes; and bris soleil, a type of awning that would shade out the summer light while letting in winter light.

Vornado, with its $18 billion in assets, is lending some financial heft to the bid.

“A lot will rely on the capital strength of the bidder,” Vornado Chairman and Chief Executive Steve Roth said. “I think it is obvious that this is an enormously complex project so the success of the project may ride and fall on the financial strength of the winning bidder; that will be a very important differentiating tactic.”

West Side Rail Yards Proposal No. 2: Durst-Vornado Floats, Moves, Relocates People