West Side Rail Yards Proposal No. 3: Brookfield Reinstates the Streets

Brookfield Properties, a giant landlord that keeps a lower profile than some of the city’s single-engine developers, did not come into the West Side Rail Yards competition with an anchor tenant. It did, however, come in with a whole bevy of design firms—seven in all—that proceeded to break just about every rule or convention that was set out for them.

The result is a plan that—forgive the hypothetica—Jane Jacobs would like (online here). It reinstitutes part of the street grid on the two massive superblocks between 30th and 33rd streets. Hotels create a street wall along 11th Avenue where other plans prescribe a park. The intent, according to Brookfield, is to link the new neighborhood with the rest of the city—including with a parcel Brookfield is developing on the eastern side of 10th Avenue.

There is a trade-off: while the built-up space does not exceed the 12 million square feet permitted by the MTA, the new streets and sidewalks eat into what could have been green space. But it is arguably more “public.” In fact, Brookfield reconfigured the park on the western yard into a rectangle, accessible from 30th Street and Hudson River Park, in a bid to open up the space that other developers keep hidden between two rows of buildings.

Brookfield clocks in with 3,298 apartments, an unspecified number of which will be affordable, and some 6.1 million square feet of office space, much of it in one 1,300-foot-high tower on the southwest corner of 33rd Street and 10th Avenue. It is the tallest proposed tower in the entire competition. So far, Brookfield doesn’t know who will occupy it, but Chief Executive Ric Clark said that the company has a deep bench to draw from.

“We put no premium on having a tenant at this point in time. We’ve heard that others have landed their tenants by offering cost-minus deals we think that leaves some of MTA’s money on the table,” Mr. Clark. “In North America, we have more head office tenants than anybody else. What we do is move people around as their businesses change. They buy somebody or they sell off a decision. We have confidence that we will land a tenant.”

West Side Rail Yards Proposal No. 3: Brookfield Reinstates the Streets