In 1952, the February issue of Popular Mechanics boasted of a “SuperPier” at Pier57, an engineering marvel designed to be indestructible and built upon three giant concrete boxes instead of the wooden piles characteristic of surrounding piers. Six decades later, and after five grueling years of paperwork and approval processes, Young Woo & Associates intends to bring the long-underused but not forgotten pier back to super status in 2015. The $200 million plan calls for 270,000 square feet of retail, envisioned as a cultural and creative hub, a fusion of food, culture, idea incubation and generation, with an eclectic mix of storefronts with waterfront views, column-free space and 20-foot ceilings, and 430 shipping container “incuboxes,” housing everything from luxury and online retail brick-and-mortars to big-box concept shops.
One of three principals at the firm, Greg Carney, has led the approval process and dealings with the Hudson River Park Trust since Young Woo & Associates began hashing out its plan in 2008. A principal at the firm for six years, he oversaw the completion of the Sky Garage at 200 Eleventh Avenue, the firm’s commercial condo project at 139 Center Street in Chinatown and the acquisition and sale of the AIG Tower downtown. The SuperPier is arguably the most novel of them all, with a Riverfront Spa and Beach Club concept by André Balazs Properties, Brooklyn Boulders and Opening Ceremony already on board. Mr. Carney spoke with The Commercial Observer about the idea behind the SuperPier and Young Woo & Associates’ vision.
Why did you see potential in the pier, and what factors impacted your decision to proceed with the project?
It was a combination of a lot of things coming together: watching the retail world evolve and this changing model around shopping, the whole idea of more experience-based retail and this idea of not just creating a place of commerce but trying to combine cultural uses with the whole cultural scene and a social gathering place, and making it much more interactive. We were looking to form that in a unique physical space and came across the pier.
We’d looked at some other opportunities along the waterfront and chose not to pursue them for a variety of reasons, but this had the right location, and it happened to have the right structure. It’s unique, because it’s built on these floating caissons that get away from the ongoing problem they’re having in the river with some of these piers with the woodpile structures that don’t have a real long life and are very expensive to maintain.
And just the history of the pier and its location in the park: The Hudson River Park had already done a lot of the work to the north and to the south in redoing a lot of the waterfront, and yet this pier had sat idle for a few years, and we saw it as this great opportunity to connect to the west side of Manhattan and all the things going on in the fashion world in the Meatpacking and in the art world in West Chelsea. It was the intersection of all these different elements that we saw as the perfect opportunity to bring all that together and do it with some scale so it really could be a new destination and a new way of thinking about retail and food and fashion in one place.
Will the project help or hurt other retail in the area?
I think it will help in a big way. We want to be complimentary to a lot of the great things that are going on in the immediate neighborhood and the fact that the Whitney [Museum] is coming there, all the success of the High Line, the evolution of Chelsea Market, all the new retail that’s coming to the area. We want to compliment that and do it in a way that it’s a different kind of space and a different offering, both from a pricing standpoint and a concept standpoint. We want to be an alternative to some of the other storefront retail and food and fashion option but do it in a way that’s building on what the neighborhood already has going on.