HELL'S KITCHEN — City officials and developers broke ground Tuesday on the Hudson Yards, a long-delayed construction project over the west side rail yards that's one of the largest the city has ever seen.
Work began on the first of many skyscrapers, a 1.7-million-square-foot, 47-story tower at the northeast corner of West 30th Street and 10th Avenue that will eventually be home to handbag maker Coach.
"After years and years of planning and partnership, breaking ground on the first commercial building of Hudson Yards is a wonderful thing," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, on the scene to help celebrate the start of one of his administration's signature real estate projects.
"Today's groundbreaking means that the market has spoken, and that even in this challenging economy we're moving forward to make the Far West Side's economic potential a reality."
The shining tower, expected to be completed in 2015, has two unnamed tenants set to move in alongside Coach, making it 80 percent full, according to Stephen Ross, chairman of the Related Companies, who with Oxford Properties is the developer behind the massive overall project.
"The tower will begin a new neighborhood that will begin the new heart of New York, with state-of-the-art commercial space, destination retail and vibrant restaurants," Ross said.
The project was the result of an exhaustive and contentious rezoning process approved by the city in 2005, though it languished for years because of the economic downturn.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn praised the spirit of compromise that helped result in the deal nearly eight years ago.
"We all stepped in the room believing there was a better use for this property than a rail yard," she said.
Officials plan for the 26-acre Hudson Yards site to eventually be home to more than 13 million square feet of development, including a 2.4 million square foot tower at the southwest corner of West 33rd Street and 10th Avenue. Before that happens, Related needs to build a large platform above the existing West Side Rail Yards.
"It's going to be something that you rarely ever see in New York, and that is the creation of a new neighborhood," said Joseph Lhota, chairman of the MTA, which owns the rail yards and is leasing it to Related.
That neighborhood will be unlocked with the 7 Train extension to West 34th Street and 11th Avenue, which is scheduled to open in 2014.
The developer anticipates the overall development to create nearly 23,000 union construction jobs, with the completed project providing offices and work space for more than 40,000 people. Along with oodles of office space, Hudson Yards will also have roughly 5,000 apartments, a new public school, a hotel, and a non-profit arts and culture facility, along with a four-acre park.