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Hudson Yards as a Cautionary Tale

As the city of Philadelphia considers the prospect of building a massive private development called Schuylkill Yards, lessons from New York City's Hudson Yards are considered.
May 8, 2019, 6am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Zina Seletskaya

Philadelphia Inquirer Architecture Critic Inga Saffron considers the lessons of Hudson Yards, described here as New York's "first insta-neighborhood."

Set on a concrete platform over the tracks, Hudson Yards is said to be the largest private, mixed-use development in the United States, costing $25 billion. Never before has anyone built so much in one place, all at once. Trophy office buildings jostle for space with luxury condo towers. While other cities are hemorrhaging retail, Hudson Yards managed to fill a seven-story shopping mall and land New York’s first Neiman Marcus store as its anchor tenant. The project features two public attractions, a cutting-edge arts center called The Shed, and what may be the world’s first purpose-built selfie-magnet, an Escher-esque fantasy known as the Vessel.

The relevance of the Hudson Yards development to the city of Philadelphia is obvious in the potential of the Schuylkill Yards development to achieve some of the same results.

"Philadelphia also has dreamed of building over its rail yards and filling in the no-man’s land around 30th Street Station with modern high-rises," according to Saffron. Developer Brandywine Realty Trust released its first concept of the massive development two years ago, and the proposed project continues to take shape. The developer expects to break ground this winter, in fact, on a 770,000-square-foot office tower and a 344-unit apartment building that includes 200,000 square feet of office space. Saffron lists numerous similarities between the two projects, so the scale of the project's potential is obvious.

The Schuylkill Yards project could create a connection between Center City and University City,  "forming a single, seamless downtown and a powerful jobs center for the region," according to Saffron. On the other hand, the project is the same kind of insta-neighborhood as Hudson Yards. "The trick will be to make sure Schuylkill Yards feels like a real part of the city, and not a corporate enclave, a Brandywine-ville."

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Published on Tuesday, May 7, 2019 in The Philadelphia Inquirer
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