How Hudson Yards Went From Ghost Town to Office Success Story

It was March 2019, and 13,000 people were on Manhattan’s West Side at a star-studded opening ceremony for the largest private real estate project in United States history: Hudson Yards.

A year later, the development was a ghost town.

Shops were closed and offices emptied; the coronavirus pandemic had walloped the corridor of luxury skyscrapers, high-rises and retail near the Hudson River that rose atop a mix of rail yards and parking lots. The roughly $30 billion planned neighborhood looked like it had fizzled before it ever got started.

But now, five years after that grand opening, Hudson Yards has not only survived, but it has also emerged as perhaps the most dominant office market in New York City, a bright spot as companies across the country cut space in the shift to remote and hybrid work. The neighborhood’s glass-and-steel towers have attracted some of the most valuable companies in the world — including BlackRock, Pfizer and Ernst & Young — to pay some of the highest rents in the country.

The remarkable turnaround has even won over some of the project’s loudest critics, who had bemoaned the neighborhood as a soulless, inauthentic enclave for the wealthy whose developers received generous property-tax breaks. Skeptics had also predicted that area — bounded by Eighth and 12th Avenues from West 30th to West 42nd Street — was too out of the way for New Yorkers.

Brad Lander, the New York City comptroller, was among those critics. But now? “I got it wrong,” he said.

The success of the office market at Hudson Yards stands in contrast, though, to the other main components of the project, luxury housing and a multistory mall, which have not fared as well. It has also laid bare the widening chasm between the fortunes of the city’s few very-high-end office towers, including those around Grand Central Terminal, and the woes of everyone else.

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