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New York's Javits Center Expansion Gets Green Light

Image courtesy HOK

This December, New York Governor George Pataki signed a bill approving the expansion of the Jacob Javits Convention Center on Manhattan’s West Side. This long-developing mega-project, now slated for groundbreaking in the spring of 2005, had been mired in controversy recently for its association with an adjacent NY Jets/Olympic Stadium complex.

The newly passed bill gives the go-ahead only to a Javits Center expansion and serves as a defacto separation between the two projects. Significant opposition is now reserved largely for the Stadium.

Originally designed by I.M. Pei & Partners and opened in 1986, the Javits Center will be transformed from 760,000 sq. feet of exhibition and meeting space – often called insufficient for a city of New York’s caliber – into 1,442,000 sq. feet after the first phase of development, and 1,705,000 after a second phase down the pike. That will shift New York’s rank from 18th to 5th in national convention capacity.


The new Center’s designs have been in the works for nine years by Saint Louis’s HOK (Hellmuth, Obata, + Kassabaum) and will be executed by lead designer Kenneth Drucker and principal-in-charge Sam Spata. Among the more ambitious parts of their plan are a 50-story, 1,500 room hotel with a glass-shingled façade; an esplanade along the Hudson River; and a 6,000-seat ballroom – to be more than twice as large as any in the city. Additionally, the building’s new roof will feature a 22-acre “living” roof, a green space as large as Central Park’s Great Lawn.

In the larger view, explains Sam Spata, “We need a design that turns avenues into boulevards and places where people want to walk…We've designed the Javits Center, both the expansion and renovation of the existing building, to appear as an extension of the Hudson River park, with the 42nd Street hotel and retail along a revitalized 11th Avenue street wall, and with the folded plates of a living roof visible from the street. All this, to transform places for cars and trucks into places for people.”

The total cost of the project’s first phase will be $1.4 billion, to be financed by the City, State, privately, and through hotel surcharges. Backers of the project predict that it will generate over 10,000 permanent jobs and an additional $53 million in annual City revenue. A second, as-yet unfinanced phase to develop a portion of the site connecting the Center and Hotel will follow.

Ilan Kayatsky


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