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Hudson Yards: New York’s Hot New ‘Hood

From urban wasteland to the largest real-estate development in the USA – here is why you should visit the Chelsea and Hudson Yards neighbourhoods of Manhattan.

“I think the sheer size and force of Hudson Yards will create its own centre of gravity for the people of New York and all of those who visit,” says chef José Andrés, who opened Mercado Little Spain, a Spanish market, at Manhattan’s new mega-development Hudson Yards.

The mixed-use complex, which is made up of a collection of shiny buildings that run up the city’s West Side, is one of the largest real-estate developments in American history.

Spanning 18 million square feet (some of which is public space), the $25-billion investment is certainly a sizeable enclave.

Vessel Interior Photo: Michael Moran

Vessel Interior Photo: Michael Moran

Reviving A Long-Forgotten Area

Located along the Hudson River, Hudson Yards was developed with the hope of reviving an area that has long been forgotten. This former railway yard was nothing more than an urban wasteland with almost zero access to public transport, a system New Yorkers heavily rely on.

“What we did, compared to any other developers working on the West Side, is really go for the gold,” says Kenneth Himmel, president and chief executive officer of Related Urban, who was also responsible for developing the Time Warner Center on Manhattan’s West Side.

“We decided to build a major amount of retail, food and beverage options because we thought we would become the nucleus for the city that is developing so rapidly.”

A Mixed-Use Marvel 

Hudson Yards, New York

Hudson Yards, New York

The towering cluster of buildings includes retail spaces, restaurants, housing, cultural spaces and the Vessel, a spiral staircase designed by London-based starchitect Thomas Heatherwick (who also designed the Zeitz MOCAA at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town).

The gleaming $150-million structure climbs 150 feet in the air and boasts views over the Hudson River and beyond. Other than taking in vistas of the city from above, the Vessel has little other purpose, but at least visitors will get a good selfie or two.

There is also The Shed, a new multidisciplinary art centre, which has rotating exhibitions by emerging artists, as well as performances by local and international musicians like Björk.

In the giant shopping centre, visitors can shop brands like beauty brand Sephora, as well as clothing giants H&M and Uniqlo, all in one climate-controlled space.

They can also eat at a string of stellar restaurants, which were carefully curated by Himmel and iconic American chef Thomas Keller.

A Culinary Cornerstone 

The shopping options might be a bit drab (there is no shortage of Sephoras or Uniqlos in the city), but the food and beverage options are positively mouthwatering.

“Hudson Yards is an extraordinary project, and co-curating the dining collection with Ken Himmel was a true collaboration,” says Keller.

“Restaurants are the cornerstone of New York history – you can look back at the history of this great city and realise which incredible restaurants there are, and the impact they have had.”

Voices by Jaume Plensa, 30 Hudson Yards. Photo Joe Woolhead

Voices by Jaume Plensa, 30 Hudson Yards. Photo Joe Woolhead

Dining destinations like Keller’s TAK Room, which serves upscale continental cuisine, Kawi, a Korean hotspot from culinary king David Chang, and Andrés’s Mercado Little Spain, a sprawling market with Spanish restaurants and kiosks, have whet the appetites of even the most discerning foodies.

There are few other places in the world where shoppers can stop for a post-purchase bite at a spot opened by one of the world’s most influential restaurateurs.

At TAK Room, diners can feast on classic old-school dishes like chilled iceberg salad, New England clam chowder, and lobster Thermidor (for a cool $85) in a retro-American environment.

Chang’s Kawi, helmed by Korean chef Eunjo Park, serves up plates of rice cakes with ham and chilli jam, chilled spicy noodles and grilled flank steak with sweet soy.

Mercado Little Spain is more casual, with over 15 kiosks and restaurants to choose from, which include everything from fisherman’s stew to flan. And at Belcampo, a California-based farm and butchery, meat maniacs can tuck into tartare and steak frites.

There are also more affordable options like Chang’s Peach Mart, Shake Shack and Van Leeuwen.

“If you want to shop or eat in New York City, and you decide to pick the top ten brands and top ten restaurants that you would want to go to, think how far you would have to travel all over the city to get to those places,” says Himmel.

Interior View of the Vessel. Photo: Forbes Massie-Heatherwick Studio

Interior View of the Vessel. Photo: Forbes Massie-Heatherwick Studio

A One-Stop-Shop 

In the past, one of the area’s biggest criticisms has been travel, because there has never been great access to public transport.

But thanks to the extension of the city’s 7 train line, which now runs all the way to 34th Street and 11th Avenue (one avenue over from the river), getting to this part of town is less of a drag.

And once you do get there, there is a whole lot to do: art exhibitions, spiral staircases, tasting menus – you name it, Hudson Yards has it.

The only thing that this shiny development doesn’t have, is the look and feel of quintessential New York, a city which has garnered love and respect because of its grit and distinctive character.

As long as you don’t expect the charm of the West Village, the diversity of Queens, or the grit of the Lower East Side, you will be glad to find this one-stop-shop.

Getting There 

SAA flies daily to New York from Johannesburg. Book your tickets today!

Words by Mary Holland

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