Recently there has been a great deal of publicity for Hudson yards in New York as well as Lincoln Yards in Chicago. While both have similar names, I have identified 2 contrasts. #1 Chicago has a variety of established office markets. New York has begged for ages for an alternate location able to provide Midtown tenants with “another choice”. This is certainly not the case in Chicago with Lincoln Yards, as we have alternate locations to the “Loop” and, in fact, our core office market has been expanding to the north and west for some time based on the availability of great land; simply not the case in New York! #2 Single Developer vs Multiple Developers on the same project. Hudson Yards is a creation of several different developers building architecturally significant buildings. The competition that these developers have created is, in my opinion, the reason each and every one of them tried to build a better mousetrap. Lincoln Yards has one developer and, to date, the renderings of what has been proposed, in my opinion, are architecturally insignificant. While this development is physically much larger than Hudson Yards, we have only been given a concept. We know there will be residential, office, and retail, but we have no real idea of the quality and mix that will be created through these buildings and how they will add to Chicago architecturally. The scale of Lincoln Yards creates an opportunity for Sterling Bay (the developer) to incorporate rich architectural diversity, showcase their professional versatility and add to Chicago’s resume of world leading engineering marvels. The other side of the coin is the amount of red tape that will be required to navigate the significant infrastructure improvements (which haven’t been fully disclosed) but promises to be an interesting complex private/public joint effort. In my opinion, in order for Lincoln Yards to be a true addition to the city known for great architecture, we need to know a lot more about what the developer is considering!
All of this said, I want to be clear that a single developer is not a bad thing. Take for example Battery Park City which was developed by Olympia and York. This development became a major addition to the New York skyline and the home to several great financial institutions. Unfortunately, a great deal of it was rendered un-occupiable after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. Many of you probably do not remember Olympia and York but they were a Canadian Developer known for building excellent quality buildings designed by great architects from around the world. While Olympia and York has long gone, Battery Park City based on a proven location, great infrastructure, and great architecture is thriving once again. I mention all of this because we all want Lincoln Yards to be a great addition to the city, but based on what we know now there is a long way to go before even being able to voice an educated opinion. Great architecture is always subjective and in the eyes of the beholder, the variety which we see in Hudson Yards cannot be denied.