By LOIS WEISS
Oct. 24, 2023
A $350 million “fantastic, super sexy project” is being developed on 5.4 acres along the Hudson River that will turn a derelict city pier into Manhattan’s first purpose-built production studios.
The descriptive quote is from Victor Coleman, CEO of Los Angeles-based Hudson Pacific Properties, who spoke at the ceremonial groundbreaking on October 24 and is part of the venture building the Sunset Pier 95 Studios along with Steve Roth’s Vornado Realty Trust and Blackstone plus New York City’s Economic Development Corp.
“This is going to be a fantastic new add for the entire area and the city of Manhattan,” Coleman said. “There is no purpose‑built studio in Manhattan, believe it or not. This will be the first of its kind.”
With a nod to Roth, Mayor Eric Adams quipped, “I want to thank Vornado, with their fearless leader [Steve Roth]. We met the other day, we were talking. This is what, you know, hardcore Brooklynite street guys can do, they build from the bottom up. Really good things.”
Calling it a “dream come true” for their partnerships, Coleman said Hudson Pacific has been in the studio business for 15 years and along with Blackstone, had always wanted to get into New York. Three years ago, Coleman got a call from his “longtime friends” at Vornado, whom he has known for over 20 years.
“They said this is an opportunity for us to do something good for the city, and damn right — they were on it and so are we. This is what we strive for: quality, the best in class and something that I know will leave a lasting impact for the City of New York.”
Vornado now owns 49.9% of the project while Hudson Pacific has 25.6% and Blackstone owns the remainder.
EDC’s role is to stabilize and maintain the actual pier, which runs 1,000 feet into the Hudson River. The pier itself will be turned into offices with one sound stage in the portion closest to the land.
Vornado was supposed to redevelop the nearby Pier 92 for trade shows but dropped the scheme as the pier was unsound. Then the company was criticized for getting a “sweetheart” deal when it switched to Pier 94.
Those who lease other city piers must maintain their own piers but the city will now be chipping in $73.5 million for repairs and maintenance on Pier 94 until 2060, when the developers will start to handle maintenance.
The rent on the 99-year lease starts at about $4 per foot or roughly $900,000 per year and escalates slowly upward to $2.8 million.
According to Maria Torres-Springer, Deputy Mayor of Housing, Economic Development and Workforce, the project is expected to open by the end of 2025, creating 1,700 new jobs and generating over $6 billion in economic impact.
“You know,” Torres-Springer explained, “this work of not just building projects but really transforming entire neighborhoods of our city, we cannot do it alone, we have to do that in partnership; and when that happens, what we\’re really seeing is a vote being cast for the future of New York. It’s a vote of confidence not just in this neighborhood, not just in this asset, but really for New Yorkers.”
Sunset Pier 94 Studios is also opening 25,000 square feet of waterfront area that will include new restrooms for the public along with an 1,850 square-foot community space and will make improvements to the bikeway. The project is also making a $250,000 investment in workforce development training, Torres-Springer said.
Designed by Gensler, https://www.gensler.com/projects/sunset-pier-94-studios the current headhouse that runs from roughly West 55th to West 52nd streets will be demolished. According to the Sunset Pier 94 Studios website, it will be rebuilt and eventually total 232,000 square feet encompassing six sound stages and support space.
The 85,000 square feet of sound stages will range in size from 10,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet with clear heights up to 36 feet and have 20-foot wide by 18-foot high “elephant doors.”
As helicopters and planes roared overhead, those using the future facility will be happy to know Sunset Pier 94 Studios will also have state-of-the-art soundproofing.
The project will be able to accommodate four private production suites with their own reception areas, private exterior offices with water views, interior offices, open workspaces, a pantry, conference rooms, writer/storyboard rooms, restrooms and more.
To create the sets themselves, there’s also a 9,936 square-foot mill located adjacent to the loading dock. Additional production support will include wardrobe and hair/makeup rooms, greenrooms and talent rooms. There’s also storage and flex spaces plus tech support with connected studio and data services that include broadcast and control rooms. Even better, most parking will be below grade and of the 105 spaces, 21 will be for EV charging. Naturally, sitting along a bike path bike storage will be available while its “Basecamp” area will fit about 30 production trucks.
Other officials who either worked on the project or came to the groundbreaking included EDC President Andrew Kimball and Chief Operating Officer Melissa Román Burch, Manhattan borough president, Mark Levine, Councilmember Erik Bottcher, Senator Brad Hoylman‑Sigal. Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, Hudson River President and CEO Noreen Doyle and a cheerful Community Board 4 Chairperson Jeffrey LeFrancois, who earlier this year told the New York Times the deal was a “giveaway.”
But this “powerhouse industry” creates $82 billion of economic activity every single year and provides jobs for 185,000 people, said Commissioner Pat Kaufman of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. “Astonishing, right? That\’s film and television in New York.” “This industry creates not only jobs for the people that are working on the set — the actors, the crew and all of that — but also in the ancillary businesses that support the industry,” Kaufman added.
“Somebody has to go get the lumber to build the sets. Somebody has to clean all the costumes. Somebody has to have the flowers that might be used in a scene. So, it’s a wonderful creation of jobs.” As the stages are finished, Kaufman added, “that’s when me and my team’s work really begins, because we are going to be out there recruiting the production that are going to come here and be so excited about having what this production facility is going to offer.”
With a nod to the ongoing Screen Actors Guild strike, before heaving his shovel, the Mayor added, “I need SAG and our studios, we need to sign the deal. We need those 185,000 workers back into our economy. So, let\’s get this signed, let\’s get this deal, let\’s get some great movies here in Manhattan, great office spaces, great opportunities for people to enjoy this amazing waterfront.”
After shovels lifted dirt and cameras clicked, a movie clapboard was brought in for the Mayor to lift and clap down to mark the start of the project.