The High Cost of Disney’s Move to Hudson Square

There was a lot of excitement in the news today about Disney’s announcement that it will “move its New York operations from its longtime home on the Upper West Side to Hudson Square, the downtown neighborhood once known as the printing district now being refashioned into a home for media, advertising, internet and other ‘creative’ companies” (to quote the New York Times). Disney plans on constructing a one-million-square-foot complex at 4 Hudson Square, which is owner Trinity Real Estate’s address for the full block bordered by Spring, Hudson, Vandam, and Varick. The articles don’t spend much time on the demolition of the four buildings currently on the lot, but make no mistake: Their fate—as well as their tenants’—is sealed. (How long it’ll take is an open question. “Disney’s operations won’t be moving soon,” wrote the Wall Street Journal. “The company is still in the early stages of its planning for the new building.”) While Disney’s move might very well ultimately be good for the burgeoning Hudson Square neighborhood, it will come at a price. Here’s a look at the character to be lost forever.

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304 Hudson

Built in 1898, according to owner Trinity Real Estate, 304 Hudson fronts Hudson, Vandam, and Spring.

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50 Vandam

Built in 1900, according to Streeteasy, 50 Vandam is in the middle of the block. The building is especially neat from the south, where it abuts a parking lot. The historical photo is by the Wurts Brothers and from the collection of the New York Public Library.

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155 Varick

Better known as the home of City Winery, 155 Varick is at the northwest corner of Vandam. I’m still trying to find out when the building was constructed.

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137 Varick

Built in 1900, according to the AIA Guide (which mistakenly lists it as 137 Hudson), 137 Varick is on the southwest corner of Spring. Note the ghost sign above City Winery.

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16 Comments

  1. The area is another unprotected “donut hole” in the LPC districts of Greenwich Village, Soho, and Tribeca. Trinity has too much clout for LPC to do anything here.

  2. This is a shame indeed.

    While perhaps understandable that the lowest building (155 Varick) might not be of much use for a large company, assuming that air rights are included which allow building taller. But the other buildings could presumably be preserved and re-purposed rather than demolished.

  3. This isn’t a tragedy but a re-birth. Yes change is hard, but necessary. Disney workers and visitors will improve sales for nearby businesses.

    This area is more than just that one block. There is plenty of charm throughout Soho. We need to find balance.

    • There can be rebirth while still preserving. There are examples in Hudson square where this has been done.

      • Agreed. I believe we can learn from the most beautiful European cities in this regard; those cities really know how to preserve the historic architecture while re-purposing buildings for contemporary use.

        At least we have Landmarks. Imagine what would have become of this entire downtown NYC without the Preservation movement

    • Anna, the economical impact on the neighborhood is a double edged sword. Yes, the workers/visitors are going to boost the cash flow for surrounding businesses. That is also going to work it’s way up to the landlords, who in return, will start charging higher rents. As if a stand alone business had enough trouble making it in that area, Disney coming sure as hell won’t make it any easier. Not to mention the building is going to stick out like a pimple on a goats ass…hate to see City Winery go. Such a beautiful look into old NYC.

  4. Can anything be done to save the larger buildings at least?
    Is Landmarks getting involved?

  5. This destruction – vandalism – of our city is heartbreaking and short-sighted. In years to come, we’ll look like lunatics to generations to come for destroying structures that can never be replaced. Didn’t Robert Moses do enough damage to convince New Yorkers to stop mowing down entire blocks of the fabric of this city?

  6. Tragic. Another NYC neighborhood sterilized. Yuck.

  7. Where are the downtown “preservation “ groups recently formed to save Tribeca, SoHo, and Hudson Square?
    Trinity and Disney aren’t exactly mystery entities difficult to track.

    • Trinity’s Hudson Square portfolio is worth almost $4 billion. They are not very much troubled by the thought of grassroots opposition. One recent Trinity head has worked as the head of various City land use agencies in 5 different NYC mayoral administrations, for example, so they probably have just a little bit of political clout.

  8. How big is Trinity’s empty plot of land on Grand Street where Gitano is now located? Why can’t Disney use that?

  9. The Gitano lot is much smaller—and you can hardly blame Disney for not wanting to be on Canal/Varick/Sixth. Information on Trinity’s Hudson Square properties is at http://www.trinitynyc.com/properties.html, and across the bottom of that page are links to the four “development sites”: 2 Hudson Square, as the Gitano lot is called; 4 Hudson Square, where Disney is building; 122 Varick, the parking lot at the southeast corner of Dominick; and 559 Greenwich, “a surface parking lot and a low-rise garage” on the west side of Greenwich between King and Charlton.

  10. Developers should be able to save the facades of the existing buildings and incorporate their adjustments behind and with LIMITED air rights, above. This has been accomplished successfully in cities like Charleston, SC. and in other areas like the civil war buildings in the Brooklyn Navey Yard. There needs to be a community jury that holds Disney and Trinity accountable for the next visual direction- or are we just beholden to the next enchanted castle (franchise look) that has dumbed down architectural integrity and created a soulless urban sprawl. What action can we take? Has a special committee been created that you know of that actually has rights- if not, what suggestions can be offered to insure the ‘change is good’ mantra.

    • Agreed. Has this been discussed with the Community Board? What about Landmarks? We should not so carelessly destroy historic buildings.

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