The West Side's transformation into the city's 21st century hot spot is on the fast track and some of the changes are becoming apparent.
For nearly 30 years, developers and city leaders have been pushing to turn the area, once an industrial hub, into a place where New Yorkers could find a place to live and businesses and tourists could flock to.
"I used to call it the city's utility closet. It provided the city with a lot of opportunities for people to build," said Ann Weisbrod, president of Hudson Yards Development Corp.
Each major project has made considerable progress and, over the next two years, a West Side will be born.
Weisbrod said the city has long tried to develop the West Side, especially after the Jacob Javits Center on 11th Avenue opened in 1986. But there were too many hurdles, including financial and zoning issues that needed to be cleared. She said Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who represents the area, shared their interest in revitalizing the area.
The mayor and Quinn approved two rezoning applications that allowed residential and commercial buildings to replace industrial ones.
"Through much hard work and negotiation, we have been able to create an area of New York City that has embarked on a period of rational and exciting development," Quinn said in a statement.
Gary E. Handel, president of Handel Architects, which designed the Caledonia at West 17th Street, and a residential tower at 505 W. 37th St., said the West Side inspired his team with new designs that embrace the Hudson River.
In the past the "trend was to build away from the water; now it's the other way," he said.
The largest project for the area is the development of the Hudson rail yards on 34th Street, between 10th and 11th avenues, now in the early phases of construction. The 50 million-square-foot development will include 20,000 housing units, retail space, a hotel and office space.
The space will also have 15 acres of green space for visitors, scheduled to open in 2014.
In addition, the city and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority have been working to bring more transit to the West Side, and by 2014 construction is expected to be complete on the Seventh Avenue line extension.
The West Side's other big railroad project is already a popular attraction. There have been 10 million visitors to the Highline Park since its first section was opened near Gansevoort Street in 2009, Bloomberg said.
The elevated park not only sports great views of the Hudson but also art pieces and shows during the warmer months.