The redevelopment of the South Street Seaport got under way Thursday with a groundbreaking at Pier 17, which developers hope will become a popular destination for both tourists and New Yorkers alike. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.
It's an iconic destination that draws millions of tourists a year. And it's about to get a $200 million makeover. The futuristic new Pier 17 will include an amphitheater, open space and of course retail.
The developer hopes knocking down the old mall, and bringing in a new one will actually make New Yorkers want to come there.
"While the seaport has consistently been appealing to tourists, with over nine million visitors in 2012 we will not be satisfied at Howard Hughes until we have inspired New Yorkers to include the seaport on their top places to visit," said Howard Hughes Corporation CEO David Weinreb.
Pier 17 is owned by the city. Even though it escaped major damage during Hurricane Sandy, as part of this deal the developer will now be responsible for storm protection upgrades.
"That will save the city nearly $100 million it would otherwise have had to spend on the pier," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The worst of the Sandy damage was actually west of the pier in the old seaport. Some of the businesses are still out but many are now reopening and they will stay open during the pier's redevelopment.
"I think even with the pier being shut down the tourists are looking for somewhere to shop and so they're walking down my tiny little quiet street and finding me," said Amanda Zink, a seaport business owner.
The design of the new pier is certainly different but the developers say it won't be out of character with the neighborhood. They're also feeling the pressure to support the struggling Seaport museum.
"They have to work with us, work with the city to make sure the museum continue to grow and continue to thrive and be a permanent part of the South Street Seaport," said City Councilwoman Margaret Chin.
The project is expected to create 500 construction jobs and 400 permanent jobs.
The new pier is expected to be open sometime in early 2016.