Image Courtesy New York City Mayor's Office
A rendering of the Hudson Yards development on Manhattan's west side.

Hudson Yards—one of New York City’s largest-ever construction projects, and one of its most delayed—officially got underway on Tuesday morning, a decade after first appearing on a drawing board.

Photo © Spencer T. Tucker, Courtesy New York City Mayor's Office
On Tuesday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (third from left) joined Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group to break ground on 26-acre development at Hudson Yards.

The groundbreaking ceremony, which took place at the rail yards on Manhattan’s West Side, featured 300 people crammed into a white tent, while machines rumbled in a muddy lot outside. Among those in attendance were a who’s who of architects, real estate brokers, and city officials, as well as Stephen M. Ross, the chairman of the Related Companies, which is developing the $15 billion, 26-acre project along with Oxford Properties Group.

After much negotiation, Oxford and Related have agreed to pay the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) $1 billion to lease the site, which unfurls from West 30th to 33rd Streets, Tenth to Twelfth Avenues, for 99 years. Mayor Michael Bloomberg first announced the idea to develop the rail yards in 2002; the industrial area was rezoned in 2005. In 2008, Related was picked to build at the site, over four competing proposals. “Today, we formally start the most ambitious construction project in the history of New York,” said Ross, to sustained applause.

He added that Hudson Yards, which is ultimately set to contain apartments, parks, office buildings, shops, and event spaces, will earn its place alongside other successful master-planned developments like Lincoln Center and Rockefeller Center, which Ross described as “wonders of the world when they opened.” None of the architects involved with the project, including Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM), Diller Scofidio and Renfro, and Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF), spoke during the 45-minute event.

The first building to rise at the site will be a 1,300-foot, 46-story office tower designed by KPF, which also created the master plan. Coach, the luxury apparel company, will purchase 740,000 square feet. Two other office tenants will take a total of 515,000 square feet, Ross announced for the first time on Tuesday, though Related wouldn’t elaborate on the identity of the new tenants. The tower, which will overhang a portion of the High Line, is expected to open in 2015.

Meanwhile, the project’s entire first phase, which will take up half of the site and be built mostly atop a platform over the rail yards, is set to be completed in 2017. Though Bloomberg said commitments are needed from tenants before the rest of the first phase moves forward. Still, confident about Hudson Yards’ completion, Ross said Related would eventually relocate its headquarters there from Midtown’s Time Warner Center, and that he would move to an apartment there as well. “This will now become the new epicenter of New York City,” he said.