By Brian J Pape, AIA
The new flagship location for City Winery, designed by Brooklyn-based Christopher Warnick Architecture, has opened on Pier 57 near West 15th Street. Unfortunately, the pandemic shutdown of indoor dining means it is mostly off-limits to the public, except for the main entry with a wine shop and the winery itself.
Raul Mesias, Director of Wine Sales at the City Winery reported, “As Manhattan’s only fully-functioning winemaking facility, this location offered the unique perk of free onsite COVID testing with each case of wine purchased for the month of December; check the citywinery.com website for updates on hours, events, offerings, and whether the testing will continue in 2021. During the lockdown, wine sales provide the main revenue until dining and live events can return.”
The Pier 57 location of City Winery, at 32,000 square feet, is reportedly one of the largest dining spaces in Manhattan, with a total capacity of 900. The well-known restaurant and music venue on Varick Street was forced to close due to the Disney Corporation buying the entire block to build a new headquarters.
But many elements of the old venue, such as repurposed oak wine barrels and heavy timber framing, have been used in the new space, with wine tasting bars with wines on tap, a pizza bar, and a coffee roasting station. A 350-seat concert hall and a 150-capacity loft performance space, as well as a rooftop pavilion restaurant, are planned. VIP skyboxes and balcony seating, plus a western glass-enclosed terrace, allow guests to view the Hudson River and Diller’s Little Island.
There are now many City Wineries across the country, a continuing collaboration between the architect and Michael Dorf, CEO & founder.
Originally designed by Emil Praeger and constructed from 1950-54 for passenger ships, the Art Deco-style Pier 57 metal enclosure has stainless-steel signage reading “MARINE & AVIATION” and “PIER 57”. Called the “Superpier”, “The World’s Most Modern Pier” is an innovative structure, being fireproof, durable and immune to many of the problems that had historically plagued wooden waterfront construction. Just below the main deck, three large concrete caissons serve as basement spaces, resting on the riverbed. The caissons were formed inside a diked pond near Haverstraw NY, and after completion were floated like a barge down the Hudson River to the site.
Pier 57 was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, in large part because of the engineering techniques that keep it standing. Pier 57 was vacated by the city in 2004, but then was temporarily utilized as a detention center during the 2004 Republican National Convention, when approximately 1200 anti-RNC protesters were arrested and sent there.
In 2009, the Hudson River Park Trust selected Youngwoo & Associates to redevelop the Pier 57 site. To comply with NRHP, original windows have been replaced with energy-efficient yet historically correct windows, and the light green paint and stainless steel Art Deco façade has been restored. The developers originally projected a spring 2017 re-opening for the site.
The revenue-generating Hudson River Park pier, co-developed by RXR Realty, will soon also serve as offices for Google, plus indoor and outdoor public seating areas, an exhibit space and classroom operated by Hudson River Park’s science and education staff, and other cultural and learning centers, such as the River Project. The Pier 57 developer is obligated to provide a large ground floor interior public open space on the south side of the ground floor, currently referred to as the “Living Room.” On the roof will be a large landscaped public park with panoramic views of Manhattan, New Jersey and the New York Harbor.
Brian J. Pape is a LEED-AP “Green” architect consulting in private practice, serves on the Manhattan District 2 Community Board, is Co-chair of the American Institute of Architects NY Design for Aging Committee, and is a journalist, especially on architecture subjects.