Blackstone joined forces with two REITs on a pioneering public-private partnership venture to build a major media production and community space at Pier 94 in New York’s Lower East Side.
A report issued in 2021 by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment found that the film and TV industry contributed about $18.1 billion in wages and $81.6 billion in total economic output to the city in 2019, and that direct jobs in the local television and film industry had grown at an annual rate of 3% over the previous 15 years. Despite that growth, the city still has no purpose-built studio space — but the new 266,000-square-foot development, dubbed Sunset Pier 94 Studios, will fill that gap with six soundstages equipped with production control room facilities and 145,000 square feet of offices space for production support. Some of the stages will include infrastructure that can be adapted to virtual production.
Pier 94 is part of the New York Passenger Ship Terminal on the Hudson River in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. The City of New York granted Vornado Realty Trust a long-term leasehold to the site — plus Pier 92 — in 2009. Vornado, which is contributing its leasehold to the venture, will own 49.9% of Sunset Pier 94 Studios. Vornado, which will be in charge of development, is already spearheading a multi-billion dollar project in its hometown: The PENN District, which involves redeveloping Penn Station and revitalizing the surrounding area with funding from the Empire State Development agency.
Hudson Pacific Properties, which will provide design oversight and manage the facility’s leasing and operations, will own 25.6%. The firm’s Quixote brand already operates 26 production stages in Los Angeles and New Orleans, in addition to services productions in Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, New Orleans and Albuquerque.
Blackstone’s institutional Core+ Real Estate strategy will own 24.5% of the project, which will receive a total of about $350 million in investment from the three groups. “Content creation is one of our key global investment themes,” said Nadeem Meghji, Blackstone’s head of real estate Americas.
Sunset Pier 94 Studios is forecast to generate more than 1,300 construction jobs, 400 permanent jobs and $6.4 billion in local economic impact over the next 30 years. The project will include the launch of a program to support workforce development and training to provide local residents with job opportunities in film, television, advertising and other media production.
Construction is set to begin this quarter with $183 million in construction financing led by RBC, and the project is expected to be completed by year-end 2025, by which point the strikes currently roiling the media industry can be safely expected to be old news.
The City of New York and New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) are also partners in the project, which will bring residents and visitors benefits including an 1,850-square-foot community amenity space, 25,000 square feet of public waterfront space and pier access, and bikeway safety improvements. “NYCEDC and our partners in this project look forward to the development and completion of the pier space — including significant improvements to the public realm and waterfront access on the west side of Manhattan that all New Yorkers will be able to enjoy,” said NYCEDC President and CEO Andrew Kimball.