“Place-making,” said David R. Weinreb, chief executive officer of the Howard Hughes Corp. “is a philosophy and process that has the transformative power to shape social, cultural and commercial success.”
Weinreb said that place-making is at the heart of everything he does at Howard Hughes. “There’s an art and science to taking a raw space and bringing it to life,” he said, adding, “It has little to do with brick-and-mortar. It’s about creating everyday experiences, inspiring curiosity, entertaining and engaging.”
Weinreb acknowledged the challenge online and digital are posing to physical shopping centers and districts. “We need to do things differently” for a new generation of mobile-savvy customers.
Any successful project starts with a bold vision and includes five pillars: sustainability, culture, sociability, design and curation. Bold visions don’t bubble up in ordinary work conditions, Weinreb said. They need to be cultivated and nurtured. “Harness the power of people who think big by removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary and culture,” he said. “That frees people to innovate.”
Transformative ideas are often met with resistance, Weinreb warned, but said that comes from being ahead of the times. “Have a long-term view in mind,” he said.
Weinreb cited Howard Hughes’ Ward Village as an example of a place that’s aligned with the long-term interests of the community and environment.
The largest LEED-certified project of its kind, Ward Village in Honolulu is a “model for environmentally sustainable design,” Weinreb said.
Authenticity is key in developing projects. “Work to understand the history of the community,” he said. “Listen to the community and local stakeholders. We make a lot of changes — some of them material, some subtle — to make [a project] relevant.”
Using Howard Hughes’ Seaport District as an example, Weinreb said the Fulton Fish Market, founded in 1822, will be reinvented at Pier 17. The new pier building will have a [60,000-square-foot] rooftop area for concerts, restaurants and bars, “and unmatched views of the Brooklyn Bridge.”
Jean-Georges Vongerichten will open a market in the Tin Building and a restaurant at Pier 17, Weinreb said. Vongerichten’s partner of 30 years, Phil Suarez, said that the chef’s flagship restaurant at Trump Tower recently won three Michelin stars for the 11th year in a row.
Design is “the special sauce of every place-making experience,” Weinreb said, adding that “architects need guard rails and freedom.”
“We tore down Pier 17, and we’re restoring the Tin Building,” said Gregg Pasquarelli, a partner in Shop Architects, which designed the Barclays Center and the Seaport. “The building will have a crenulated glass top. We cut into the pier to allow the river into the space.”
Weinreb noted the Seaport District’s See/Change project, which turns ship containers into retail spaces. “We opened Seaport Studios with WWD. The incubator program is bringing the future of fashion to the Seaport.”
“Discerning New Yorkers expect the best in fashion, culture and food,” Weinreb said, reminding the audience to “remove that word ‘no’ and maximize creativity.