La Marina, New York Waterfront Restaurant and Renewal Designed by Andrew Franz Architect, Celebrates Opening

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Breakout project by emerging architect -- Mayor Bloomberg attends ribbon-cutting of new, resort-like restaurant and amenities on the Hudson River in Upper Manhattan, part of New York "Waterfront Action Agenda."

An intimate riverside restaurant designed by Andrew Franz Architect sets the stage for a waterfront revival in Upper Manhattan.

Architecture and design firm Andrew Franz Architect PLLC has announced that La Marina, a new waterfront development project including two new buildings with a restaurant and café on the Hudson River near Inwood Hill Park, opened officially this week. The waterfront architecture sets the stage for new public amenities that are already drawing people from around the city, with a new marina to come later.

New York's Mayor Bloomberg attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony with a large group of dignitaries, including New York City Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. The mayor praised La Marina and its design for rejuvenating the riverfront and injecting new vitality into the neighborhood and local economy.

According to the firm’s principal architect, Andrew Franz, La Marina and the Dyckman Marina redevelopment were developed under the auspices of the New York City Public Design Commission (PDC) as well as the city’s Small Business Services (SBS), a city agency that handles waterfront development. The developer and concessionaire – Manhattan River Group LLC – announced the start of operations with a splashy party and the ribbon-cutting this week.

“This is great news for the city of New York, making even more of our beautiful waterfront available for public enjoyment,” says Franz. “It’s one of the last undeveloped parcels of waterfront in Manhattan, and the Manhattan River Group’s plan has been praised by city parks officials and riverfront activists alike.” The project is also promoted as part of Mayor Bloomberg’s Waterfront Action Agenda, adds Franz, and will revive a site once known only for derelict boats.

Dramatic location, intimate architecture

Today, La Marina is a dramatic, resort-like restaurant and bar with sweeping views of the Hudson River and the bluffs of the Palisades across the water. Set out into the river, La Marina has exciting views of the George Washington Bridge and yet is surrounded by trees and greenery. The modest, simply designed buildings call to mind maritime structures and beachside resorts, bringing the outdoors in.

“In all five boroughs, New York City’s waterfront is being dramatically transformed,” said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Benepe earlier this year. “La Marina and the improvements to the Dyckman Marina will be a great boon to the northern Manhattan community, including two new buildings to house the La Marina restaurant and event facilities, and the upcoming restoration of the marina facilities.”

Benepe added, “I am grateful to the Manhattan River Group and Andrew Franz Architect PLLC for partnering with the City to make these improvements a reality.”

Positioned as a “landmark destination” along the Hudson River pedestrian and bike path, the project location benefits from major parkland redevelopment. Nearby amenities include a newly restored Art Deco railroad building that will have public bathrooms, and a planned extension of the Manhattan Greenway to connect Dyckman Street and Upper Manhattan to other waterfront greenway projects south of the George Washington Bridge, says Manhattan River Group partner, Jerald Tenenbaum.

For its proposed amenities and revival of the site, the Dyckman Marina plan has garnered praise and key approvals from local officials. The Department of Parks & Recreation was an early and vocal champion. Jennifer Hoppa, the Parks department administrator for northern Manhattan parks, told reporters, “It’s a really great plan.”

Andrew Franz, RA, a LEED-accredited architect and designer known for fresh, timeless designs, was recruited to the Dyckman Landing project this past spring to bring new energy and his firm’s signature style to the effort. Struck immediately by the unique waterfront experience offered by the site, Franz planned to capitalize on its sense of arrival and its low, rocky outcropping.

“This waterfront site is unlike any other in Manhattan,” says Franz. “You can actually touch the water. It draws visitors’ eyes up and down the Hudson River and west to the verdant Palisades where there seems to be no horizon. If it weren’t for the occasional passing train and the nearby George Washington Bridge, you’d feel like an early explorer discovering the mighty Hudson for the first time.”

The uniqueness and rawness of the flat site inspired Franz to break up the robust program into a series of smaller, unimposing building modules. The grouping culminates in an open pavilion serving gatherings of up to 300 people along the water, with large glass doors to shield from the weather as needed. The structures are clustered around a shaded courtyard, inspired by the nearby Cloisters Museum and Gardens, with a large mature tree.

Splitting up the buildings maximizes perimeter area, allowing more views of the river and scenery, and it also blurs the division between indoors and outdoor space, says Franz.

Simple materials, majestic scenery

Inspired by working maritime buildings, the new structures employ simple forms and materials. The roofs, for example, are clad in corrugated Corten steel, a material that weathers to rich, orange-toned patina from the salt air. “Green” planted walls and reclaimed wood siding, inspired by the driftwood that washes along the shore, is used for the enclosed buildings and fencing. “These choices and the simple built forms are ideal because they won’t distract from the majesty of the site,” Franz adds. “We think La Marina will emerge as an alternative to getting in the car and going to the beach. By boat, bike or mass transit, visitors can quickly reach an urban oasis – a destination with a quiet sense of old New Amsterdam, right in the big city. Where else in New York City can you jump on your bike, spend the afternoon on the water, and then enjoy an idyllic riverside dinner?”

While planned as seasonal facilities, the development will provide a year-round visual improvement to the Dyckman Landing area. “Our redevelopment pays tribute to the natural beauty and unique river access that are hallmarks of the location – it’s a truly stunning site.” says Manhattan River Group’s Tenenbaum, a lawyer and New York resident who proposed his team’s project in 2006. “By reconnecting the site to the aesthetic and ecology of the Hudson River, we will offer New Yorkers a premier waterfront destination in one of Manhattan’s most dynamic and greenest neighborhoods.”

According to Tenenbaum, the La Marina development repurposes the narrow stretch of land that has served variously for more than a century as a boat building dock, a sea-plane landing area, and a primary ferry crossing. “Our new plan reestablishes Dyckman Landing as a vibrant central gathering place in upper Manhattan, adding permanent jobs and training opportunities,” says Tenenbaum.

Sustainable, modern waterside amenities

The marina and restaurant, designed by Andrew Franz Architect, are also expected to draw bicyclists, boaters and diners from across New York, Westchester County and New Jersey with the lure of an aesthetically appealing waterfront, a well-run marina, great food and a proactive approach to improving river ecology. With that in mind, Tenenbaum and Franz took advantage of the architecture firm’s experience in cultural, hospitality and residential projects to conceive a comfortable and welcoming venue.

La Marina adds a minimal amount of new structures to the site, and replaces the dilapidated blacktop with attractive paving stones, reflective sand, and new plantings of native waterfront tree, shrub, grass and vine species. Best of all, the development plan omits the dredging, de-silting, and in-water excavation work that make many waterfront projects negatively impact their water’s edge and native species.

The new site design, completed by Andrew Franz Architect to Manhattan River Group LLC’s specifications, includes four distinct zones: an integrated parking and staging area; a full service restaurant and snack/picnic window open to the public; the marina and launch area with a 22-slip dock, ship store and sailing school; and an area for a casual waterfront lounge running between the Hudson’s shore on the west and the Manhattan Greenway to the east.

“Over the past 15 years, New York City has made an extraordinary commitment to encouraging and supporting a waterfront renaissance, reclaiming the beauty and environment of its rivers,” says Franz. “We are proud to be a part of this vibrant future promised by this vast investment in solid infrastructure and innovative design.”

About Andrew Franz Architect PLLC

Based in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, Andrew Franz Architect, PLLC, is a full-service architecture, planning and design firm that established a strong reputation for high-end residential works and today is increasingly called on for larger-scale projects including civic and public commissions, arts and performance venues, and facilities for nonprofits and foundations. Experienced in interiors and original furnishing design, Andrew Franz Architect creates original and imaginative expressions combining their timeless, classic aesthetic with a decidedly modern sensibility. Andrew Franz Architect is committed to supporting its client’s needs with creativity, care and attention. From master planning, site selection and feasibility studies through design, construction administration and interior design and decorating, the firm offers a full range of services. For more details, see http://www.andrewfranz.com.

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Chris Sullivan
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