Any day now, New York City will open a grand public space at the middle of a web of subway lines in Manhattan, a few blocks away from both the World Trade Center and Wall Street.
“We look forward to opening what is sure to become New York City’s next landmark destination,” said Michael Horodniceanu, president of Metropolitan Transit Authority Capital Construction, in a statement on the project.
Construction delays have put off the opening of the Fulton Center from its planned completion this summer. But the $1.4 billion construction project has already made it easier for commuters to make connections between the subway lines at Fulton Street—strengthening the links among four existing subways stations.
When it eventually opens, Fulton Center will be a Grand Central Station for downtown, according to local transit officials. The open center of the three-story Fulton Center building, designed by Grimshaw Architects, is topped with a slanted tube nearly 80 feet (24 m) tall—a massive skylight lined with more than 900 reflective aluminum panels. The oculus brings sunlight into the heart of the building, all the way down to a subway platform on its lower level. This natural light should reduce the energy needs of the building by 15 percent—the Fulton Center is anticipated to win a Silver Leadership in Energy and Efficient Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
The oculus is the heart of a new shopping center at the Fulton Center, with 65,000 square feet (6,000 sq m) of new retail and commercial space. The shops and restaurants will generate millions of dollars in economic activity, according to the MTA. The retail and commercial space spreads into the historic Corbin Building next door—the Fulton Center project includes a careful rehabilitation of the eight-story terra-cotta landmark, built in 1889.
The Sky Reflector-Net (see video above), an integrated artwork, is an artist, architect, engineer collaboration with James Carpenter Design Associates, Grimshaw Architects, and Arup, commissioned by MTA Arts for Transit and Urban Design and MTA Capital Construction Company (MTACC).
The train stations at the Fulton Center are projected to serve 300,000 customers daily, making it the busiest transit hub in lower Manhattan, according to the MTA. These commuters get on and off nine subway lines that stop at the transit center.
Before the Fulton Center project, the old Fulton Street subway stops were essentially four linked subway stations strung together by a complicated series of underground tunnels. The subway lines were dug in the early 1900s by three separate transit organizations; tunnels linking the lines came later. Commuters jostled through a maze of narrow corridors and ramps, crowded against people headed in opposite directions. One long subway platform did double duty as a passageway.
The new transit center hasn’t moved the tracks closer any together, but switching from train to train has already become much easier, especially at rush hour. New entrances to the subways and new, wider passageways make it much easier to get from one part of the transit center to another. Most of this work is already completed.
A future phase of work at the Fulton Center will create a new, underground walkway to the World Trade Center site, just a block away. That will connect the commuters at Fulton Center to two more subway lines and to the PATH trains, a commuter rail system serving New Jersey.
Opening Day Is Coming
The public space at the center of the Fulton Center was originally set to open on June 26 this year. The MTA missed that deadline because of unfinished elevators and other issues. The MTA initially said the opening would be delayed for 60 to 90 days, opening by the end of September. Contracts for the project reportedly specify that the project will open by the end of the year.
It has been a long, long road to complete the transit center. Construction started in 2005, but funding ran out a few years later as the world economy dove into recession and the MTA faced steep budget shortfalls. A half billion dollars from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 revived the plan, which is now almost complete.