New Renderings Revealed for BIG’s Four-Skyscraper Freedom Plaza Master Plan in Murray Hill, Manhattan

Rendering courtesy of BIG and Bucharest Studio.

Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has unveiled a new set of renderings of its 4.1-million-square-foot proposal for Freedom Plaza, a potential mixed-use casino development on the border of Murray Hill and Tudor City. Developed by The Soloviev Group, which currently owns the property, in a joint collaboration with Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, plans call for two new residential skyscrapers rising 50 to 60 stories tall with 1,325 apartments, including 510 affordable housing units, as well as two 51-story hotel towers with 1,200 guest rooms split between Banyan Tree and Mohegan branding. A new landscaped waterfront park, a below-grade casino, and a museum would sit beneath the skyscrapers. The 6.5-acre property is the largest undeveloped plot in Manhattan, and is located along First Avenue between East 38th and East 41st Streets, directly south of the United Nations complex.

Exterior renderings by BIG and Bucharest Studio depict the cluster of new towers clad in reflective glass curtain walls with aluminum and bronze-hued paneling and topped with landscaped roof decks. The 550- and 650-foot-tall residential skyscrapers on the southern end of the parcel feature orthodox rectangular massings, while the hotel on the opposite end features a striking design composed of two perpendicular towers that curve 90 degrees to horizontal at their tops and meet in a cantilevering sky bridge.

Rendering courtesy of BIG and Bucharest Studio.

Rendering courtesy of BIG and Bucharest Studio.

Rendering courtesy of BIG and Bucharest Studio.

Rendering courtesy of BIG and Bucharest Studio.

An expansive amenity deck is shown atop the skybridge replete with landscaping, abundant seating, and what appears to be an infinity pool lining the curving edge of the northwest corner. At the center of the junction is an oculus with a glass floor.

Rendering courtesy of BIG and Bucharest Studio.

Rendering courtesy of BIG and Bucharest Studio.

The 4.77-acre public waterfront park designed by OJB Landscape Architecture will feature a dog run, a large green lawn, and a children’s playground, all with panoramic views of Long Island City and Hunters Point’s expanding skyline across the East River. Other components will include the Museum of Freedom and Democracy, retail shops and restaurants, a food market, community facilities, a bandshell for hosting outdoor performances, and a daycare center.

Rendering courtesy of BIG and Bucharest Studio.

The below exterior and interior renderings illustrate the spiraling design of the Museum of Freedom and Democracy. Inspired by the form of a Möbius strip, it features outdoor walkways around its circumference leading to an open-air amphitheater at the center point.

Rendering courtesy of BIG and Bucharest Studio.

Rendering courtesy of BIG and Bucharest Studio.

The project site has sat empty and overgrown for the past two decades following the decommissioning and demolition of the Con Edison Waterside Power Plant in the early 2000s. Nicknamed the “First Avenue Mud Pit,” the site has been the subject of several redevelopment proposals from the likes of Fumihiko Maki, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and Meier Partners (formerly Richard Meier & Partners), all of which were never realized.

Freedom Plaza is currently being used as a 6-acre outdoor public art exhibit called “Field of Lights.” Designed by British artist Bruce Munro, the dusk and nighttime event space allows visitors to meander through winding pathways illuminated by 18,750 fiber-optic stemmed spheres wired with LED lights scattered across the sloped terrain. The exhibit opened last December and plans to run until December 2024, and can be visited by reserving free timed tickets on the exhibition’s website.

Photo by Michael Young

Photo by Michael Young

Photo by Michael Young

The Soloviev Group is hoping to build Freedom Plaza and secure one of the three gaming licenses from Albany to construct a casino. If approved, the casino would be constructed five stories below street level beneath the hotel tower. The developers are also aiming to build the complex as a net-zero carbon development.

Other collaborators to the proposal include Adamson Associates, OJB Landscape Architecture, The Friedmutter Group, HBA, Thornton Tomasetti, WSP, Langan, Rizzo-Brookbridge, Herrick Feinstein, and Kilograph.

If all goes according to plan, construction could begin as soon as early 2025.

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53 Comments on "New Renderings Revealed for BIG’s Four-Skyscraper Freedom Plaza Master Plan in Murray Hill, Manhattan"

  1. This is the last place a casino should go (and I think Manhattan should have a casino). And to be honest, all the “freedom” branding is a bit early aughts no? Just build a lot of public space, a lot of apartments, and a hotel and call it a day. The project will do great without the Casino.

  2. Super exiting! I hope the skybridge actually works out. So much more than a casino project. This development will go great with a finished continuous greenway along the east river.

    • Agree. Keep it residential. A casino? The traffic alone is a good reason to make it NIMBY. I lived for a time on 49th off of First Ave and would protest the casino and hotel being built in this area.

  3. Good project- but no way should casino be in that location- far from transportation and any nyc amenities and in a residential neighborhood with no way to spread any economic advantages beyond 2 new hotels
    For instance, there are no advantages over Hudson Yards site

  4. Spectacular! Not loving a casino right next to the UN – but anything is better than an empty lot that has been there far too long.

  5. Casino doesn’t belong in Manhattan at all, especially not here. Redevelop Penn Station and put it there.

  6. This is a grotesque development that already looks outdated. Under no circumstances should a casino be built there. Start all over before its too late and the last great open space is ruined for good.

  7. Beautiful design and the affordable apartments are much-needed in this area.

  8. Please don’t try to copy China with skyscraper design, like skybridges.
    Manhattan is better than that.

  9. Looks great. The neighborhood shall henceforth be known as little Singapore.

    But there’s no way they will get a casino license for that location, so instead we’ll get a few generic glass towers in 10-15 years, if we’re lucky. What a tease.

    • The much better option being to push for a huge residential project here with very high affordable unit counts. 3000+ units could be built here easily IMO.

  10. Packaged graphics more suitable for Singapore or Dubai. Nyet to this proposal.

  11. At least that dopey Ferris Wheel is gone..

  12. Now this looks impressive. The futuristic design will add a nice aesthetic to the skyline on the east side, but I don’t know about that casino. Where they came up with that idea does not fit in with the environment, not to mention it will draw additional huge crowds to a housing complex designed for family living, not to mention the extra, unnecessary traffic it will bring to an already crowded area!

  13. New York is officially desperate! This is like what Detroit had to do now new yprk needs tacky casino.

  14. Wow this is an amazing. What beautiful designs

  15. It’s an interesting concept. A casino in that location is not good. However, if they do add a casino to this project, perhaps the existing ferry system could be used to bring people in from the other boroughs. Also, building out over the FDR and that FDR U.N. exit is a way to increase park space. There is no trick to doing this, it’s been done before at “Carl Schurz Park” and “Sutton Place”. It’s a great way to create new space.

  16. No need to fret cuz a casino is never going here thank goodness. Something substantial will eventually rise on this land but I wouldn’t bet it will look anything like this… also thank goodness. All of that massively scaled trendy architectural cheese looming over the Secretariat would be a disgrace in my opinion. I’ll probably get pushback on this but I’d rather see the entire land get developed as a very high density residential project with a high affordability component and just a single UN office building that DOES NOT overwhelm the Secretariat. I think you could build 3000+ units of housing on this land easily.

  17. It looks so disconnected from the rest of the skyline. It just doesn’t relate to anything.

    • That’s probably the same thing people said when the slaughterhouses and factories along the East River were demolished to make way for the United Nations headquarters in the 1940s

  18. Again, what ugly buildings this casino/hotel will have. I wish that more buildings were pleasing to look at in American cities. They’re building plain, bland and typical buildings/skyscrapers all over the country but why NYC? What an opportunity to really show off some artistic , well planned and stunning architecture in the city. Casino? Casinos are getting boring because every state (almost) has casinos. Try something exciting and spectacular in the development area. Casinos are tacky. Really.

  19. Okay:
    1) A casino next to the United Nations? Absolutely not.
    2) Naming it Freedom whatever? Please. Stop the flag waving.
    3) That circular piece in the middle, (is that the casino?) that shows people walking the top of it: The design in fine, but make it accessible and you have another suicide jump spot like the Vessel at Hudson Yards.

    Finally, overall, it’s okay.. nothing to rave about. But the buildings should get a bit shorter as they go south to north. Right now they absolutely overwhelm the UN and that just shouldn’t happen.

    • David in Bushwick | February 13, 2024 at 3:08 pm | Reply

      The edge literally hangs over FDR Drive for another splatterfest. Adding a tall glass suicide wall would make it all pointless.

    • This is the most important criticism: You don’t put a casino next to the UN!
      This enormous lot deserves a world-class architectural marvel akin to Rockefeller Center. This design is a big yawn.

  20. This exoansuce waterfront site is ideal for showcasing unique architectural massinga, materials & building shapes – structures which will not be obstructed or overshadowed by later developments The site can be an iconic New York City post-card “stage set” — much like the way that the UN building takes full advantage of its site, just to the north. However in terms of these considerations, the proposed placement of the two gracefully curved sky-briged hotels is off kilter and wrong. It fails to take full advantage of the “stage-set qualities” of this waterfront site. Additionally, in the reality of post-Sandy New York, I would hope the underground waterfront casino will be 100% flood proof! As for the complaints of the “tacky” label of Freedom Plaza, no problem! When the Donald ascends his throne we’ll simply call if Fascist Plaza. Philip Johnson would have loved that, with his pitiful pedigree during the decade of the 1930’s…. ..

  21. David in Bushwick | February 13, 2024 at 1:32 pm | Reply

    All four towers are depressingly dull. All it has going is the curved skybridge similar to Beijing’s CCTV “Pants” building. With the circular oculus at the base, it looks like it’s competing to be a new, bigger UN complex. This is a seriously flawed design giving more proof that Bjarke is out of ideas. Thankfully the casino is out of site, but public access to this site is terrible, and so is the existing traffic.
    NY must do better than this.

  22. Cheesemaster200 | February 13, 2024 at 1:46 pm | Reply

    If they are granted a casino license (which I hope they aren’t), it should be contingent on the residential and park being completed first before the casino can open.

    This reeks of a flashy, big, fancy redevelopment that will coincidentally stall once the casino is opened.

  23. Why should I care about a casino being next to the UN? The UN isn’t sacred

    • You seem like a level headed person. I would hope you could acknowledge at a minimum it’s a little tacky. Maybe not casino on the National Mall but it’s pretty gross.

  24. Where is the East River bike path in all of this?

  25. How many gimmicks can there be in one project?

  26. David : Sent From Heaven. | February 14, 2024 at 8:51 am | Reply

    Casinos shouldn’t happen and these towers are a departure, from the style of most skyscrapers in New York. I believe it needs to be changed to better suit the city: Thanks to Michael Young.

  27. I think that the same thing will happen to the walking statue attraction in the middle of the park as happened in Hudson Yards.

  28. With buildings like these, who needs starchitects? Come on Bjarke, you can do better! Facade textures.. not just grand gestures.

  29. The casino and hotels would turn this work/live neighborhood with nearby schools into a tourist neighborhood. I oppose them and think that the neighborhood character should be preserved. The hotels overpower the design. They look massive. Will the skybridge be open to the public, or are they only for the hotels?

  30. A casino, next to the United Nations headquarter, and named “Freedom” place? I know we have lost all the semblence of rationality in NYC, but this is too much even to a toddler, much less the “esteemed” authorities of city. It is like buiding a disco in the middle of a churchyard.

  31. A casino? Pleaseeeeeeeee! NO!!!! Midtown has enough traffic and other issues. The buildings are gimmicky and adds ugliness to our neighborhood. Billioners row destroyed the Central Park skyline. This project adds nothing to Murray Hill.

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