The SS United States, America's Flagship, could return home to New York as an economic development project unveiled today by the SS United States Conservancy, the owner of the famed vessel.
The plan, developed in conjunction with two prominent New York firms, RXR and MCR Hotels, would repurpose the legendary ocean liner as a unique, mixed-use destination, including a 1,000 key hotel, numerous food and beverage destinations, multiple event venues, acres of public green space, and a world-class museum.
During her service career, the SS United States smashed the transatlantic speed record in 1952 using only two-thirds of her power, a record that has never been broken. From her Hudson River berth, she carried more than one million passengers, from celebrities and royalty to immigrants and tourists. She was also a top-secret convertible troop transport that could rush 14,000 troops 10,000 miles without refueling.
The release of a redevelopment plan comes at a time when the SS United States is in peril. The ship faces possible eviction from her current pier in Philadelphia. The vessel's landlord doubled the Conservancy's rent without notice during the coronavirus pandemic, placing significant financial strain on the organization. The Conservancy is presently in litigation on the matter, with a trial date slated for early December.
The conceptual plan for a privately funded, commercial redevelopment identified Manhattan's Hudson River as the optimal "home port" for the vessel, due to its proximity to transportation and pedestrian access to the Javits Convention Center. The project would entail the redesign and reconstruction of adjacent piers, which would create acres of new public green space aboard the vessel and adjoining areas. The ship's transformative potential is not restricted to New York. Other locations and port cities could benefit from the ship's commercial revitalization and iconic status.
RXR and MCR developed full schematic design drawings, extensive engineering and construction feasibility diligence in consultation with U.S. shipyards, a financial analysis to demonstrate the project's commercial viability, and an assessment of the permitting and regulatory requirements to advance the redevelopment program. The project diligence team included Gibbs & Cox, the vessel's original design firm, Perkins Eastman and HLW architects, and local land use and regulatory counsel.
The overall program was informed by MCR and RXR's extensive experience redeveloping iconic, historic properties in New York, including Eero Saarinen's landmark 1962 TWA Flight Center and hotel at JFK Airport as well as Manhattan's historic Pier 57.
The Conservancy is now seeking state and local interest from New York or other potential cities to advance its plan at a host pier location. The nonprofit organization and its development team are prepared to donate the ship and the design and engineering work completed to date to expedite progress in securing a prime location for the vessel's revitalization.