On Monday of this week, after more than 10 years of talk and the requisite absurd budget overruns, the new downtown Fulton Center opened to the public. I missed opening day while working from the Vox DC office, but stretched out my morning commute today to check out this new public space. I even brought my iPhone to snap some pics.
Strolling in from Fulton Street, with Calatrava’s soaring wings visible just a few blocks up at the World Trade Center site — a commute that, coming up from the Seaport, I won’t be doing on any kind of regular basis based on the location of the 2-3 lines — the first thought that hit me was: airport!
It’s like a real nice new shiny airport, with lots of interactive information screens and even bigger wider video screens flashing words like BURBERRY. This isn’t a terrible thing; airports are much nicer places these days than they used to be, and unabashedly upscale advertising sure beats the usual MTA advertising cohort.
Coming out into the center of the Center, I beheld the oculus, the fancy architectural word for the big circular element above that got bandied about at the time of the Barclays Center opening. (If your large public/private works project doesn’t have an oculus this decade, you’re not even in the game.) To its credit and that of the Fulton Center architect, Grimshaw, it’s a pretty good oculus. I wasn’t the only one standing under it this morning, iPhone arched skywards, bemused cops looking on while randomly deciding which passengers’ bags to search.
Recently, Evan Reeves wrote a behind-the-scenes about the Fulton Center oculus on Curbed NY. He quotes a Grimshaw architect thusly: “Grand Central station is the obvious reference point, but I wouldn’t want to purport a direct comparison.” Smart move… though then the architect goes and compares the oculus’ size to that of the Guggenheim’s spiral. I’d avoid any and all such comparisons. The thing is cool enough in its own right. Once the three stories of stores that are to be nestled behind the oculus and its “sky reflector net” designed by James Carpenter open, there’ll be a new perspective on it which may make the oculus even cooler. It will at any rate be a good excuse to say the word oculus again.
Fellow downtown resident and author Paul Greenberg took the Fulton Center’s opening to merit and entire rethinking of downtown neighborhood nomenclature:
With our fancy new Fulton subway hub I am taking bids for new names for my neighborhood. My suggestions: LoBecca or Fulton Center @Lock
— Paul Greenberg (@4fishgreenberg) November 12, 2014
As Greenberg sees it (quite clearly, imho), FiDi is FiDi. The question is what should we rename this revitalized swath above FiDi, adjacent to City Hall and the Seaport. From the best nominees from the Twitter thread, I’m endorsing Jonathan Glick‘s suggestion of SoBeCa. It’s got the right pedigree, and sounds sufficiently obnoxious that it’s sure to piss off everyone who doesn’t live down here. Plus, neighborhoods with Lo- prefixes have a bad track record of catching on.
The new Fulton Center. We’ll see you in SoBeCa soon.