Zuccotti, BOP's co-chairman, presided at Tuesday's Manhattan West ceremony.

NEW YORK CITY-“Today, we are literally building a bridge on the West Side,” John Zuccotti, presiding over Brookfield Office Properties‘ kick-off ceremony for construction of its Manhattan West mixed-use project, said Tuesday. The bridge to which Zuccotti, BOP’s co-chairman, referred was both literal and figurative. The platform that will serve as the five-million-square-foot project’s common area will be comprised of 16 bridge segments over the Metropolitan Transportation Authority‘s West Side Rail Yards, and Manhattan West itself will serve as a linkage of Related Cos.Hudson Yards to the west and the forthcoming Moynihan Station redevelopment to the east.

However, as Zuccotti and Mayor Michael Bloomberg made clear, it’s also the latest in a series of West Side developments spanning from Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan to Riverside Park on the Upper West Side. “It’s amazing how much development there has been on the West Side, an area that nobody thought had the potential to be a hot neighborhood,” Bloomberg said at Tuesday’s ceremony. He cited $6 billion worth of completed projects in the Hudson Yards area alone since the 2005 rezoning that made both the Related and BOP ventures feasible.

The focal point of Tuesday morning’s ceremony was the $680-million platform, for which $340 million in construction financing has been secured from a bank group that includes HSBC, the Bank of New York Mellon, the Toronto-Dominion Bank, US Bank, the Bank of Nova Scotia and Wells Fargo. It will cover 60% of the five-acre site on Ninth Avenue between West 31st and West 33rd streets and Dyer Avenue, with the cores of the project’s two office towers and residential tower being built on terra firma. One of the segments that will comprise the platform was on hand at Tuesday’s ceremony, and participants were encouraged to sign it for posterity.

Construction of the platform is slated for completion in 2014, with the project in a position to receive tenants in 2016. Manhattan West will provide “a much-needed expansion of Manhattan’s central business district,” Dennis Friedrich, BOP’s CEO, said Tuesday.

Friedrich noted that negotiations with “a number of potential tenants” are under way. “We’re very encouraged by the response at this early stage of the project’s life,” he said. Along with office and multifamily components, there will also be retail throughout, as well as 1.5 acres of public space.

The project has been on the drawing boards for nearly six years, but its inception goes back further than that. Zuccotti recalled that when Olympia & York, predecessor to BOP, acquired the parcel in 1984, it engaged a young man to run the numbers on the site’s development potential. Today, that young man, Ric Clark, is chairman of BOP.