Extell Development’s 80-story luxury tower in the Two Bridges area has definitely not been welcomed with open arms within the community. Concerns about construction noise, gentrification and the shear size of the project have all come into play. But the worst part for many locals was the loss of the Pathmark Supermarket that formerly occupied the development site. Last night, at a quarterly construction meeting with the Extell team, there was renewed talk of a replacement market as part of the new residential and commercial complex.
After the Pathmark store closed in 2012 and was demolished, Extell said it was committed to establishing a new full-service grocery on the site. During a 2014 community meeting, Extell chief Gary Barnett intimated that it would be an affordable market, in keeping with the overall neighborhood’s low- and middle-income demographics. But people have been skeptical.
Raizy Haas, the executive managing the project, said yesterday that an operator had not yet been selected but she hopes the grocery will open in early 2018. That’s when a 205-unit “below-market” building going up alongside the larger project is slated for completion. The grocery will take a 25,000 sq. ft. space in the affordable tower. She made no promises, but said it would be the goal.
On another topic, Haas said Extell is working with consultants on plans for the plaza area along the east side of the project site. The plaza itself is owned by the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and Settlement Housing Fund. They also control Two Bridges Tower, a neighboring building. Extell intends to present design ideas to both the owners and the tenant association at Two Bridges Tower in the coming months. Haas said they’re thinking about creating a “green wall” between the two properties, as well as “architecturally pleasing pavement” and new lighting in the area.
This morning, Victor Papa of the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council said there’s interest in meeting with Extell about the plaza. “We would welcome such a meeting,” he said, “not so much to emphasize a divide, as to improve the plaza area.” Papa also said he hopes to meet with Extell executives soon about plans for the new supermarket and about damaged caused by construction.
Overall, the meeting was a cordial affair. A couple of residents from Two Bridges Tower thanked Extell and its general contractor, Lend Lease, for promptly responding to their concerns. The session was moderated by Trever Holland, tenant president at Two Bridges Tower with help from Community Board 3’s Susan Stetzer. The only hiccup: a new policy at the Manny Cantor Center, which prevented people without identification from attending (it won’t happen again for CB3 events, said Stetzer).
Construction managers said the pile driving operation, the noisiest part of the project, has now been completed. They are in the process of installing a large crane for the superstructure. That will be completed Saturday morning (Pike Street will be shut down during the final installation). They repeated early pledges to repave sections of Cherry Street torn up due to construction and to fix all damage they’re responsible for causing in neighboring buildings.
Finally, the executives were asked about hiring locally for both construction jobs and positions within the commercial businesses created by the project. Haas said Extell and Lend Lease are willing to consider hiring any qualified candidates who contact them via email (250SouthSt@lendlease.com). The project is, however, a union site. Val Jones, a local resident, urged the developers to take more proactive steps — reaching out to local groups about employment opportunities. Preliminary conversations have taken place with the LES Employment Network, a consortium of local job placement centers. That group, however, isn’t equipped to deal with union construction jobs — only permanent positions in the completed project.
The big 80-story tower, including 815 apartments and crazy amenities, is scheduled to open in 2019.