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SPURA Document Dump – and Graphics Galore!

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In the past several days, Community Board 3 and the NYC Economic Development Corp. have made lots of information available about the Seward Park redevelopment project.

Earlier this week, we posted the RFP (request for proposals) that led to the hiring of Beyer Blinder Belle, the architectural firm guiding CB3 and the city through the urban design phase of the project. The EDC has also made public the RFP for the Environmental Impact Statement, an exhaustive survey of the 6.4 acre site that will take many months. It’s not the most scintillating document you’ve ever read – but if you’re so inclined – all 130 or so pages can be downloaded from the EDC’s web site.

Finally, we now have the graphics used by Beyer Blinder Belle partner Neil Kittredge in his initial presentation before the community board. You can see the entire power point extravaganza on CB3’s web site. An abbreviated version is posted here, with minimal commentary. If you haven’t read our story following CB3’s last meeting, it would be a good idea to do so before perusing the images below.

The next SPURA meeting will be held March 30th, 630pm, at the Abrons Arts Center. Any comments you have about design issues can be expressed at that time. Or, if you prefer, you can submit questions/comments in writing. Here’s the advisory from CB3’s web site:

…submit questions and comments on the urban design documents to spura@cb3manhattan.org no later than two weeks before each scheduled Land Use, Zoning, Public and Private Housing Committee’s monthly Seward Park Urban Renewal Area meeting. A reasonable effort will be given to address questions and comments relevant to the urban design discussion at the next meeting and, when possible, answers will be posted to (the) web site following the meeting.


A 1919 photo shows Delancey Street, leading to the Williamsburg Bridge.  Noting that today it resembles a highway, Kittredge pointed out that historically Delancey was a place in which vibrant street life and human interaction took place.


A 1923 photo suggests traffic jams on Delancey are not only a modern occurrence.


More history: 1970-era renderings by groundbreaking architect Paul Rudolph show plans for housing towering over the Williamsburg Bridge.


Examples of buildings worldwide that rely on varied architectural styles, “contextual design” and strong “street walls.”  These are concepts, Kittredge said, that should be replicated on SPURA.


Pedestrian and automobile traffic flow will be major concerns as the planning proceeds. Kittredge noted the unusual Lower East Side street grid, in which some routes extend from the East Village to the River and others go for only a few blocks.


Another concern: how to deal with SPURA’s “demapped” streets — Broome between Norfolk and Clinton and Suffolk between Grand and Delancey.


SPURA’s 10 sites encompass around 1.6 million square feet of “buidable” space, including 600,000 square feet for commercial purposes.


The zoning on the SPURA lots is comparable to these sites, both located in Brooklyn.  Zoning dictates “floor area” but not necessarily height.  Kittredge’s firm designed the building on the right, which features lots of windows, street level retail and “setbacks.”


While current zoning would permit developers to build 20-30 story buildings on every lot, Kittredge suggested a different approach.


More renderings depicting what the neighborhood might feel like if large, hulking towers go up on every SPURA parcel.


Kittredge told CB3 members there’s an opportunity in the Seward Park project to link two sections of the neighborhood — one dominated by “tower-in-the park” developments, the other by low-rise tenement buildings.


The evening’s key slide: varying building height and architectural styles, Kittredge argued, would help stitch together the Lower East Side’s disjointed urban landscape.


Kittredge suggested site #2, on the southeast corner of Essex and Delancey, should be viewed as the focal point of the new community. This is where major retail tenants would probably be located. It’s also where the EDC would like to relocate the Essex Street Market.


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