On Wednesday evening, members of the Essex Crossing development team provided Community Board 3’s land use committee with a status report. The nearly 2-million square foot residential and commercial complex is scheduled for groundbreaking by the middle of next year. Isaac Henderson, the project manager, led the informal briefing, along with Annel Cabrera, who was hired earlier this year as director of community relations for Delancey Street Associates, the consortium building the project in the former Seward Park Urban renewal area. Here’s what they told committee members:
- Final designs for phase one of the project (including the first four buildings) will be unveiled Jan. 14 at CB3’s land use committee meeting. There will also be a larger public presentation at Grand Street Settlement Jan. 28. This past summer, the developers told us they planned to release renderings to the general public before 2014 drew to a close. While members of a community task force have seen the building designs, the timetable for a wider release slipped. “The definite plan,” said Henderson, “is that next January we will be back here in front of you with all four of the architecture teams for sites 1. 2, 5 and 6.”
- Henderson added, “We’re hoping to begin construction on sites 1, 2 and 5 sometime during the spring or summer of next year.” As previously reported, the development team recently backed away from predicting an early spring groundbreaking. Construction on site 6, which will include senior housing and a community facility run by Grand Street Settlement, is scheduled to begin the fall of 2015.
- There have been a series of meetings with current vendors of the Essex Street Market, who will be moving across Delancey Street to a new, expanded market space on site 2. Over the next several months, they’ll be working together to design the stalls. The city’s Economic Development Corp. will be leading efforts to find new vendors to join the 20 or so existing merchants. There will be 39 stalls and two restaurants in the new facility.
- Henderson recapped the announcement made earlier this week (via Crain’s) that Regal Cinemas would be leasing a space above the Essex Street Market for a 14-screen movie theater. The theater, equipped with electronically reclining seats, will be a “real destination place that will facilitate people coming” to Essex Crossing’s shops and restaurants from all over the city, Henderson said. He noted that a movie theater was one of the things a community task force working on the Seward Park plan prioritized.
- Demolition of the old Essex Street Market building on site 2 and the Broome Street fire house on site 5 will take place either this month or in January. The plan is to take down two tenements at 400-402 Grand St. in February. Three families are still living at 400 Grand, but they are expected to be relocated by Dec. 19. Henderson said it’s important to begin demolition now even though construction is still months away because the Department of Buildings won’t issue building permits until that happens and financing can’t be approved until the DOB acts.
In a question and answer period, committee chairperson Linda Jones asked for clarification about building heights. She said residents where she lives, in the Seward Park Cooperative, are beginning to ask about how their city views will be affected. Henderson said heights, along with many other design details, are dictated by the city land use documents approved by the community board and City Council in 2012:Site 1 building: 14 stories Site 2 building: 24 stories Site 5 building: 14 stories Site 6 building: 14 stories
In response to another question, Henderson said there would be 155 condominium units; 20% will be considered affordable at 110% of Area Median Income (the current AMI in New York City for a family of four is $89,900.) Only families who fall within these income parameters will be considered for the affordable home ownership program.
The developers said the construction site will be surrounded by a high fence – 12 feet – in order to help muffle noise. Tim Laughlin, executive director of the LES BID, suggested a public art program to help make the fences and scaffolding a little less foreboding. The developers said it’s something they’d consider.
Enrique Cruz, a community board member, asked whether the development team is reaching out to small construction firms on the Lower East Side as well as existing small businesses that could be part of the Essex Crossing project. Cabrera noted that there was recently a job fair, the first of many outreach events. There’s also a program to hire minority and women owned firms. Companies that would like to be considered must apply for city certification. Val Orselli, a public member of the land use committee, asked about the use of union labor. Henderson said Delancey Street Associates’ agreement with the city does not require the use of construction unions. He added, “we’re engaged in an open dialogue with a variety of trade (unions).” In the past month, some labor activists have been pushing for commitments to hire union workers (we’ll have more on this sometime soon). Henderson said he hopes local businesses will be part of Essex Crossing’s micro-retail stalls, small spaces designed for start-up businesses. “The success of our retail will be building off of what makes the neighborhood dynamic,” he said.
Cabrera said she has been meeting with a variety of groups, including the tenant association at Seward Park Extension, the board of the Grand Street Guild and the schools on the Seward Park campus. She offered to meet with residents of the Seward Park Co-op. The city as well as CB3 continue to collect names of former urban renewal site tenants eligible for affordable housing. Lotteries for affordable apartments won’t happen for at least a year-and-a-half.