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Details for Seward Park mixed-use renewal released.
A conceptual rendering illustrating how the SPURA site could be redeveloped.
Courtesy NYCEDC

Plans to redevelop a seven-acre swath of surface-parking leftover from a Robert Moses clearance job on Manhattan’s Lower East Side were detailed at a March 8 meeting of the Community Board 3 (CB3) Land Use Committee as the project prepares to enter its ULURP public approval process.

City plans show up to 1.65 million square feet on the nine parcels of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA), housed in groups of mid-to-high-rise towers designed to knit the historic neighborhood fabric with adjacent Moses-era towers in the park. The program also calls for a mix of 900 housing units, up to 650,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, and 500 underground parking spaces. A 10,000-square-foot park is planned on pedestrian-scaled Broome Street, running through the center of the site. “We see Broome Street as an opportunity to create an active corridor and we would encourage a retail corridor,” senior vice president of New York City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) David Quart said at the meeting. Officials also indicated their preference to relocate and expand the Essex Street Market for higher visibility to the corner of Essex and Delancey streets.

The nine parcels comprising the SPURA site (red) sit between the historic Lower East Side neighborhood and a series of towers in the park.

Officials from EDC presented the updated plans more than a year after the community-established guidelines called for a mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood that promoted an active and diverse street life.

While the city met most of the neighborhood’s guidelines, several key concerns remain, including maximum size of retail and affordable housing. CB3 sought to cap retail size at 30,000 square feet, but the EDC insisted a larger anchor tenant such as a hotel, movie theater, or big-box store is needed for financial success of the project. The city’s plan calls for 50 percent affordable housing over 60 years while the neighborhood hopes to make it permanent. These issues will likely play a large role in the public review process. “It is very important that we as a community advocate for permanent affordable housing,” Manhattan Borough president Scott Stringer said at the meeting. “I’m going to call on the City Council and the City Planning Commission and HPD to make sure [that happens],” he added.

As part of the ULURP process, the city will seek a rezoning for a commercial overlay allowing retail space in residential zones, and acquire special permits allowing building mass to be shuffled around to harmonize with the scale of the neighborhood. A public meeting on April 18 marks the beginning of the process and CB3 will vote on the project in May. A request for proposals from developers could be distributed in early 2013.

Branden Klayko