Theater District air-rights transfer approved
The City Planning Commissioned unanimously approved today the transfer of air rights from the Al Hirschfeld Theater (formerly the Martin Beck Theater) on West 45th Street and the Brooks Atkinson Theater on West 47th Street to 750 Eighth Avenue on the northeast corner at 46th Street, the former site of McHale’s restaurant, a popular Theater District hangout.
The transfer will permit SJP Residential Properties of Parsipanny, N.J., of which Stephen J. Pozycki and Allen F. Goldman are principals, to erect a 42-story building with about 220 residential condominium apartments. The project has been named “Platinum” and will have an address of 257 West 46th Street.
It will be directly across Eighth Avenue from another new high-rise condo project at 301 West 46th Street and the two projects will significantly enhance the ambiance of the Eighth Avenue corridor in Midtown.
The project has been described as “an historic occasion” as it was the first project to attempt to utilize transferable air-rights created in 1998 but on the drawing boards for “over a generation.
At a recent Community Board 4 meeting, Paul Selver of the law firm of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel represented the developer and indicated that while the developer was seeking approval initially only for the “discrete” application of a 38-story tower before the committees, it had larger plans. Those plans included seeking a zoning text-change to permit the transfer of other air-rights from the St. James Theater on 47th Street that would enlarge the building to 42 stories and 220 apartments.
Mr. Selver told the meeting that the air-rights agreement required the theater transferring air rights to agree to maintain their property for the life of the new development and agree to maintenance inspections at least every five years and to only use their property for “legitimate theater.” The theater agreements were to be in the form of restrictive covenants that would apply to any future owners of the property.
As part of the special district’s air-rights transfer requirements, the developer would contribute $10 per square foot of transferred air rights into a special theater district fund.
The community board urged that the special fund be created quickly and that issues relating to the relocation of theatrical organizations evicted for new projects using the air rights should be addressed.
In addition to the $10-square-foot contribution to the fund, the developer has agreed to provide about 3,500 square feet of office space on Eighth Avenue at below-market rent for use by a few small theatrical companies. An article in today’s edition of The New York Times noted that “the city government is still setting up a panel to oversee that fund, which was called for in the 1998 zoning,” adding that the rent to the displaced theater companies would be about $21 a square foot, “which is about half the going rate.” “Some of those companies, however, said yesterday that they were not interested in office space without an adjacent place to rehearse or perform,” the article continued.
The new building has been designed by Costas Kondylis.
The Martin Beck Theater opened in 1924. In 1934, Katharine Cornell and Basil Rathbone starred in “Romeo and Juliet” there and in 1940, Paul Lukas starred in “Watch on the Rhine, and in 1946, the theater hosted “The Iceman Cometh” and in 1959 Paul Newman, Geraldine Page and Bruce Dern performed in “Sweet Bird of Youth.
SJP Properties is also developing a condominium apartment building at 45 Park Avenue and recently acquired the Eighth Avenue east blockfront between 41st and 42nd Street from the Milstein family for the development of a commercial tower that would be across 41st Street from The New York Times building now under construction.
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