Council Approves West Side Apartment Towers
CHARLES V. BAGLI
December 20, 2010
The City Council on Monday unanimously approved the development of five additional glass apartment towers, a hotel and a school on an eight-acre parcel on the West Side where developers have already turned a onetime railroad yard into an upscale residential community.
The vote brings to an end years of planning and dickering with community groups over the inclusion of affordable housing and a school in a neighborhood that has absorbed thousands of new residents in the past decade.
When it is completed, the project, known as Riverside Center, will include up to 2,500 apartments in five towers designed by Atelier Christian de Portzamparc, as well as a public plaza, stores and the school.
The developer, Extell Development Company, is also required to set aside 500 of the units, including 220 apartments on the site, for low- and moderate-income tenants.
“We’re going to see a very beautiful center for the neighborhood,” said the developer, Gary Barnett, president of Extell. “I think everybody was trying to get something that was good for the neighborhood and economically viable.”
Councilwoman Gale A. Brewer, who represents the Upper West Side, said elected officials and the community board were successful in getting the developer to include affordable housing, build the school and realign the public spaces so that they were more accessible to local residents.
“But,” she added, “it’s still too big.”
The parcel, which was rezoned for residential development, sits at the south end of what has been known as Riverside South and, later, Trump Place. The developer, Donald J. Trump, had struggled since 1974 to redevelop the 77-acre rail yard, first for a wall of office towers. At one point, he sold the property to another developer and then reacquired it.
But it was not until 1994, with the city in a recession, that Mr. Trump and his new Hong Kong and Chinese partners won approval for a plan to build apartment towers and a 21-acre waterfront park along a new extension of Riverside Drive, from 59th Street to 72nd Street.
Mr. Trump and his partners built eight buildings and about 2,900 apartments that were larger and bulkier than the surrounding structures.
In 2005, Mr. Barnett and his partner, the Carlyle Group, bought the remaining undeveloped land for $1.8 billion. Extell, in turn, has built four apartment houses, though they are sleeker towers than the earlier buildings, and about 1,000 apartments.
But the south end of the project was originally zoned for a television studio.
In recent years, Mr. Barnett has sought to rezone that parcel for residential towers with substantially more space than approved for the studio. He got the extra space, but at the urging of residents and Ms. Brewer, he also agreed to build affordable housing, although not as much as they wanted, and to construct the “core and shell” for a school.
Work on the new buildings may not begin until 2012, the developer said.
“It will be the capstone for the newest and most vibrant neighborhood in the city,” Mr. Barnett said, in full marketing mode. [/quote]