Floating visions of new Coney I.
Developers imagine a Vegas-like entertainment destination
BY JOTHAM SEDERSTROM
A rendering of Thor Equities plans for a Coney Island hub. The firm calls it Stillwell Park.
Hotels, amusement rides, water parks, night clubs, light shows and residential and retail towers as far as the eye can see.
That's the new Coney Island that may begin to emerge this year.
In addition to hundreds of upscale housing units, big-name franchises like Nickelodeon, W Hotel and the House of Blues are being floated as possible components of the revitalization plan, sources familiar with some of the proposals have said.
Add to that a slew of entertainment attractions - including a state-of-the-art roller coaster designed to wind around buildings on Stillwell Ave. - and Coney Island could begin to resemble a Las Vegas on the Atlantic Ocean.
But until the 13-member Coney Island Development Corp. releases its long-awaited master plan, nothing but sand and water is certain for the neighborhood.
"You should have a big question mark over the whole thing," said Community Board 13 District Manager Chuck Reichenthal. "One doesn't know from day to day."
That hasn't stopped two developers from sinking big bucks into their plans.
Taconic Investment Partners, known for residential and office towers in Manhattan and other cities, has scooped up roughly 350,000 square feet of real estate since Coney Island revitalization plans were announced in 2003. Beside hopes of turning the famed Child's Restaurant into a restaurant and catering hall, Taconic has plans for residential and retail buildings on portions of at least six blocks between W. 22nd St. and W. 15th St.
"We've made what we feel is a valid presentation and proposal and we'll be very interested to see how the city responds," said Taconic founder Charles Bendit. "It's kind of like wanting to see how you did on your test in school."
More publicly than Taconic, mega-developer Thor Equities has submitted a $2 billion plan. Thor's proposal could include two hotels, an indoor water park, music venues and loads of glitz.
"Thor Equities is confident that its vision for the future of Coney Island will bring positive change to the neighborhood," said Thor spokesman Lee Silberstein. "Thor looks forward to integrating its strategic plan with that of the city and other real estate developers who are committed to redeveloping Coney."
A third party - longtime Coney Island developer Horace Bullard - also still owns property in the area, but has so far refused to say how he plans to develop it.
"Coney Island's economy really has to be a year-round one to be sustainable," Mayor Bloomberg said in announcing the formation of the Coney Island Development Corp. in 2003. "It can't be just tied to the baseball season or to warm weather."
1. New York-based Taconic Investment Partners hopes to build residential and retail on 100,000 square feet of land on four parcels between W. 16th and 20th Sts. between Mermaid and Surf Aves. Taconic also plans:
* Residential and retail space on 180,000 square feet of land between Surf Ave. and the Boardwalk at W. 21st St.
* Child's Restaurant site is being eyed for a high-end catering hall between Surf Ave. and the Boardwalk at W. 21st St.
* Residential and retail space on 18,000 square feet between Surf Ave. and the Boardwalk at W. 22nd St.
2. A proposed new street, tentatively called Front St., to be built from the Parachute Jump to the Cyclone, spanning roughly 2,400 feet and used primarily as a pedestrian throughway.
3. Bowery St., currently composed of penny arcades, fast food restaurants and small rides, could turn into five blocks of retail and restaurants. Along W. 15th and 16th Sts., however, developer Horace Bullard still owns property and hasn't said publicly what he plans to do with it.
4. Stillwell Ave. south of Surf Ave. would become "Stillwell Walk" and serve as the main thoroughfare of Coney Island, with open-air cafes and retail along a cobblestone street. A 4,000-foot rollercoaster designed by Switzerland-based Intamin AG is also in the works.
5. Called "Splash," this 150-foot observation deck with holographic displays, light shows and water mist, would be the first thing people see upon exiting the Stillwell Ave. subway station. A rooftop beer garden, with views of Brooklyn and the Atlantic Ocean, is also in the works.
6. Anchored by one of two planned hotels, this 75,000- square-foot glass-encased water park would soar eight stories and sit atop a parking garage.
W Hotel and Nickelodeon, among other hoteliers, are in talks, sources said.
7. The second of two hotels planned for Coney Island would sit above an entertainment attraction, which sources said could be a live music venue.
A source close to House of Blues said the franchise was looking seriously at expanding to New York.
8. The former Astroland amusement park would be reimagined as another park, this one glass-enclosed and potentially three stories tall. The Burbank-based Thinkwell Design and Production is currently designing amusement rides.
9. Developer Thor Equities plans to build residential near the Boardwalk between W. 15th St. and Stillwell Walk.