By Patrick Hedlund
Calatrava’s cubes on deck?
Sciame Development’s recent announcement that the Downtown builder would be moving its offices on the Seaport to new digs on Wall St. have re-ignited rumors that the developer might pursue its ambitious plan for a Santiago Calatrava-designed tower at 80 South St.
Both Sciame Development and F.J. Sciame Construction Co. will take over the entire 37,000-sqaure-foot second floor at 14 Wall St. beginning Friday, leaving open the possibility for the planned 835-foot, staggered cube building to rise on the East River waterfront.
“We are exploring a number of development opportunities, including the Calatrava tower,” said John Randolph, vice president of real estate for Sciame Development, noting the site includes an additional 110,000 square feet of development rights since the original design, allowing for a larger commercial base.
The project includes a series of 12 four-story cantilevered cubes, with the top 10 cubes containing townhouses costing between $29 million and $55 million a unit. Under the iniital idea, the base unit would have included a cultural component, possibly for museum space.
In a 2006 interview, Frank Sciame told Downtown Express he could develop the site then with a traditional building, but wanted to wait until the Calatrava project became possible. At the time, he had ruled out the museum and was hoping to get a small, high-end hotel in the ground floor.
`“We may need Lower Manhattan to catch up to the vision of the tower,” he said then. “If it doesn’t put as much money in my pocket, that’s OK I’m not going to do it if I lose money… Time is on my side. I control the site.”
Mayor Mike Bloomberg told Downtown Express in 2005 that if he were looking to move from the Upper East Side, he would be tempted to buy a box condo in the Calatrava tower.
The developer tapped Newmark Knight Frank to manage the sales process for the site to explore “multiple scenarios,” but if Sciame is still as hot on the cubes as he was before the move, keep your eyes on the waterfront.
Retailers could be showing signs of skittishness at some prime Lower East Side properties due to increasing market concerns and the constant din of construction, according to some prominent Downtown brokers.
Mixed Use spoke to real estate agents who said that while bars and restaurants are still some of the most desirable commercial uses for retail space, community backlash has made the process more onerous for these operators. Add to that construction activity around every corner, and retailers have started looking south toward Delancey St. and below to avoid the crush farther north near Houston St.
For example, the ground-floor retail space at 188 Ludlow St. which contains nearly 5,500 total square feet below one of the area’s most notable new residential developments might have difficulty finding a tenant amid worries of a recession and a new hesitancy to gamble on a restaurant/nightlife establishment.
“They’re not making decisions right now,” one major Downtown broker confided of both retailers’ and property owners’ cautious attitude toward L.E.S. real estate. “It scares the [crap] out of me, too.”
“The rents in this little corridor have really gone up,” said an agent of the red-hot areas around Houston St., where space like that at 188 Ludlow would likely go for about $150 per square foot. “People are gravitating south,” the agent said.
The agent pointed to a Bank of America branch possibly opening in the ground floor of the new School of Visual Arts building at 101 Ludlow St., near Delancey St., an area previously perceived as untenable by some larger retailers.
And with construction cranes operating at almost every corner farther north, the neighborhood loses both the tranquility and edge it once possessed.
“I love grittier neighborhoods,” said one broker, a lifelong New Yorker. “But there are things that are not conducive to getting people down there.”
Tribeca Far East
Jerry Joseph, owner of former Soho standby Jerry’s, which shuttered after two decades on Prince St. last summer, has decided to figuratively head east by way of a literal southwestern move to Tribeca, where he plans to open an Asian “fast-food concept” restaurant next month.
When Mixed Use inquired about a possible Jerry’s redux at a new location, Joseph had no good news for Downtowners missing his hip brunch hangout, which he has no plans to reopen. His new venture, located on Chambers St. between Church St. and Broadway, will offer customers takeout and delivery operations during the day, and a sit-down restaurant at night, including Thai, Indonesian, Chinese and Japanese options.
The new eatery, YourAsian, is currently in the last stages of construction and “will soon start testing the menu,” Joseph confirmed of the final preparations.
Meanwhile, designer Michael Kors opened a store in place of the old restaurant at 101 Prince St. late last year, so Jerry’s fans will have to head elsewhere for their Dutch eggs.
Crain’s development prescription
One of the more prodigious recent projects proposed for Downtown plans for redeveloping Pier 40 has received its fair share of ink in this newspaper. But recently, some of the larger city publications have sought to chime in on the issue in favor of the type of development decried by so many Downtowners at public meetings and in these pages.
An editorial in the March 10 issue of Crain’s New York Business expressed support for The Related Companies’ much-ballyhooed “Vegas on the Hudson” plan for Pier 40, calling it the “only financially viable option.”
While critics have derided Related’s vision, Crain’s stated, “it’s hard to see what is so offensive about creating a permanent New York home for the popular Cirque du Soleil.”
The editorial also tackled the Rudin/St. Vincent’s proposal to erect a 21-story tower in the Village in addition to major residential components that the community has questioned since Day One. Crain’s accurately stated, “The clash is over whether the project is too big for the neighborhood”; however, the business publication opined that without Rudin’s involvement, insufficient funds would be available to realize the new hospital.
“The biggest beneficiaries of both a redeveloped Pier 40 and a new St. Vincent’s will be Village residents, who will have a first-class recreational and entertainment facility as well as a state-of-the-art medical facility in their backyard,” the editorial went on, after earlier noting the neighborhood’s activist nature as the reason for its firm character. “But that is what they will have to do,” Crain’s counseled, “for the benefit of all Village residents and all other New Yorkers.”