Volume 17 • Issue 33 •Jan. 7 - 13, 2005

Downtown Express photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio

Architect Chris Cooper of Skidmore Owings & Merrill presented the plan for residential buildings on the block bounded by Greenwich, Warren, West and Murray Sts.

Whole Food hopes for Tribeca tower

By Ronda Kaysen

Whole Foods Market, the high-end grocery store that has New Yorkers salivating for sushi grade tuna and calamata

olive bread, may soon plant itself on Greenwich St.

When plans for a 1 million sq. ft. development on Site 5B in Tribeca were unveiled at a Jan. 5th public scoping session, the familiar green Whole Foods Market awning was sketched into the Skidmore, Owens & Merrill-designed illustrations.

“There is a very good chance that we’ll get a Whole Foods,” Ben McGrath, C.F.O. to Minskoff Equities Inc., the site’s developer, told Downtown Express. “We’ll know for certain in the next month or so.”

Whole Foods is less committal about the possibility. “We don’t have anything finalized yet,” said Angela Rakis, a spokesperson for Whole Foods Market, in a telephone interview. “We’re always looking at new locations.”

Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff and City Councilmember Alan Gerson signed a deal in September giving developer Edward Minskoff the go ahead to build on the city-owned undeveloped site at 270 Greenwich St. At the time, Gerson said Minskoff indicated he had hopes for a 170,000 sq. ft. Whole Foods Market, but the councilmember did not know how likely the chances were. Part of the agreement requires Minskoff to make his best efforts to secure a large grocery store for the space, which will lie on the Greenwich St. side of the development.

The Economic Development Corporation-led public scoping session for the site bounded by West, Murray, Greenwich and Warren Sts., opened the public comment period for the project’s environmental review process. The comment period will end on Jan. 18th at 5 p.m.

In addition to a possible Whole Foods Market, the developer revealed other details for the site. Residents will enter the building’s condo tower, which may increase in height to 382 ft., on Warren St. According to Chris Cooper, an S.O.M. architect on the project, the increase in height will not affect the tower’s square footage.

A separate Warren St. entrance, closer to Greenwich St., will be reserved for the townhouse properties. Most of the retail space will be located on the bottom two floors beneath the townhouses, separated by a garden terrace, and along Greenwich St. Additional retail space is located at the corner of West and Warren Sts. Rental tenants will enter the building from Murray St.

“The proposal departs from some of the aspects of the agreement,” said Robert Davis, a lawyer for Minskoff, at the session.

The main point of community concern, voiced by various members of the public, was the proposed 64-foot height increase along the Warren St. side of the site, across the street from P.S. 234. According to the agreement, any stray from the 70-foot street wall would require C.B. 1 and city approval. In exchange for an increase in height, Minskoff would contribute money to the planned community center at 5C, where construction is expected to begin in several months.

“It would be a substantial amount of money,” said McGrath, estimating a contribution of anywhere from $1 million to $10 million. The exact number will have to be worked out with the city, he said. “We would love to be able to find that number.”

George Olsen, a member of C.B. 1, found the height increase problematic because of the effects of the added shadows. “This is excessive,” he said at the session. “I believe there are reasonable alternatives to this.” Olsen also voiced concern about increased traffic on Warren St., a concern echoed by Kevin Doherty, a Tribeca resident.
The long term construction project, not just at 270 Greenwich St., but also at neighboring Site 5C and at the new World Trade Center — part of which will be designed by S.O.M — concerned Kevin Fisher, president of P.S. 234’s P.T.A. “We have a perfect storm of construction in the area,” he said at the session. “The 720 children of P.S. 234 will be living through four or five years of major construction. There’s going to be dust and incredible amounts of noise. One wonders whether some analysis of the structural effects on the school should be looked at as well.”
Albert Capsouto, chairperson of C.B. 1’s Tribeca Committee, did not make a formal comment at the session, but was pleased to see that the plan did not call for a Floor Area Ratio increase. All other conflicts between the developer and the community, he said, could be resolved. “There are ways of addressing the school’s concerns and the developers concerns either through architectural or schematic ways of dealing with Warren St.,” he said. The Warren St. changes will need C.B. 1 approval to go forward.
For years, neighbors have been objecting to various tower proposals for Sites 5B and 5C, with some more concerned about the shadow effects to Washington Market Park and P.S. 234 and others focused on increasing the size of the rec center. Minskoff’s proposed change could reopen this debate over competing concerns.
Public comments can be mailed to Marilyn Lee, New York City Economic Development Corporation, 110 Williams St., 10038, or faxed to 212-312-3989 before 5 p.m. on Jan. 18th.


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