Century 21 expands; relieved from moving subway stairs

BSA found the requirement to move subway entrances uneconomic. Century 21 sought a variance to allow a 4,583 sq.ft. expansion on the second floor of its lower Manhattan store and a waiver from the requirement, triggered by the expansion, to relocate two subway entrances from the street to the store’s interior.

Century 21 occupies space in three contiguous buildings in lower Manhattan: the former East River Savings Bank located at 26 Cortlandt Street, a 33-story office tower at 22 Cortlandt, and a building at 10 Cortlandt. Customer circulation problems exist due to walls and fire stairs within the three buildings that cannot be changed. Its original plan for an as-of-right expansion within the 22 Cortlandt Street building failed when reasonable terms could not be reached with that building’s owner.

Century 21 instead sought to expand the floor area in the bank building, which triggered the requirement to move the existing subway entrances from Cortlandt Street into the first floor of the store. It also planned to retire the same amount of less-desirable floor area at 10 Cortlandt Street; however, this would not relieve it from the requirement to move the subway entrances.

In support of the floor area variance, Century 21 argued that its proximity to the World Trade Center site and the resulting restrictions on local street traffic had caused a significant decline in sales that could be alleviated by the creation of more efficient retail space. It claimed that the cost of adding two subway entrances inside the store, combined with the necessary loss of first floor space to accommodate each, would far exceed any benefit derived from the expansion.

BSA granted the variance after a site visit by Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan, Vice-Chair Satish Babbar, and Commissioners Joel Miele and James Chin. BSA found that the store’s existing physical constraints eliminated the possibility of a reasonable return if the expansion conformed to the zoning requirement to relocate the subway entrances.

BSA: 26 Cortlandt Street (331-04-BZ) (February 15, 2005). CITYADMIN

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