The residential conversion project includes the restoration of cast-iron building in SoHo Cast-Iron Historic District. On September 7, 2017, the City Council voted 45-0 to approve an application for a special permit to allow residential and retail uses at 40 Wooster Street in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood. The applicant, 40 Wooster Street Restoration LLC which is a subsidiary of the Northwind Group, sought the special permit to allow for residential and retail uses in what was once a primarily manufacturing district but has become over the years a mixed-use district. The SoHo Cast-Iron Historic District, which includes 40 Wooster Street, now contains many cast-iron loft buildings with retail, restaurants, galleries, and boutique clothing stores on the ground floor and with office and residential space on the upper floors.
The building at 40 Wooster Street was constructed in 1895–1896 as a loft structure. Wooster Restoration purchased the property in 2014. In 2015, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved Wooster Restoration’s preservation plan which included the restoration of the entire exterior façade of the building, a rooftop addition and the conversion of the building to residential.
Currently, the building is occupied by several commercial offices on the second, fifth and sixth floors, and is vacant in the remaining space. The building is located in an M1-5B zoning district which prohibits residential use and restricts the use of the first and second floor.
At a Zoning Subcommittee hearing on August 21, 2017, Council Member Margaret Chin expressed disappointment that the building was too small in both size and number of units to trigger the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing law. Council Member Chin did, however, show support for the project for the other community benefits the project would bring, including the cultural uses and the restoration of the building’s appearance.
On April 20, 2017, Manhattan Community Board 2 voted 33-1 to disapprove the application unless two conditions were met. The Community Board requested that there be no eating and drinking establishment, and that all ground floor retail space must stipulate that the tenant host, for free, not-for-profit cultural uses that are open to the public at least four times a month.
On June 9, 2017, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer issued her recommendation to approve the application on the condition that 40 Wooster Restoration comply with the Community Board’s conditions. The Borough President also asked that 40 Wooster Restoration work with the not-for-profit theater group IndieSpace and reach out to the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Economic Development Corporation for potential cultural and creative organizations for the ground floor space.
On July 26, 2017, the City Planning Commission issued a report finding the application to be appropriate. The Commission acknowledged that 40 Wooster Restoration had committed to complying with the conditions of both the community board and the borough president.
By: Jonathon Sizemore (Jonathon is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2016).