City Planning Approves Baychester Square Mall in the Bronx; City Council Next

Image Credit: Urban Strategic Partners

The City Planning Commission approved the construction of the Baychester Square Mall, a destination shopping complex and a single building with 180 units of affordable senior housing in the Bronx. On June 21, 2017, the City Planning Commission issued a favorable report on a joint application from the Department of Citywide Administrative Services and Gun Hill Square LLC. The application requested the disposition of city-owned property, three special permits, a zoning map amendment to upzone the site, and a zoning text amendment to designate the project as a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing area.

The applicant proposed the construction of a new pedestrian-oriented open-air urban shopping complex and a single-residential building containing 180 units of affordable senior housing. The project site is a 12.6 acre lot bounded by East Gun Hill Road to the southwest and Edson Avenue to the northeast and south. The City acquired the site in the 1980s to expand the adjacent New York City Transit Authority Gun Hill Bus Depot, which never occurred.

The site used to be the location of a private recreational center with a golf-driving range, miniature golf course, batting cage, parking lot and a restaurant. The buildings left from these businesses are abandoned and unused.

In 2012, the MTA and the City sent out a request for proposals to dispose of the property and build a pedestrian-oriented retail destination. The effort was spearheaded by the Economic Development Corporation. The affordable senior housing was added as a requirement later in the process. In 2013, Gun Hill Square LLC was chosen to develop the site.

Image Credit: Urban Strategic Partners

The proposed shopping complex would consist of seven low-rise buildings containing retail stores. The buildings would range from 38 feet to 61 feet in height. The 180 units of affordable senior housing would be located in a twelve-story building on the northwestern corner of the site along Gun Hill Road.

On March 23, 2017, Bronx Community Board 12 voted 29-5 to approve the project. On April 26, 2017, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. issued a report recommending approval of the application subject to two condition. First, the Borough President requested that the deed restriction that prevents the developer from making Baychester Square an “Outlet Center” be codified in the final agreement and that the agreement run with the land. Second, the Borough President insisted that the applicant work with MTA to establish a direct bus route to accommodate Baychester Square without affecting Bay Plaza.

On April 26, 2017, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing at which 14 people spoke, seven against the project and seven in favor. Five of the seven speakers for the project were from the applicant’s team, including a representative from the Economic Development Corporation. The Commission also received a box of petitions against the project with 64,000 signatures from the Speak Up For A Better Bronx group.

In its report, the Commission found the application to be appropriate. The Commission wrote that the “proposed project will facilitate the reactivation of this underutilized site and that the proposed development will further strengthen the area as a hub of economic activity in the Bronx.” The Commission noted that in response to the Borough President’s concerns, the developer stated that they will include language in the sales contract to prohibit an outlet mall on the site and that the applicant was in talks with the MTA to establish a shuttle route.

Image Credit: Urban Strategic Partners

In regards to traffic concerns, the Commission proposed several mitigation measures to be considered by the Department of Transportation and the applicant, including signal timing changes, lane configurations and curb extensions.

The Commission acknowledged that the community wanted more community-oriented uses on the site, but noted that the proposals were requested to raise funds for future MTA capital needs by encouraging the highest and best use on the site.

CPC: Baychester Square, Bronx (170223 ZSX; 170222 ZSX; 170221 ZSX; 170219 ZRX; 170218 ZMX; 170217 PPX) (June 21, 2017).

 By: Jonathon Sizemore (Jonathon is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2016).

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