Commission approves Solow, CB6 plans

Solow plan to include affordable housing, open space. On January 28, 2008, the Planning Commission voted to approve the development plans of Solow and Manhattan Community Board 6 for the former-Con Edison site on Manhattan’s East Side, located along First Avenue between East 35th and 41st Streets. Solow’s plan called for a mixed-use development consisting of new high-rise towers, parking facilities, and publicly accessible open space. Board 6’s plan, meanwhile, called for height, density, and parking restrictions as well as more open space, particularly along the waterfront. 4 CityLand 172 (Dec. 2007).

At 685 First Avenue, between East 39th and East 40th Street, Solow proposed to build a predominantly residential 721-foot tower. On the east side of First Avenue, at 700 First Avenue, Solow proposed three predominantly residential sheer-rise towers with heights of 705, 650, and 606 feet. To the north of 700 First Avenue, at 708 First Avenue, Solow proposed a 47-story commercial tower with a height of 688 feet. The shared cellar and sub-cellar of the 700 and 708 sites would contain 651 public and 499 accessory parking spaces. In addition, the plan calls for a 3.2-acre landscaped public plaza, open from 6am to midnight, to be located across the street from 685 First Avenue between 700 and 708 First Avenue. Solow also included a 630-seat public school and children’s playground as part of its plan.

To facilitate construction of its large-scale, high-density, mixed-use development, Solow proposed to rezone the site and amend various sections of the zoning text, including modifications to height and setback regulations, as well as a unique inclusionary housing bonus that does not conform to bonuses for similar developments in the City.

The Commission voted to approve Solow’s plan, but modified it significantly. It reduced the height of the proposed tower at 685 First Avenue, the westernmost portion of the site, to 600 feet and required additional retail frontage in order to better relate to the surrounding neighborhood. At 700 First Avenue, the Commission capped the towers at 80 percent of the proposed height until Solow provides affordable units, to ensure the developer includes such units in the early phases of development. The Commission also modified the plan to keep the public plaza open longer and doubled the size of the proposed playground. Lastly, the Commission reduced the number of public parking spaces at the 700 First Avenue site to 400 in order to address Board 6’s concerns over parking and its effect on traffic.

At the vote, the Commission approved the modified Solow plan in full, but Commissioners Angela Cavaluzzi and Karen A. Phillips approved only the affordable housing component of the plan and voted against the rest of it, citing their concerns over the proposed heights and densities of the Solow towers.

Chair Amanda Burden also announced modifications to Board 6’s plan, arguing that while the Commission agrees with many of the laudable goals proposed by the Board, the Commission believes they can be achieved through different measures and in a manner that stimulates innovative development. The Commission pointed out that Board 6’s plan called for shorter, squatter buildings, which increased the footprint of the development’s towers, thus decreasing the acreage of open space to just one acre. Board 6 currently has the least amount of open space per capita in Manhattan.

Both plans are now with the City Council for its review.

CPC: East River Realty Company and First Avenue Properties Development (C 070 531(A) ZSM – spec. perm., C 070 522 ZMM – map amend., C 070 523(A) ZSM – spec. perm., C 070 525 ZSM – spec. perm., N 070 527 ZCM – cert., C 070 529 ZMM – map amend., N 070 530(A) ZRM – text amend., C 070 533 ZSM – spec. perm., C 070 534 ZSM – spec. perm., N 070 546 ZCM – cert.) (Jan. 28 2008); Manhattan Community Board 6 197-a Plan (N 060 273 NPM) (Jan. 28, 2008). CITYADMIN

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