Council approves changes to Clinton theater bonus

Amendments to Special Clinton District refine theater bonus zoning text. In 2005, the City Council approved several applications submitted by the Department of City Planning intended to revitalize the Far West Side of Manhattan. Among the approved actions was the establishment of the Special Hudson Yards District and the creation of a floor area bonus for theater use applicable to “Theater Row” in the Special Clinton District. 2 CityLand 4 (Feb. 15, 2005). In November 2007, City Planning submitted an application containing text changes to the Special Hudson Yards District that also included modifications to the theater bonus in the Special Clinton District. In response to concerns raised during the public review process, the proposed theater bonus amendments were separated from the application and were set aside for further review. In October 2008, City Planning filed a new application that included the previously proposed theater bonus amendments as well as several new amendments also relating to the theater bonus.

The theater bonus applies to a one and a half block area bounded by West 42nd Street, West 41st Street, Dyer Avenue, and Eleventh Avenue. The original theater bonus text explained that residential developments that included floor area for “legitimate” theater space could utilize the theater bonus to add 3.0 FAR to the maximum base 10.0 FAR found in the C6-4 district. City Planning’s amendments clarify that for every three square feet of theater bonus floor area, one square foot of such area must be used for new performance space. The amendments also expand the types of theater (non-profit performing arts) and uses (rehearsal space) that may generate the bonus.

City Planning’s text changes also create a new role for the Commissioner of the NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs. Before a developer can qualify for the theater bonus, the DCA Commissioner would have to supply a letter to the Chair of the City Planning Commission opining on the sufficiency of the performance space and its operator.

In addition, under the prior text, a development could not receive a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy until the theater space was substantially complete or “usable by the public.” The amendments create an alternative method to obtain a TCO while ensuring the completion and quality of the theater space; a TCO may be issued if the DCA Commissioner certifies that the “core and shell” of the performance space has been completed in accordance with a core and shell agreement already accepted by the DCA Commissioner and that ownership of the performance space has been transferred to the prospective operator.

The City Planning Commission, after reviewing comments from Manhattan Community Board 4 and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, modified the proposed amendments. The changes include requiring the core and shell agreement to include details describing the structural and mechanical systems of the proposed theater space. Also, the Commission granted CB4, the local Council Member, and the Borough President 45 days to review theater bonus applications prior to Chairperson certification.

Council approved the text amendments without modification on January 28, 2009.

Council: Special Clinton District Theater Bonus Zoning Text (Jan. 28, 2009).

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