Housing project will have cinema and retail space

249-unit,mixed-use project will have multi-colored, patterned facade. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development sought approval for a 15-lot disposition in Central Harlem for construction of the Kalahari, a two-building, 249-unit affordable housing project with ground floor retail, restaurant, theater, and community group space. The 54,184-square-foot site, fronting West 115th and 116th Streets, was originally proposed for development in 2003, but HPD withdrew the application several days before the Council’s vote due to concerns raised over the developer.

HPD’s new application proposed two 12-story buildings, totaling 352,036 sq.ft., with 249 units and 46,500 sq.ft. of commercial space to enhance street-level activity. A 600- seat community cinema and performance art space would be located along West 116th Street. Street- Squash, a West Harlem group providing after-school sports programs to Harlem youth, would operate an 18,046-square-foot squash center within the development. Street- Squash, established in 1999, currently operates through the donation of court time at the Harvard Club and Columbia University.

The development was designed by architect Jack Travis to have a multi-colored patterned facade on West 115th and West 116th Streets. At the Commission’s March 2, 2005 public hearing, Travis stated that it was important to have a built environment in Harlem that reflects the contribution of African American culture to the city. The facade, Travis explained, was inspired by patterns on dwellings of Kalahari Desert tribes and by symbols woven into cloth by the tribes of Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

Noting that the project’s aesthetic design provided a progressive approach to affordable housing construction, the Commission approved on March 16, 2005 with Commissioners Richard W. Eaddy and Dolly Williams recusing themselves. The Commission, reflecting the Community Board’s concerns over construction jobs and project marketing, urged the developer to work with residents and Community Board 10 as the development progressed.

ULURP Process: HPD, as lead agency, issued a negative declaration on January 3, 2003. Community Board 10 did not submit a response to the Commission. Borough President C. Virginia Fields recommended approval.

Council’s Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions approved on May 3, 2005 and sent it to the full Land Use Committee, which approved on May 5th. The full Council is scheduled to vote on the Kalahari on May 11, 2005.

CPC: The Kalahari (C 050164 HAM – UDAAP/disposition of City-owned property) (March 16, 2005). CITYADMIN

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