Land Use Committee Approved Commercial Development to replace SoHo BP Gas Station [UPDATE: Full City Council Voted Unanimously to Approve]

Rendering of 300 Lafayette Street Development. Image Credit: COOKFOX Architects.

Rendering of 300 Lafayette Street Development. Image Credit: COOKFOX Architects.

New Land Use Committee unanimously approved a pre-considered application in its first meeting of the year. On January 30, 2014, the City Council Land Use Committee swiftly voted 20-0 to approve the development of a new seven-story commercial building in a lot currently occupied by a BP gas station in SoHo, Manhattan. The applicants, Paco Lafayette LLC, applied for a zoning text amendment and special permits to construct a new seven-story commercial building at 300 Lafayette Street, located at the southwest corner of Lafayette Street and East Houston Street. The proposed building would have approximately 60,000 sq. ft. of floor area. The ground floor, the second floor, and the cellar would contain Use Group 6 and/or Use Group 10A retail space. A portion of the second floor along with the third through seventh floors would be developed into commercial office space. Should the full Council approve the plan, the new development will not include any residential, Joint Living Work Quarters for Artist units or community facility space.

On January 28, 2014, the Land Use Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises voted 7-0 to approve the application. Marcello Porcelli, President of LargaVista Companies, the developer of 300 Lafayette, testified that his family has owned the gas station on the proposed site  since 1976. Porcelli stated that the proposal is “an absolutely beautiful building” that will “stand the test of time in this historic district.” He also expressed his pride in receiving “unanimous approval from the Landmarks Preservation commission in April of last year.” The Landmarks Preservation Commission enthusiastically approved the application on April 9, 2013.  (Read past CityLand coverage here).  During the Landmarks meeting, Commissioner Fred Bland stated that the presentation of proposed building’s “biophilic design” was “the most erudite and captivating” presentation he witnessed in his four years on the Commission.

Peter Davis of the Broadway Resident’s Coalition, a group of longtime owners and occupants of SoHo, spoke in support of the project. He commended the design from COOKFOX Architects, as “sensibly respond[ing] to the existing buildings in the immediate area.” He also expressed support for “the way this project deals with the chaos that’s at the intersection now.” Davis highlighted that “the overall design is sensitive to the surrounding buildings, the addition of greenery, both at street level and on the building terraces will be welcome and beneficial, the mega signage and billboards now on the site will be eliminated, the development will detain the current chaos at the street level.”

The vote on January 30th represented a new era for how Land Use Committee matters would be handled. The new Land Use Chair Council Member David G. Greenfield stated that all committee meetings would start on time “out of respect for all your schedules” and that the committee “will not be scheduling other meetings in order to conduct the Committee’s business.”

Council Member Greenfield introduced a schedule of meetings through August 2014, which he hoped will allow the Committee members “to plan more effectively since the Land Use meetings are frequent.” Council Member Greenfield stated that the “constant addition of meetings led to delays in the Stated Meetings, confusion to the public, and quite frankly scheduling nightmares for the members.” He continued, “by sticking to the schedule, we will ensure that this committee will no longer cause stated meetings to start late, … the public and press will be fully aware of what we’re doing and when we are doing it…[a]nd finally, it will prevent the challenges of last minute meetings that throw member’s schedules out of whack.”

It is likely that the full City Council will vote on the 300 Lafayette application at the next Stated meeting on February 4, 2014.

Update: 2/6/2014: On February 4, 2014, the full City Council unanimously voted 51-0 to approve the application to develop a seven-story commercial building on 300 Lafayette Street in SoHo, Manhattan. Land Use Committee Chair, Council Member David G. Greenfield, congratulated Council Member Margaret Chin on “the major zoning change in her district,” which is “a project that she and the community have been working on for the last four years.”

City Council: 300 Lafayette Street (C 140093 ZSM – Special Permit) (C140095 ZSM – Special Permit); (C 140096 ZSM – Special Permit)(February 4, 2014).

By: Jennifer Baek (Jennifer is a City Law Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2013).

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