Variance granted in SoHo

Applicant claimed that a conforming commercial office building would not yield a reasonable return. DJL Family Limited Partnership applied to BSA for a variance to construct a new seven-story building with 12 apartments and ground floor retail on Spring Street between Crosby Street and Lafayette Street in SoHo, Manhattan. DJL sought a variance because the proposed residential and retail uses were not permitted within the M1-5B district. If granted the variance, DJL planned to demolish the existing one-story commercial building on its 4,766 sq.ft. lot in order to facilitate construction.

DJL claimed that the lot size was too small to construct a conforming commercial office building that would generate a reasonable return. DJL could construct 3,625 sq.ft. floor plates, but would be compelled to devote an average of 630 sq.ft. per floor to stairways, elevators, and bathrooms, resulting in a 17 percent loss of the rentable area per floor. DJL added that a 7,250 sq.ft. commercial building would also need 630 sq.ft. per floor for its building core, but would only lose nine percent of rentable area per floor.

Local residents opposed the application, claiming that DJL had failed to prove the site’s physical conditions were unique and to explore all financially feasible conforming uses.

BSA granted the variance, finding that a conforming office building would not result in a reasonable return. Though DJL’s uniqueness study uncovered 22 similar sites (lots with less than 5,000 sq.ft., either vacant or occupied by a one-story building) within the study area, BSA ruled that 22 similar sites out of approximately 400 did not defeat a finding of uniqueness. BSA also determined that DJL was not required to explore all feasible conforming uses, especially when certain uses were unlikely to provide a reasonable return given the property’s physical characteristics.

BSA: 68-70 Spring St. (159-08-BZ) (Feb.10, 2009). CITYADMIN

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