Condos on Far West Side
Await Stadium Boom
Pitcairn Properties, the Jenkintown, Penn.–based developer, has plans to build a pair of seven-story residential condos totaling 20,000 square feet at 505-513 West 47th Street, on the corner of 11th Avenue.
But before they can break ground on the project, the company has to get approval from the city to build a permanent platform over the 11th Avenue railroad rights-of-way, commonly known as “rail cuts.” As part of the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) to get the right to build over the rail cuts, Pitcairn submitted its request to Community Board 4, which oversees the Clinton district. At its Feb. 4 meeting, the board voted to approve the developer’s request.
“The rail cut has been a place where garbage and corpses have been thrown in,” said board member Adam Honigman at the meeting. “Covering up the cuts is a positive health-and-safety-issue.” With the board’s blessing, Pitcairn will now take its request to Borough President C. Virginia Fields.
Despite the community support, the new development faces other, less bureaucratic, hurdles. The far West Side of Hell’s Kitchen is a remote and underdeveloped swath of Manhattan, not easily accessible by subway and lacking in commercial development. For this reason, it remains to be seen how well a new market-rate complex will fare there.
“Once you cross 10th Avenue, you’re sort of in no man’s land,” said Jason Karadus, vice president of the Corcoran Group and a longtime Clinton resident. “But there’s a lot of potential over there for redevelopment and new construction.”
In fact, Pitcairn could be the first of a wave of developers capitalizing on bold plans for the far West Side-much as developers grabbed waterfront lots in remote parts of Long Island City and Greenpoint when plans for massive redevelopment of the Queens and Brooklyn waterfronts became a part of the city’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games.
The city is planning a $5 billion Hudson Yards redevelopment project that would also serve as the nerve center of the city’s Olympics operation. Plans include bringing the neighborhood a little closer by expanding the No. 7 subway line. All of this could mean the Pitcairn project and the neighborhood surrounding it-just five blocks north of the planned stadium-could reap some of the benefits of the Bloomberg administration’s attentions to the far West Side.
“If they do manage to get this stadium built,” said Mr. Karadus, “you’re going to see a lot of conversion projects there.”
Pitcairn hopes to break ground later this year, and has already employed H. Thomas O’Hara Architects, the firm that renovated the Park Central Hotel on Seventh Avenue, to design the 113-unit, 66-foot-high residential buildings. An on-site gym, a 6,000-square-foot courtyard linking the two buildings, and an elegant lobby are also elements in Pitcairn’s plan, which seeks to integrate the condo complex into the overall aesthetic of the historic district.
“Everyone’s been very supportive,” said Julie Greenberg, a Pitcairn spokeswoman.
Those measures have appeased some community concerns, but not all.
“On one hand, the buildings are in the scale of the neighborhood, and that’s fine,” said John Fisher of the Clinton Special District Coalition. “But on the other hand, it’s not affordable housing. Every time we get more market-rate apartments, it underscores the fabric of the neighborhood. It changes the demographics.”
The Department of City Planning, which oversees the ULURP process, looks favorably upon the neighborhood’s development.
“These developments in Clinton are an opportunity to knit this neighborhood back together again,” said Erik Botsford, an urban designer at D.C.P. “You have the ability to connect the eastern part of the neighborhood with the western part.”
Pitcairn is the second project to build over the rail cuts in the Clinton Special District. The first was the Clinton Mews, a pair of residential buildings at 511 West 46th Street and 516 West 47th Street, which received approval from the D.C.P. in 2002 and is currently under construction. The D.C.P.’s main concern with a project like Pitcairn’s is that the building doesn’t effect the transportation use of the rails underneath the platform.
In the long run, as with any real-estate development, it all comes down to execution. “The economy could go into a tailspin, and the fact that it’s not an established neighborhood is a risk,” said Mr. Karadus. “It’s a dice roll.”
But like all gambles, it attracts a lot of hopefuls. “I think it’s the next big area,” Mr. Karadus added. “It’s potentially the next Tribeca.”
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