Extell Development is in talks with discount bulk retailer Costco to occupy a large underground store as part of a new 3.3 million-square-foot development of mostly residential buildings on the Upper West Side.
Extell, led by Gary Barnett, is seeking to move forward on developing the last parcels of Riverside South, the 55-acre swath of Upper West Side land known as Trump City when Donald Trump first started planning the complex in the 1980s. The company’s plans for the final parcels between 59th and 61st streets would need approval of the City Council and City Planning Commission, as the firm is seeking to change the initial restrictions to allow for more density and different uses (the original development planned for a commercial tower for NBC at the site).
As a national big-box retailer with no stores in Manhattan, the prospect of a Costco at the development–which would take up about 150,000 square feet–seems prone to controversy, and indeed it was discussed at length at a meeting between Extell (and a string of consultants and lobbyists) and members of the local community board Wednesday night. Extell also wanted 2,300 parking spaces in the complex.
"The community will be greatly affected by a placement of a Costco," said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, who represents the area. "I’m afraid it’s going to bring a lot of increased vehicular traffic."
And while Ms. Rosenthal said she had yet to take a firm position on the prospect of a big-box retailer, another area elected official was more direct:
"I certainly do not support the Costco or anything like it," said Councilwoman Gale Brewer in a phone message.
A spokesman for Extell, George Arzt, said that the plan for the site was still "a work in progress. "We want to work with the community board and the neighborhood," he said.
The planned Christian de Portzamparc-designed development will likely heat up in coming months as Extell hopes to start early stages of the public review in the fall. For now, the developer has been meeting occasionally with a community board committee on the topic.
Though, at least for the meeting Wednesday, the community board–which holds public meetings, many of which are subject to the Open Meetings Law–did not announce the event on its Web site or to the public. This lack of a notice drew ire from the elected officials representing the area, who found out about the meeting at the last minute.
"Basically, I expect all the meetings the community board would hold to be on the Web site," Ms. Rosenthal said. "All of these kinds of bodies’ meetings are open to the public, so if the public doesn’t know abut them, they can’t attend."
Community Board 7 chairwoman Helen Rosenthal (no relation), who co-chairs the committee on Riverside South, said that the meetings now are generally aimed at informing members of the community board about the project before the public review begins in the fall.
"The purpose of the meeting was for the working group, that is just trying to understand what the issues are, to wrap our arms around that," she said. "We will be having public hearings about this in the fall, and we’re anxious to hear from the community as to what their feelings are."