Sculpture for Living?

Sculptor Arman is partnering with real-estate developer Red Brick Canal to construct an 11-story, 25,053-square-foot residential building on his former outdoor studio at 482 Greenwich Street, on an irregular, triangular-shaped parcel of land.

The problem? As always, zoning laws. In this case, for the project to begin, the real-estate/art team needs variances to increase the floor-area ratio (for the geeks: from a 6.02 F.A.R. to 7.98); allow 100 percent lot coverage (only 80 percent is currently allowed); and increase the street-wall height on the lot’s Canal Street side.

The F.A.R. is a formula that computes the ratio of allowable indoor square footage to the building’s footprint square footage.

Deirdre Carson, the attorney representing Red Brick Canal, told The Real Estate: “We need to get that [7.98] F.A.R. to get a reasonable rate of return.”

That’s standard fare: to get a variance, developers have to show that the building would lose money if it weren’t built out a certain way. Ms. Carson said they had back-up: the financial study her clients commissioned relied on data from comparable buildings nearby, but ones that didn’t sit on Canal Street, as 46-48 Bond Street will. She said that such a busy street would affect a significantly lower rate of return than if the building sat on a less-busy side street.

But Community Board 2, having overseen a general down-zoning of the Hudson Square area just under two years ago (and on this block, a slight up-zoning), ain’t budging.

“Just about every variance [that developers] request is a hardship variance,” said the Board member we spoke with. “They should be able to comply with a 6.02 [F.A.R.].”

He said two other new buildings on Renwick and Hudson streets were built in compliance with the allowable F.A.R., so Red Brick Canal should have no problem complying too.

Riposted Ms. Carsen: “He disagrees without analysis; I can’t comment on what he thinks …. We would have to eliminate the most important variance request to appease the [community] board.”

The property is also on the site of a former gas station that doesn’t have a paper trail to confirm that the underground storage tanks were properly disposed of; Red Brick Canal must test the soil for contaminants, and if it tests positive, remove the tainted earth–a potentially costly procedure that might be mitigated by a increase in the F.A.R.

– Matthew Grace

Sculpture for Living?