City Drops Curtain on Related: Wants New Theaters Small

Two years after the Related Companies was denied an attempt to bring the Cirque de Soleil to midtown, the Department of City Planning is seeking to change its regulations for development in part of the theater district. To discourage large theaters, like that planned by Related, the city on Monday put up for public approval a zoning change that would allow developers on West 42nd Street to build bigger only if they include a small theater.

Related, led by chairman Stephen Ross, sought a development bonus in 2006 for an 1,800-seat theater beneath a 60-story residential building at 42nd Street and 10th Avenue for the Cirque de Soleil. The plan caused community uproar, and, eventually, the Planning Department’s director, Amanda Burden, nixed the plan, saying that a giant Cirque theater did not fit the spirit of the existing zoning, intended for Off-Broadway shows.

Now, Ms. Burden seems to be eager to formalize that policy, as the new rules would only give a bonus to developers along 42nd who build theaters with 100 to 299 seats. The local community board pushed for the changes to the bonus, which can be rather generous, giving three developable square feet for every one foot of theater space.

A spokeswoman for the Department of City Planning, Rachaele Raynoff, said the new rules reflect what the city has been pushing for all along—the extension of the theater district to create a home for smaller shows.

“We were trying to encourage the replication of the small theaters that have been creeping along 42nd Street,” Ms. Raynoff said.

Related still holds the site, and this summer applied for building permits, which list a 56-story building that would hold 763 units.

A Related spokeswoman declined to comment.

The good news for Related? As the extension of the No. 7 subway line lacks funding for a planned stop on 10th Avenue and 41st Street, the city wants to tweak zoning regulations to allow Related to use for its own benefit space that will ultimately be a subway station—until the stop is built, that is.

Beyond the theater district, the Planning Department’s proposed zoning changes would alter and remove some development restrictions along the “Hudson Boulevard” parkland planned for east of the Javits Center, no longer requiring retail on the ground level of certain buildings, among other alterations. City Drops Curtain on Related: Wants New Theaters Small