Encore! Related Tries Again for Theater Bonus

Stephen Ross apparently is rather intent on getting a development bonus for a new far West Side tower.

Mr. Ross, chairman of development giant the Related Companies, is seeking, once again, to fill the base of a planned 58-story, 1.2 million-square-foot hotel and residential building on 42nd Street and 10th Avenue with a theater, thereby taking advantage of a zoning code bonus that allows for a bigger tower overhead.

Related, which met opposition in 2005 when it tried to bring Cirque du Soleil to the tower, is now in advanced talks with the Signature Theater Company to be the main theatrical tenant in the tower, according to people familiar with discussions.

While the theater has not yet agreed to take space in the building, according to those people, Signature has been searching for a new home since last year, when cost concerns led to its leaving the planned Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center. The city has $9.5 million in its budget over the next two years to assist Signature with fit-out expenses of a new theater space, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Cultural Affairs.

Should Related secure Signature as its main tenant and work out zoning issues with the city, it would represent the end of a colorful saga at the site, all relating to a development bonus installed to encourage a thriving theater district along 42nd Street by 10th Avenue. Created in 2005, the bonus allows landowners to add density to new developments if they include a legitimate theatrical use.

Related initially sought to bring a classical music center to the site, but then switched to an attempt to create a 1,800-seat home for Cirque du Soleil. The community cried foul, saying the acrobatic show did not fit the bonus’ small-theater intent, and the city in 2006 ruled against awarding the bonus.

Earlier this year, the city began a public review process to modify the zoning bonus for the area so that it applied only to theaters of up to 299 seats. But as talks go on between Related and Signature, the city recently delayed approval of the modification as it negotiates with Related over specifics, according to people familiar with discussions.

City Planning spokeswoman Rachaele Raynoff said via e-mail that based on concerns raised during the approval process, the department “decided that the portion of the proposed Hudson Yards text amendment dealing with the theater bonus merits further study and review.”

Should the Signature deal mature, Related seems poised to receive community support for its plan, thereby making its approval far more likely. (The bonus must be approved by the City Planning Commission and the City Council.)

“If Signature Theater, which is a very good group, got that spot, it would be terrific,” said Marisa Redanty, an actor who lives across the street and opposed the project when Cirque du Soleil was the proposed tenant.

Representatives for Signature and Related declined to comment.

ebrown@observer.com

Encore! Related Tries Again for Theater Bonus