23 February 2007

Rouse Icon Possibly Slated for Demolition

News from New York City indicates that the Rouse Company developed South Street Seaport may be razed to build a mixed use tower, a ferry landing, and open space development. The most extensive report comes from Michael Clancy at AMNY:

South Street Seaport's Pier 17 will most likely be razed to make way for a mixed-use retail, residential and open space development, a spokeswoman for the property's leaseholder said Thursday.

Asked how high a new structure might go, Fein, of the public relations firm Rubenstein Associates, said: "The lower you go, the less open space there is -- but nothing has been decided.""There is also the recognition that it is not just a land-bound place," she said. "We want to make it 360 [degrees], so that it can be reached by the ferry as well."But according to one person familiar with the developer's initial plan, General Growth is considering a tall iconic building for the site, and would also build a ferry landing and relocate the landmark "Tin Building" of the former Fulton
Fish Market. The rest of the pier would be left as open space.

Preliminary concepts for the pier and the former fish market will be discussed publicly for the first time on Monday, when General Growth, which acquired the East River site in 2004, meets with Community Board 1 to get feedback on its nascent
In the past, Community Board 1 (aka CB1) has come out in opposition to plans at the Pier 17 site. As related from the Curbed NYC blog via the Planetizen website (note pictures on this blog are of previous designs for Pier 17):
A tipster with a history on Pier 17 reminds us that mall giant General Growth Properties is not the first to propose an overhaul of the tourist mecca. And his experience tells him that a "tall iconic building" isn't passing muster with the local community board. He writes, "3 years ago Related Companies had made a deal to purchase Pier 17 from Rouse, the former owner. We did extensive plans (see above) to level the entire site and knit the pier back into the urban fabric, adding a market building, a beautiful icon 1800 seat public theater situated at the end of the pier, new public parks networked through the entire site, street level-only retail and a W hotel with conference center. This was the killer; CB 1 destroyed the deal, the project etc.

"Although we had an very slender 12 story tower which was within the zoning envelope, CB 1 came out in full force to protest and the project died then a month later GGP purchased Rouse. I am bitter this is the second project I've had that CB 1 killed. There is no way in hell GGP gets a tower. It is only actually structurally feasible on the northern most portion of the site which will block the view of the 3000 people in that god awful tower."

It appears that General Growth has learned from this past history, the AMNY article goes on to say:

On Monday, the company will reveal some basic mapping for the site to begin a dialogue about the project, which does not have a timetable, Fein said."The ideas are for a mixed-use place that will provide services to the residential community, to the business community, to New Yorkers as a whole, and to visitors to the city -- in that order, whereas the plan by \[prior owners\] went in the reverse order," said Fein.It's too soon to say what kind of zoning approval, if any, General Growth would need to build, because the site lies within a number of special zoning, national, local, historic and landmark districts, said Jennifer Torres, a spokeswoman for the Department of City Planning.
AMNY also talked with supporters of the project:

Waterfront advocates said General Growth should be given a fair chance to articulate a vision for reviving the site.

"We look at the Seaport as emblematic of every waterfront neighborhood today -- caught in the middle of looking back at the past and looking forward to the future," said Carter Craft, director of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. "The synergy between commerce and maritime history has always been the vision but it has just eluded everybody thus far."

Most waterfront advocates would not shed any tears over the loss of the Pier 17 mall, a mix of chain stores, restaurants and specialty shops completed in 1983.

The mall obstructs the view of the Brooklyn Bridge and is a cumbersome structure, said Lee Gruzen, of SeaportSpeaks, a group of local stakeholders.

Thus far, she said, General Growth has done a great job of working with the community.

"The future of the Seaport is grounded in bringing its maritime history to life in a way that benefits those who work, live and visit there," Gruzen said.

Festival Marketplace Problems not Limited to NYC

Meanwhile, Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace is experiencing its own woes. Boston Globe reporter Maria Cramer wrote in a February 19, 2007 article :

Last spring, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, worried that Faneuil Hall Marketplace was welcoming national chains and repelling local merchants, decried the shopping center's high rents, vowed to put pressure on the management company, and ordered an audit into its lease agreement with the city.

General Growth Properties quickly agreed to start meeting regularly with Marketplace merchants and city officials to discuss compromises. The city scrapped plans for the audit.

But soon after, the company started canceling meetings, according to merchants. Rent and other costs for retailers have not been discussed and the parties have not met for about three months.

Meanwhile, merchants say, rents continue to cripple vendors, particularly pushcart owners, who have been hawking jewelry, sweaters, and painted scarves since the 1970s in Faneuil Hall's Quincy Market but are slowly being squeezed out. Last week, nine of 34 pushcarts in Quincy Market were empty, except for little placards that advertised local shops and the national chain stores that have cropped up in Faneuil Hall in recent years.

"This is the first year I've ever seen that . . . It's a ghost town," said Linda DeMarco , a pushcart vendor and a member of the advisory committee of merchants and city officials and representatives of management that formed after Menino issued a letter in June to General Growth threatening the audit. "We need results," DeMarco said. "Nine empty carts is not results."

General Growth was quoted in the article as follows:

Michael Kelleher , who manages the Marketplace for General Growth, said many of
the cart owners left their pushcarts empty for the winter season and plan to return next month. Half of the 40 pushcart vendors who traditionally sell in the summertime are returning for the season, he said.

"No one has told me that no one is coming back," he said. Kelleher said the management company asked to postpone one meeting around August so a General Growth executive could attend. A spokeswoman for Menino said he would not comment for this story.

"We are sensitive to the level of business, and to that end we speak often with
the merchants," he said. "My door is always open." He said that 88 percent of
the pushcart vendors are local merchants who on average stay in the marketplace
for 11 1/2 years. "I'm proud of that," he said.

My Comment:

In Columbia, the name Jim Rouse is probably spoken, typed, emailed, list-served, blogged, and read scores of times each day. Let’s face it, we are all admirers of the man and his works. So where do we stand with regard to the degradation (and possible elimination) of our far-off Rousian retail cousins? Personally, I am unsure. If one of the previously owned Rouse malls were to shut down, I would probably shrug and not think much of it. But the end of a Festival Marketplace seems different. The pain is a little deeper than I expected. Perhaps its some misplaced and misunderstood feeling that, as a preteen, I connected the marketplace as a little bit of Columbia being brought back to the big city.

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