Extell Scales Back Riverside South Plan

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Extell Development Co., the group behind the Riverside South megaproject, followed through with plans to scale back the commercial and residential complex.

The developer has tinkered with the plan for more than a year since the public first saw renderings of the proposal in 2008.

The latest rendition of the five-building, mixed-use project was shown at a March 17 meeting of Community Board 7’s Riverside South Working Group.

In Extell’s new plan, 1.8 million square feet of commercial space was replaced with 2,500 apartments, totaling 2.4 million square feet of residential space. Twelve percent of that is planned for affordable housing.

The overall size of the project, which spans from West 59th to 61st streets between West End Avenue and Riverside Boulevard, was trimmed by 5 percent, to 3 million square feet. Two western buildings in the proposal were also scaled down by approximately 130 feet each, and parking spots were reduced to 1,800 from 2,300.

A rendering of the proposed Riverside South development.

Extell announced that a hotel planned for the development, which has been a key part of the proposal from the outset, will have 250 rooms. The developer also committed to provide funding for a K-8 school to accommodate the influx of residents.

Some components of the plan remain unchanged, however, including a street-level auto showroom, underground car service center and movie theater.

As is expected with any large-scale development, Upper West Side residents near Riverside South have complained about the project’s density and size.

“I’m hoping that they’re seeing we’re responsive to some of their demands and requests,” said Extell’s project manager, Donna Gargano, of the community. “I believe this community still is voicing certain concerns and they will be discussed as we go through the [Uniform Land Use Review Procedure].”

During this city approval procedure, the Riverside South plan is likely to change again. The final approval must come from the City Council, which hinges on Council Member Gale Brewer’s support, as is customary in local land use issues.

The proposal is already larger than was outlined by the guidelines that Riverside South agreed to—known as the “restrictive declaration”—after the 1992 rezoning of the area, which transformed the property from a manufacturing site to a residential and commercial area.

“There are still unanswered questions, but it’s a good start,” Brewer said of the newest Riverside South proposal.

Brewer said that height and density are still concerns, considering the restrictive declaration allowed for only a 2.7-million-square-foot development when real estate mogul Donald Trump wanted to develop the land.

“It needs to go down,” Brewer said.

Meanwhile, Metro North is searching for a new site to build an Upper West Side train station. The agency was eying Riverside South, but the tracks would have to curve.

“It’s not possible to build a station [at Riverside South]. You have to have straight tracks. Otherwise you’ll have gaps where people can fall in,” explained Marjorie Anders, a spokesperson for Metro North.

Anders said Metro North is still committed to an Upper West Side train stop, but options north and south of Riverside South come with problems. There are building foundations abutting the tracks up to West 71st Street that leave little clearance for a train. There are also curved tracks on West 50th and 51st streets. But anything south of West 50th Street would be too close to Penn Station.

“It’s tough to find a good spot,” Anders said.

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