Riverside South: Shift from Commercial to Residential Space

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A proposal by Riverside South developer Extell Development Co. to increase square footage on the south end of the site came under fire during a Jan. 13 Community Board 7 meeting.

According to a statement released by the board’s Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, the proposed changes to the original 1992 agreement are substantive. In the original agreement, the area between West 59th and 61st streets was limited to 2.4 million square feet of developed space and 570 residential units; the developer is now proposing to increase the square footage to 3.1 million square feet and add almost five times the number of apartments: 2,750 units.

The residential buildings are also expected to be shorter than previously envisioned; to avoid the smoke emitted by the Con Ed plume at West 59th Street, the residential towers will be reduced to 640 feet and 400 feet.

The proposed development for Riverside South now includes more apartments, but reduces studio and office floor area. Photo by Andrew Schwartz

The development stretches from West 59th to 61st streets between West End Avenue and Riverside Boulevard.

Because the project is still in the pre-certification stage, the board decided to concentrate on what it deemed “core design elements.”

“Some of the issues of access, density and open space are what we want to focus on first,” said Mel Wymore, chair of Board 7.

In an email, Extell spokesperson George Arzt explained that the 1.8 million square feet of studio and office floor area has been replaced with 2.4 million square feet of residential space.

“In light of the 570 units already planned, the 2,500 apartments represent a reasonable increase,” Arzt wrote.

The proposed recreational spaces include a 21.5-acre waterfront park currently under construction, an open space between West 59th and 61st streets, and an enclosed rooftop space for a new public school, which will be built to accommodate the influx of families to the neighborhood.

“Extell is in discussion with the
Department of Education,” Wymore said. “It is very clearly a priority.”

While both the developer and community board agree on the need for a school, there is less certainty about whether the school’s recreational space will be open to the public, how traffic and parking issues will be addressed and how many guests the proposed hotel will accommodate.

Brenda Levin, an outreach consultant for the developer, described the proposed modifications as tentative.

“It is still in a design state,” said Levin, of the proposed changes in scope and land use that the project has undergone since the 1992 agreement. “I hope you understand that it is not inaccurate, but evolutionary.”

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