125th St. development wants to break proposed height limit

By David Jones | January 30, 2008 04:47PM

The developers of the long-awaited Harlem Park office complex urged the City Planning Commission to reconsider a controversial height requirement under the proposed rezoning of 125th Street today, warning the new development could be derailed without such an exemption.
A joint venture led by Vornado Realty Trust said it is close to signing leases with a major sports TV network and a major urban radio company, and said any revision in building design might lead the potential tenants to pull out of the project. The proposed rezoning would limit buildings to 290 feet on the north side of 125th Street. However the proposed building would require about 305 feet, plus at least 40 additional feet for satellite equipment and antennas.
“We have firm deadlines with both of those tenants by which they have to be on location,” said Derek Johnson, principal at Integrated Holdings, which is part of the joint venture with Vornado and San Francisco-based MacFarlane Partners.
Johnson, in an interview with The Real Deal, said the anchor is a major sports network, (but not ESPN), and that the second major tenant is a big urban radio company. The two tenants would take up more than one-third of the Park Avenue and 125th Street complex, which will include 540,000 square feet of commercial space and 50,000 square feet of retail. The retail space will likely include at least one restaurant.

Johnson said that the venture planned to break ground in April, with the lead tenants moving in by the fourth quarter of 2009. The remaining tenants would be able to move in by the first quarter of 2010. He would not disclose who was financing the project, but confirmed that it was a U.S.-based lender.
The venture would be the first major office building on 125th Street in more than 40 years. Johnson would not disclose terms of the lease agreements, but said they would be substantially below asking rents for comparable Midtown buildings.
Breaking the 290-foot height limit could be difficult. Harlem leaders, including Franc Perry, chairman of Community Board 10, say they don’t want any buildings higher than the Theresa Towers, a legendary hotel that is 160 feet high.
A spokeswoman for Amanda Burden, director of the city’s Department of City Planning and chair of the City Planning Commission, said she had no comment.