Howard Hughes Corp. project at South Street Seaport may include hotel, market-rate apartments

April 01, 2013 02:00PM

Updated, 4:55 p.m., Apr. 1: The Howard Hughes Corporation may build a hotel, retail space and market-rate residential apartments at the South Street Seaport, a letter of intent seen by Downtown Express reveals, ending months of speculation about the developer’s plans for the megaproject. 

A letter of intent between the two parties had previously been released in December 2011, but specifics of the mixed-use project had been blacked out. Now, the uncensored version of the letter reveals plans for a 95,000-square-foot hotel, 280,000-square feet of market-rate residential apartments, and roughly 82,000 square feet of retail space. The letter did not specify where the buildings would be located, but the scale of the project indicates that at least some of them would have to be in the newly rezoned waterfront area. The New Market Building, which lies outside the confines of the South Street Seaport historic district, is a likely location for the project.

In addition, the letter of intent outlines about 60,000 square feet of parking plus roughly 100,000 square feet for reconstruction of the Tin Building.

The details have incensed some community members, who allege that Howard Hughes Corporation willfully ignored requests for details about the project. “We’ve been asking [Howard Hughes] for a master plan for the site all along. They have obviously not been telling us the truth when they said they didn’t have one,” John Fratta, chairperson of Community Board 1’s Seaport Committee, told Downtown Express upon hearing of the new information.

On March 29, City Council member Margaret Chin’s press secretary Kelly Magee denied that the letter contained any specifics. “There is absolutely nothing in the [Letter of Intent] that describes H.H.C.’s development plans,” she wrote to Downtown Express in an email.

A day later, in response to Downtown Express’ article, Chin said that, “like the community board, my office has also asked Howard Hughes to make their development plans public. I understand the frustration people feel, but the Letter of Intent (LOI) is not a master plan for the Seaport. The LOI does not contain any specific development proposals, and furthermore, it is not accurate to use the numbers quoted in the LOI to predict what future development could entail. The city has final say and approval on development at the Seaport.”

Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, told Downtown Express that the EDC could veto a proposal from Howard Hughes Corporation, depending on the specifics of the project. Moreover, any proposal would have to go through a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP, an EDC spokesman told The Real Deal.

A spokesman for Howard Hughes Corporation declined to comment to Downtown Express on where the intended developments would be located. [Downtown Express]  —Hiten Samtani