A development gravy train? Bronx rail yards could yield 2M sf of dev rights, study claims

Borough president’s office says decking Concourse Yards would cost $350-$500M

TRD New York /
Feb.February 03, 2016 07:30 AM

Constructing a deck over an open-air subway depot in northwest Bronx a la Hudson Yards and Manhattan West could unlock some 2 million square feet of development rights, according to a new report by the borough president’s office.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Concourse Yards could be decked over at a cost of somewhere between $350 million and $500 million, claims Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

“This is a real opportunity to not only provide much-needed homeownership, mixed-income housing and retail space, but to allow Lehman College to expand by better connecting it to the Bedford Park neighborhood and making it a true community campus,” the report stated.

The 19-acre Concourse Yards, which sit adjacent to Lehman College on the 4 Train line, could yield roughly 2 million square feet of development rights without a significant rezoning, the report said.

The Bronx is one of the buzzed-about boroughs among investors and developers who pumped $1.2 billion worth of investment into the borough in 2014, an increase of 26 percent over the previous year. New developments like the controversial Somerset Partners and Chetrit Group’s Mott Haven “Piano District” project have created both excitement and consternation, though local politicians continue to dream on a borough that’s largely been forgotten by ambitious development.

“Smart planning for the future requires us to consider all options, including real estate that does not yet exist.,” Diaz Jr. said in prepared remarks.

In his 2015 State of the Borough address, Diaz, Jr. announced he would initiate a study to test the feasibility of decking three rail yards in the borough. The report concluded, however, that the two other sites – one at East 149th Street and the Grand Concourse and the other at Broadway and 240th Street – were less favorable due to various logistical problems.

This is not the first time there’s been a proposal to deck over the Concourse Yards. Back in the 1960s there was a plan on the table to construct a new campus for Bronx Community College at the site. The college actually broke ground on the project in the 1970, but it fell victim to the city’s fiscal crisis.

Throughout the city, there are approximately 1,000 acres of below-grade roads and rail corridors that could potentially be bridged over for development, according to a City Planning study published back in 2008.

The most notable examples are the Related Companies’ Hudson Yards and Brookfield Property Partners’ Manhattan West on the Far West Side, where the decks reportedly cost $800 million and $600 million, respectively.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation is currently assessing the feasibility of decking over the Sunnyside Yards in Queens, where previous studies have suggested 11,250 housing units could be constructed. Early indications are a deck over the Sunnyside rail yards would face numerous obstacles, from high costs, to a skeptical public, to potential bureaucratic squabbles.

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