The Real Deal New York

Howard Hughes eyes 600K sf of air rights at South Street Seaport

Developer’s plans for the New Market Building are unclear
By Kathryn Brenzel | April 25, 2018 06:30PM

The New Market Building, 1939 (Credit: NYC Design Commission)

The Howard Hughes Corporation is eyeing more than 600,000 square feet of air rights that could become available in the South Street Seaport. The question is: What will the company do with them?

In its latest annual review, the Dallas-based firm notes that some 212,000 square feet of air rights could be freed up from the New Market building, a now-vacant structure already pegged for demolition. Those rights could be combined with another 415,000 square feet of air rights from Pier 17 and the Tin Building, two of HHC’s redevelopment projects that are already well underway. HHC, according to the review, is working with the city to figure out what to do with the unused development rights.

For the last five years or so, the New Market site has been the target of much speculation and consternation.

Back in 2013, HHC pitched a 52-story building for the city-owned property, but subsequently shaved 10 stories off the condominium and hotel project amid fierce community opposition. By December 2015, HHC scrapped the project altogether. Since then, it’s been unclear what will become of the site.

A representative for the city’s Economic Development Corporation said there are no plans for the site as of right now. The city is planning to complete the demolition of the New Market building by this fall, as reported by The Real Deal earlier this year. A spokesperson for HHC would only say that the company doesn’t have any agreement with the city to transfer the air rights to the New Market site or any other location.

Still, the company’s annual review — filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday — states that if HHC exercises its “option” at the New Market site, the 212,000 square feet of air rights will become available. Any sort of development on the New Market site would need to go through the Uniform Land Use Review Process.

Meanwhile, there’s another mystery nearby. China Oceanwide Holdings is expected to build a tower as tall as 1,436 feet at 80 South Street — a property the company purchased, along with a neighboring site at 163 Front Street, from HHC for $390 million. The City Council approved the tranfer of 426,940 square feet of air rights to the site in February 2016, allowing for a tower that spans more one million square feet. No plans have been filed with the city’s Department of Buildings as of yet, but Curbed reported in May 2017 that the company filed demolition plans for both existing buildings.

HHC took control of the Seaport in 2010 through a long-term lease with the city. Pier 17, a 212,00-square-foot mixed-use building, is expected to open this summer. The company is dismantling and reconstructing the Tin Building, which will function largely as a food hall.