Howard Hughes’ Seaport project dealt major blow

Landmarks Preservation Commission calls proposed towers at 250 Water Street too tall

New York /
Jan.January 14, 2021 09:15 AM

A rendering of 250 Water Street and Howard Hughes Corporation CEO David O'Reilly (SOM; Getty; iStock)

A rendering of 250 Water Street and Howard Hughes Corporation CEO David O’Reilly (SOM; Getty; iStock)


It’s back to the drawing board — or perhaps the garbage bin — for proposed towers at 250 Water Street.

Over the years the Howard Hughes Corporation has faced extensive community pushback for its plans to build two mixed-use towers at the site. And this week, the Landmarks Preservation Commission — dismissing pleas from a slew of influential New Yorkers at a Jan. 5 hearing — said the project was simply too tall.

According to the Tribeca Trib, the commission told the Texas-based developer at a meeting Tuesday that the towers would “invade the district’s sky space.”

The panel took no official action, but made clear it would not approve the project. The setback means Howard Hughes will have to revisit plans for the site with architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

“We appreciate the LPC’s thoughtful feedback and look forward to returning soon to the commission,” a spokesperson for the developer told the newspaper in a statement.

Some have speculated that redevelopment of the giant parking lot would not be economically viable if limited to the historic district’s typical scale of five stories. A low-scale project would certainly not generate enough profit to endow the historic district’s long-struggling South Street Seaport Museum with $50 million, as Howard Hughes’ 40-story towers promised to do.

Howard Hughes bought the site for $180 million in 2018 from the Milstein family. Its current plan, scaled back from an earlier proposal, includes two 470-foot towers with 260 condo units and 100 affordable rental units.

At that height, the towers would be well over the existing 120-foot zoning height limit in the area, the local paper noted. Beyond approval from Landmarks, the developer needs a zoning modification from the City Council; it has support for that lined up from the local member, Margaret Chin.

Critics of the proposal argue that Landmarks can only consider its architecture and scale, not the $50 million that Howard Hughes said the project would allow it to contribute to the Seaport Museum.

The commission’s chair, Sarah Carroll, agreed, saying at Tuesday’s meeting that the benefits for the museum, “while laudable, are not factors that we can consider or rely on in determining whether the proposed designs for the 250 Water Street site” are appropriate.

Commissioners were unswayed by arguments that the site has been undeveloped for decades, has no historic significance, and is at the edge of the historic district with much taller buildings immediately behind it.

[Tribeca Trib] — Sylvia Varnham O’Regan





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