City starts process to seize East Harlem Urban Renewal Area

But officials at EDC optimistic they can reach a deal with remaining tenants

Rendering of the East Harlem Media, Entertainment and Culture Center
Rendering of the East Harlem Media, Entertainment and Culture Center

The city has commenced eminent domain proceedings with the ultimate goal of building a $700 million East Harlem Media, Entertainment and Cultural Center.

The city’s Planning Commission in 2008 approved the acquisition of property on which the 1.7 million-square-foot project would rise. Upon completion, the center was originally imagined to include affordable housing, retail and cultural space. But the developers have since run into problems.

General Growth, one of the project’s developers, went bankrupt, and Archstone was acquired by Equity and Avalon Bay in late 2012. Meanwhile, property taxes skyrocketed during the delay, and a blight designation — in place since the spot was classified as an Urban Renewal Area in 1968 — thwarted property owners’ ability to sell.

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Feb. 16 would have marked the city’s deadline for using eminent domain in the area. But officials at the Economic Development Corporation launched the process Feb. 12, saying the tool would be used “only as a last resort.” The EDC hopes instead to negotiate sales agreements with property owners, a spokesperson told DNAinfo.

“We have already begun the negotiation process with the remaining tenants, and would vastly prefer to reach a deal with them,” an EDC spokesman told the news site. [DNAinfo]Julie Strickland