Howard Hughes’ “secret” hotel plans cause flare up over Seaport project

Developer says there are no plans for New Market Building

<em>From left: Rendering of Tin House and Pier 17 (inset: Dave Weinreb)</em>
From left: Rendering of Tin House and Pier 17 (inset: Dave Weinreb)

The Former Fulton Street Fish Market is a graveyard of development plans.

Over the last three years, developer Howard Hughes Corp. has planned a 52 condo story tower, a shorter residential tower, and — as revealed this week — a 10-story, 185-key hotel spanning 170,000 square feet alongside 60,000 square feet for retail, restaurants and events. But all the proposals have been unceremoniously ditched, leaving the site’s future ambiguous.

Documents filed with the city Economic Development Corporation in August show that Howard Hughes planned a 160-foot, 10-story hotel on the property, known as the New Market Building.

The developer said in December that some kind of Commercial Building Would Take The Place of the much-maligned condo tower previously been planned for the property, but wouldn’t provide additional details. News of the hotel plan came out at a Community Board 1 meeting on Tuesday night, said Catherine Hughes, community board chair (no relation to the developer).

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

But a representative for Howard Hughes told The Real Deal that the plans filed with the EDC are “conceptual” and are “not going forward at this time.”

“Because there is no New Market site proposal going forward at this time, government agency applications have not been filed and environmental review has not commenced,” the representative said in a statement. “Once a proposal for the New Market site is finalized, HHC will submit an application to the appropriate agencies and the proposal will undergo all required public review as well as community engagement.”

Still, the uncertainty of the site’s future has some crying foul. An advocacy group, the Friends of South Street Seaport, obtained the hotel plan documents through an public records request, and called on the city to conduct a more transparent “public environmental review” of the developer’s plans for the Seaport. Maureen Koetz, a member of the group, said she believes Howard Hughes has been providing information on its plans piecemeal in order to have a better shot at getting them approved.

“There’s a pattern here,” she said. “They’re slowly dismantling the plan and trying to get it through piece by piece.”

The developer controls the South Street Seaport through a lease with a city and plans to develop or renovate 448,000 gross square feet in the area. Prior plans for a condo-hotel building were slammed by community members for being too tall. In October, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved changes to the developer’s plans for a two story mall and rooftop public space at Pier 17. At Tuesday night’s meeting, it secured approval to dismantle and reconstruct the Tin Building.