Laboz’s United American Land is a “go” in Soho

Developer approved by Landmarks Commission to add 100 new apartments

Landmarks Commission Approves New Apartments in SoHo
United American Land's Al Laboz; 277 Canal Street, before (left) and after (right) (Getty, United American Land, Google Maps)

A new housing development in Soho is a “go” for Al Laboz’s United American Land.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the developer’s plans on Tuesday to add 10 stories and 100 apartments to the three-story Oltarsh Building at 277 Canal Street.

The project is the first affordable housing development to result from Bill de Blasio’s rezoning of the downtown neighborhood in 2021. A quarter of the building’s residential units will be income-restricted. The ground floor will remain retail.

The former mayor predicted that the rezone would deliver approximately 3,500 new homes. 

“This was part of Bill de Blasio’s legacy, to bring affordable housing to Soho,” Laboz said after the Commission’s unanimous vote. “The neighborhood desperately needs it.”

“It’s not very often that we add new housing in historic districts,” said Open New York’s executive director Annemarie Gray. “It’s a great sign that we’re seeing the Landmarks Preservation Commission recognize that and approve projects.”

The Commission had sent UAL back to the drawing board in June with design revisions that included a larger cornice to emphasize the building’s Renaissance Revival style.

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“They gave us some directions to tweak the designs — the cornice, some signage,” Laboz said. “We did what they asked us to do, and we got approved.” UAL used the tall masonry buildings up and down Broadway in the Soho historic district as inspiration. 

“This is really no different than doing a ground-up building,” Laboz said of adding 10 stories onto the existing three-story structure. 

The heavily built area of Soho contrasts with Gowanus, an industrial zone in Brooklyn also rezoned by De Blasio that has greatly outpaced the Downtown Manhattan neighborhood in bringing new homes to the city.

“There are a lot more development sites in Gowanus,” Gray said, while new housing in Soho requires grappling with and reusing historic buildings in ways that retain their character.

There are also fewer publicly owned development sites in Soho. Nonetheless, the city has shown some ambition at 388 Hudson Street, proposing a tower that could reach 35 stories

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the project could still qualify for the 421a tax abatement, which has expired.

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