By Renée Roden
The public got a first look at a major development project planned for 96th Street and Broadway at a Community Board 7 meeting held on the Zoom video conferencing platform on Wednesday.
Kenneth Lowenstein, speaking on behalf of Extell Development, and Jennifer Cheuck, architect at Stephen B Jacobs group, presented the developer’s plans for 2551 Broadway, the old site of Gristedes supermarket. Extell Development bought the site in 2017 and then demolished it, filing construction permits for a new building in January.
The building’s application surprised the committee members by only including one affordable unit in a building planned to take up approximately 276,578 square feet.
Lowenstein explained that the building is in R10-A zoning and is completely is an “as of right” building, meaning that the application does not require the community board’s approval to move forward.
The building is under the voluntary inclusionary housing program, which means that, according to zoning rules, the building receives an extra 3.5 square feet of allotted space for every 1 square foot of affordable housing included in the building.
Lowenstein mentioned that the 2551 building is using the bonus space generated by 40 Riverside Boulevard building, which he said did not use all the bonus square footage allotted from its affordable housing units.
Included in the voluntary inclusionary program, the normal building height cap of 210 feet for as of right zoning in the district is increased to 235 feet. Given the steeply graded hill of West 96th Street leading up to Broadway, committee member Ira Mitchneck raised the question of how the height of the building would be measured. Architect Jennifer Cheuck did not give an answer as to the exact height of the building as measured both from Broadway and from 96th Street lobby but said that the 235 feet height is measured from the base plane, which is an average between the highest and the lowest point of the building’s foundation.
The affordable housing unit in the building is a 794 square feet one-bedroom unit, with the same fixtures as the other market-rate units. It will be an ownership unit sold through the HPD lottery. In the voluntary inclusionary housing program, the units remain affordable housing in perpetuity.
As for the building’s facade, Cheuck said, it will be “brick piers with large windows throughout the facade. It’s not an all-glass building, it will have a brick facade with a lot of articulation and frames, to be a part of the Upper West Side neighborhood.”
The ground floor will have a little over 9,000 square feet of retail space. Lowenstein said the owners wanted it to be “a family-oriented, neighborhood-centered building,” and hoped the retail establishments would reflect that. No mention of a parking garage was made.
Cheuck said that the firm did a preliminary study and they found no environmental issues. Traffic studies were not done, Lowenstein said.
When pressed on the plentiful construction in that five-block area, Cheuck said they were unaware of construction permits being filed for the neighboring site, 266 West 96th street.
Land Use Committee co-chair Seema Reddy asked about the construction timeline. Lowenstein said that he hoped that they would be allowed to start construction in the fall, and estimated construction would run three years. Cheuck clarified that construction was estimated to take about two years, and they were seeking a foundation permit to start construction as soon as the city is open this summer.
The committee urged the representatives for the new 2551 Broadway building to cooperate with the community, particularly to coordinate construction and traffic flows at the intersection to promote neighborhood safety. Ira Mitchneck asked where the staging area for the trucks for construction would be located and expressed his concern for construction staging taking up precious street space on Broadway.
Broadway and 96th Street and West End between 96th and 97th are consistently shown to be the “most dangerous streets for pedestrians in our district,” CB7 President Diller added. Diller ended the meeting by calling upon the 2551 Broadway representatives to “join with us and Penny Ryan, our expert district manager, to form that construction advisory group.”