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Howard Hughes Shrinks Seaport Project In Attempt To Pass Landmarks

The new rendering of the towers at 250 Water St.

Howard Hughes Corp. is making a second attempt at getting its lower Manhattan residential tower over the line with a new scaled-back design.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission knocked back the Houston-based developer's proposal in January, saying the Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Architects’ design, which would have brought two 470-foot-high towers to 250 Water St., was too large.

The new design to be presented to the LPC, first reported by The New York Post, is around 27% smaller than the original plan. Under the new proposal, the project would go from 757K SF down to 550K SF, and the tallest building would reach just over 300 feet.

Previously, the development would have created 360 apartments, but that figure has been reduced as well. In all, there would now be 270 units, with 70 set aside as affordable housing for families with an income of around $45K per year. It would reach 27 stories, down from 38.

If the project doesn’t get the green light from the LPC, the developer said it will build as of right, without any affordable housing or providing financial support to the South Street Seaport Museum, the Post reports.

"We've worked hard to redesign our project to directly respond to the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s comments while preserving two of the project's most crucial elements: deeply affordable housing in one of the city's wealthiest neighborhoods and meaningful funding for the South Street Seaport Museum, which is the heart of the Historic District and reason for its existence,” HHC New York Tri-State Region President Saul Scherl said in a statement.

“As the neighborhood and the city turn toward recovery from the pandemic, we have an opportunity to transform a parking lot with no historic value into a nearly billion-dollar investment that supports the long-term viability of the Museum and creates Lower Manhattan's most significant affordable housing in decades — and we are committed to seeing it through."

The cost of the new project is slated to be roughly $850M, according to an HHC spokesperson, who noted Council Member Margaret Chin and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer are among its supporters. 

Howard Hughes purchased the site, a vacant lot, in 2018 for $180M. The original $1.4B proposal stretched some 350 feet higher than local zoning rules allowed, but the developer wanted to use the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning rules and said it would provide $50M to the South Street Seaport Museum in exchange.

An earlier plan for a 1,000-foot tower on the site was met with community concerns, and the LPC had already rejected nine plans for the site, per The Wall Street Journal. Last December, Manhattan’s Community Board 1 voted against the project after local residents raised concerns.

The developer expects to take the new design to the LPC in April. If approved, the construction is expected to begin in 2022, if it makes it through the ULURP process.