Friday, May 23, 2014

South Bronx Waterfront $500M Redevelopment Plan

Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. has announced a $500 million development proposal for a section of the Harlem River. The Special Harlem River Waterfront District plan calls for new residential towers and a waterfront esplanade to replace a dusty half-mile stretch of businesses between 138th and 149th streets. The project, which hopes to emulate the Brooklyn Bridge Park and its successful integration of former industrial area into community-used space, will bring 1,529 units of mixed-income housing and 3,500 new jobs to the Lower Concourse.

At an estimated cost of $500 million, the proposal puts to use the 2009 rezoning and will add over 1.1 million square feet of residential space, 865,000 of commercial space, and 269,000 square feet of community space to the largely neglected area.

Isolated between an active freight train line and the Major Deegan Expressway, this 10-block stretch of commercial businesses is a gritty, hard-to-access swath of parking lots, storage warehouses, homeless camps and dead-end streets.

Despite this, for many years neighborhood residents have sought access to the larger 1.5-mile section of Harlem River waterfront that includes this proposed development. Unlike the Manhattan shoreline of the river, the Bronx side has very few access points. To the south, the riverbank is closed off by a train yard and a waste management company handling demolition debris.

To the north, the expressway and a Metro North train yard block the shore. On the section in between, which includes Diaz's 10-block vision, the Harlem River is almost completely cut off by the Oak Point Link, a 1.9-mile train line built above the water.

The scale of those proposals by Bronx officials, which call for office and residential towers costing $500 million and include as many as 1,500 apartments, has lifted hopes among some owners of restaurants and other businesses that have opened in the gentrifying Concourse and Mott Haven areas.

The new businesses as well as apartment complexes built between Park Avenue and the Major Deegan Expressway have staked a claim to a gritty area filled with chain-link fences, several utility and recycling plants and the polluted Harlem River.

"It's definitely heading in the right direction," said Joe Pego, general manager of New York Recycling, which operates a recycling facility near the water and East 144th Street. "It's like what happened with Williamsburg and Long Island City, with the new businesses and residential areas. But all that change can make people uneasy."

Plans for the so-called Special Harlem River Waterfront District call for a publicly accessible waterfront esplanade, along with residential and office towers that could reach 400 feet, said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Nearby, Macombs Dam Park draws thousands of visitors to its track and baseball fields, and the Bronx Children's Museum is slated to open in 2015 on city-owned parkland.

The Bronx Terminal Market-Gateway Mall was completed in 2009 on the former sites of a wholesale fruit and vegetable market and the Art Deco-influenced Bronx County House of Detention. Large tenants at the mall now include Target, Home Depot and BJ's Wholesale Club.

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