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West Side Story–The Finale: Living in Manhattan Just Got Better

Courtesy Extell

Riverside Center Becomes a Reality With Compromise and Smart Solutions

In my March 2009 blog, I wrote about the then new concept that, President of Extell Development Company proposed for the Riverside South neighborhood.

Riverside Center was the vision of Mr. Barnett and Extell to provide four residential towers and one-mixed use tower on the neglected 8.2 acre site in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Granted the largest construction loan in the country–a record-breaking $613 million–Extell plowed ahead with their plans. When many large-scale projects across the country were falling through because of the challenging real estate market, Extell knew this project was a winner and worth the investment and effort.

More importantly, Riverside Center would bring the long-needed infrastructure, amenities, revenue and improved green space to the residents of Riverside South residents.

The Center was to become a thriving community with new retail venues, luxury housing, underground parking and a new elementary school. Expectations were that construction would begin in 2009.

But, Extell faced some challenges and ran into a few snags along the way. Construction was delayed when several members of the community voiced concerns on the impact the large-scale project would have on the community.

In an early November blog of this year, I updated you about these challenges that included concern over increased population (and traffic) the housing units would bring and how Extell’s proposed school couldn’t handle that increase. Plus, several members voiced concerns over affordable housing.

Courtesy Extell

With increased costs that building a larger school would bring, Extell and community members came to an impasse during the September Planning Commission. But, in the following month, Commissioners voted 12-1 in favor of the project.

The only nay came from Commissioner Anna Levin who thought the development project was “too big” and was still concerned that the proposed 75,000 square-foot school just wasn’t large enough.
Community members proposed a 150,000 square foot school.

One commissioner cast a “reluctant yes” because in past meetings and negotiations, Extell agreed to designate a portion of the 2,500 units as “affordable housing.” Members proposed that building 30% of the housing for “middle-income New Yorkers ensures that the character of this area better reflects the character of the Upper West Side.”

A few days before the Christmas holiday, the City Council approved the $3.1 million square foot project. Riverside Center will become a resourceful and welcome reality for Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Here’s a brief breakdown of the outcome (and compromises) of Extell’s and the City Council’s December meeting:

• The elementary school will be 100,000 square feet.
• Extell will build 500 units (20% of total housing) as affordable housing with 9% being located on site.
• Extell will provide an additional $17.5 million to modernize Riverside Park and a recreation center on West 59th Street.

Barnett credits Manhattan Community Board 7, City Councilwoman Gale Brewer and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and others as “working together to find solutions” so that Riverside Center can finally break ground.

Other plans in the works are to ensure that retail shops include local vendors and where the remaining affordable units will be located, but Extell reports that Riverside Center will add millions of dollars in new tax revenue, generate 900 construction jobs and provide approximately 1,400 new jobs, once complete.

Looks as if 2011 in Manhattan’s Upper West Side is off to a good start indeed. As a resident of this neighborhood, I’ll be posting future blogs about construction, what kind of housing investments and opportunities will be available and what great new shops, shopping and entertainment venues will be sprouting up in this vibrant, revitalized section of New York!

What do you think of the future Riverside Center? Leave a comment and let me know.

Albrecht, Leslie. Riverside Center Wins Approval and Praise at City Planning Commission. Oct 27, 2010. (Accessed 27 Dec 2010).
Agovino, Theresa. City Council approves Extell’s Riverside Center. Crain’s New York Business. Dec 20, 2010.

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