By Sarah Trefethen
Watch out, SoHo. There may be a vibrant new mixed-use community in town.
New York’s City Planning Commission voted Monday to certify a rezoning plan for Hudson Square, which means seven months from now the City Council may vote to open up the former manufacturing district to residential development.
Trinity Church, a major property owner in the neighborhood, has been working to promote the plan for five years, according to Jason D. Pizer, president of Trinity Real Estate.
“Residential development will transform the neighborhood and make it something worthwhile for the next 100 years,” Pizer said.
Hudson Square is home to a number of hotels, including the recently constructed Trump SoHo, Sheraton Manhattan SoHo Village and Hampton Inn Soho, as well as office buildings that are popular with media and creative companies.
The neighborhood is part of Midtown South, one of the hottest office markets in the country. Trinity’s office buildings are 95 percent occupied, Pizer said, and Cushman and Wakefield reported that Class A office space in Hudson Square and the West Village was renting for an average of $69.73 psf last quarter.
But the church is concerned that a community cannot live by commercial development alone. And under the current zoning rules, future construction in the area would be restricted to yet more offices and hotels.
“Trinity has been in this neighborhood for 300 years, and we like to see it as a vibrant destination,” Pizer said. “Our time frame is in the hundreds of years, not one or two years, and in the long term we’d like to see this become much healthier — not so lopsided.
“If you look at some of the more healthy neighborhoods in the city they have a live/work feel,” such as Soho, and the Flatiron and Meatpacking districts, said Pizer.
Trinity has a number of development sites that Pizer said would be “ideally suited” for residential developments. But, he added, no decisions have been made at this point, as the proposal has yet to go through the city’s lengthy public review process. The local community board and borough president will be asked to weigh in before votes by the planning commission and city council.
The district, bounded by Sixth Avenue on the East, the Hudson River on the West, Houston Street to the north and Canal Street to the south, falls under the jurisdiction of Manhattan’s Community Board 2.
Fresh from shaving almost 25 percent off of New York University’s expansion plans, CB2 and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer are no strangers to the land use review process, and are unlikely to swing open the doors to residential high-rises without some concessions.
In a February letter to the planning commission, the community board commended Trinity for including a 75,000 s/f public school in the plan, but argued that the proposal could be made more conducive to the development of affordable housing and public parks.
“We’re looking forward to seeing how the public process plays out,” Pizer said. “We’re looking forward to a positive process with the community board.”