By Sarah Trefethen
The plan includes building up, with four new towers in the 12-block area now occupied by two university-owned apartment buildings, Washington Square Village and Silver Towers, and adding below-grade classroom space. Construction is scheduled to start in 2014 and continue for 20 years.
City leaders, including Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Christine Quinn, have championed the plan, which allows the university to add students and classroom space without leaving its Manhattan home.
But residents — including the actor Matthew Broderick and a number of NYU faculty — have been vocal in their opposition to the project, arguing that the new density of students and buildings will detract from the airy character of the Village.
Now that the plan has the green light, West Village based residential brokers are waiting to see how development will ripple into the real world of the West Village apartment market.
“Right now, there’s a shortage of apartments and they’re really expensive,” said Max Dobens, Prudential Douglas Elliman’s executive vice president and director of sales for the West Village.
The almost two million square feet of planned construction includes classroom, office and dormitory space.
“Maybe what that’s going to do is take a little bit of pressure off the rental market in the long run,” Dobens said of the new dormitories.
The median sales price for 24 homes sold in Greenwich Village in the second quarter of this year was $1,100,475, or $1,439 psf, according to the listing site Trulia.com. Asking rents listed on StreetEasy.com range from $2,500 for a studio to from $5,000 to as much as $25,000 for multiple bedrooms.
But Citi Habitats broker and Greenwich Village resident Scott Elyanow wonders what 20 years of construction will mean for the buildings near the site.
“The south village, I think, will be affected by it. I would be incredibly upset if I was in a co-op in that area,” he said.
The area west of Sixth Avenue and north of Washington Square Park will be less affected by construction, he said.
Elyanow reports that when prospective buyers hear about the expansion “it gives them considerable pause.”
He is also dismayed that city officials disregarded what he says was widespread opposition to the plan among local residents, and, like many opponents, wonders why the school’s expansion could not have happened in a neighborhood, such as the financial district, with more already-available office space.
“My neighbors, my landlord, other people that I’ve talked to who are my clients — no one is happy about this,” he said.
Prospective renters might be a little less wary.
Janine Young, of Bond New York, recently leased a three-bedroom apartment on LaGuardia Place across from the to-be-demolished Silver Towers, which will be replaced by taller buildings under the plan.
“Everybody was definitely into the fact that it got great sunlight and had a great view,” she said. “They didn’t seem to think that anything was going to happen, or that it was going to affect them.”
Ultimately, she predicts, the new school space and additional students will make the already expensive neighborhood even pricier, though the construction period might elicit some haggling on the part of renters.
“Tenants are always looking for reason to ask for concessions,” she said. However, “New Yorkers are pretty tough people. I think there’s a lid for every pot, and I really think there’s someone that will live in any apartment.”
The exact ratio of new students to new dormitory space in the development is not yet clear, leaving a big question mark over how the project will change student-driven purchases and leasing.
“I think there’s not that much inventory as there is, so that may affect other prices going higher,” said Jill Camac, a vice president and associate broker at Town Residential. “In general, it’s not adding housing to the community for non-students or faculty.”
Dobens is confident that the village market will withstand the inconvenience of construction.
“Downtown is infinitely hotter than other parts of the city. This is all econ 101, it’s supply and demand,” he said.
And opponents of the project, which Dobens says is “for the greater good,” might remember that things could be worse.
“At least they’re not tearing down historic buildings,” he said. “They’re building on their own land.”