Volume 73, Number 52 | April 28 - May 4, 2004

U.P.S. looks to deliver Hudson Sq. lot to developer

By Lincoln Anderson

Villager photo by Robert Stolarik

U.P.S.’s lot at Spring and Washington Sts. Will it be home to “Morton Square II”?

United Parcel Service’s slogan “What can Brown do for you?” is sounding very attractive to developers reportedly eyeing the delivery company’s giant open-air parking lot in Hudson Sq.

According to inside real estate sources, U.P.S. is actively seeking developers for the roughly 85,000-sq.-ft. lot, bounded by Spring, Washington and West Sts. and on its north end by the St. John’s Building.

One of the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that last September U.P.S. sent requests for proposals to nine select developers for the site. The proposals have since been culled down to three and will now be whittled down to one.

Related Companies, Tishman and Savanna Partners are reportedly among companies that did not make the cut of three. The Brodsky Organization is reportedly one of the finalists.

The expected 450,000-sq.-ft. project would include condominium and rental apartments. There would also be an 80,000-sq.-ft. garage built by the developer for U.P.S., with loading docks for its trucks, on the corner of the site inside the new building.

“That site’s going to go for probably $100 million,” said the source, an executive with one of the developers that responded to the R.F.P. “It’s one of the last big sites on the waterfront. The strong condo market’s pushing this, but the Hudson River Park is helping.” A developer could be picked in three to four months, he said.

Jackie Larson, a U.P.S. spokesperson, didn’t let on if any deal is in the works.

“We still own the property. I just don’t have anything to tell you about right now,” she said.

The site has a manufacturing zoning (M2-4), so either a rezoning by the City Planning Commission, which would be voted on by the City Council, or a variance from the Board of Standards and Appeals would be needed to allow residential use. The site’s current floor-area ratio is 4.

“They’re going to seek a zoning change. When they go for rezoning, they go for new F.A.R.,” the source said. “I’m sure that’s going to be a lightning rod of [community] opposition.”

The city has imposed a height limit of 14 or 15 stories on the area, so the building would likely not be taller than that.

Last year, the south part of Hudson Sq. — south of Spring St., north of Canal St. and west of Washington St. — was rezoned to allow new residential construction. However, community residents and Councilmember Christine Quinn fought off the effort to rezone Hudson Sq. north of Spring St. to allow new residential projects.

Zack Winestine, co-chairperson of the Greenwich Village Community Task Force, said it was the first he’d heard of the new project, but that an image of Morton Square, the new, 14-story, 283-unit, full-block residential development seven blocks to the north, immediately flashed into his mind.

“I’m really concerned about this,” said Winestine. “We just fought a battle to keep that general area open for light-manufacturing and office space. So this would seem to fly in the face of City Planning’s vision of the area. I think there’ll definitely be opposition, probably a good deal of it. People have to imagine a series of Morton Squares shoulder to shoulder and ask, ‘Is this the Village waterfront we want?’ ”

The city’s Department of Sanitation District 1 garage is located across Spring St. from the site, and Winestine wondered if residents living in luxury apartments would really want to live above garbage trucks and a U.P.S. garage.

Katy Bordonaro, co-chairperson of the Greenwich Village Community Task Force, recalled that several years ago, the U.P.S. parking lot was being considered as a new Sanitation facility for Community Board 2, as a way to get the garbage trucks off Gansevoort Peninsula, which is supposed to become part of Hudson River Park.

“U.P.S. was opposed and then the plan died,” Bordonaro said.

However, the city now has plans to build a Sanitation garage somewhere south of the Javits Center to house the District 2 and 4 Sanitation garages, and which will have a public park on top.

Kathy Dawkins, a Sanitation spokesperson, said the department is still interested in part of the U.P.S. site for an open-air parking lot for 12 garbage trucks from District 1 that cannot fit in District 1’s antiquated garage and currently park on the street around the lot.

“We’re still interested in this property with U.P.S.,” Dawkins said. “We would like to lease a portion of it to handle off-street parking for our trucks. But we are waiting for U.P.S. to obtain a certificate of occupancy for that property before the city moves ahead with its lease for part of that lot.”

(A certificate of occupancy is the last step when building a new building; it certifies that the building is structurally sound and conforms to plans filed with the Department of Buildings.)

Dawkins said the city would only park garbage trucks from the District 1 garage, which serves Lower Manhattan’s Community Board 1, on the lot.

The parking lot is across Washington St. from U.P.S.’s building, known as its Manhattan South Facility, which serves Lower Manhattan. U.P.S. purchased the parking lot in 1976. Not usually filled to capacity, it is used to park large tractor-trailers and some trucks.

Since the construction of the Hudson River Park’s Greenwich Village segment, high-end residential development has exploded along the waterfront. The last couple of years have seen three new 16-story luxury towers by architect Richard Meier at Perry and Charles Sts.; Morton Square; a project in the works by Related Companies at the Superior Ink factory site at Bethune St.; and a sliver tower by Horizen under construction near the Meier towers.

Just across Spring St. from the U.P.S. site, Nino Vendome has presented several variations on a plan to develop a residential building by renowned architect Philip Johnson; but so far the project hasn’t gotten off the ground, even though Vendome got a residential variance from the B.S.A.

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