As homeowners battle the ongoing housing crunch and community groups grow wary of gentrification, a couple of big developers on the prowl have come knocking on the doors of four skyscrapers across midtown Manhattan.
Owners of the office tower at 5 Times Square – a north-facing attraction in a busy, commercial center that is expected to attract even more foot traffic in the next few years – announced a plan to put a 25-story residential tower on the site.
But to do so, they would need to give the okay to a third tower built adjacent to them by developer Related Companies – the company that builds buildings around the turn of the millennium and now wants to take a large stake in the area.
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On Thursday the two developers announced they have reached an agreement to approve the third tower, called the VIA Brooklyn, in exchange for a $200m contribution to the city and community groups.
“There’s this idea that a huge money-flow in the city is coming to north midtown and that’s bringing gentrification – that’s not true,” Joel Salomon, the president of Related, told the Guardian. “We are funding not to gentrify but to make sure midtown Manhattan stays a city of opportunity, not one of wealth.”
“Today we have reached an agreement to build an office tower on the site of the former Chrysler Building, but it will not be built with a residential tower next door,” Salomon said. “We are going to keep this site as a destination for office use and we will commit to preserving this site’s historic, historic importance to downtown.”
The Mayor’s Alliance for Downtown New York and Community Board 4, a group that is in charge of overseeing the rebuilding of the downtown, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The building’s owner, Extell Development, said the deal would preserve the office use – which it said attracts more than 1 million people a year – and preserve historic structures. Extell also said it would pay for the creation of a neighborhood hub, a community park and a public plaza.
The developers say they will pay an average of $12,000 per square foot in rent in exchange for the right to build a skyscraper on the site of the former Chrysler Building, whose structural failings make it dangerous to use.
The decision is a blow to members of One Times Square, a non-profit that has fought to preserve a 25-story office tower on the same site. That building is owned by a trust affiliated with Two Trees Management, whose president, Bernard Cohen, is a longtime ally of tenant groups and is a vocal critic of his former landlord, Extell.