Developer Hopes to Trade Not-So-Sunny Plaza for a Taller Tower

The 130 William Street side of the condo development where the Lightstone Group is proposing a 5,317-square- foot public plaza in exchange for additional floor area for their building. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Mar. 13, 2017

Developers of a planned 50-story, 581-foot-high residential building on William and Fulton streets are trying to add nine more stories to their residential tower. But they have some convincing to do.

To get those extra floors—31,209 more square feet, to be exact—the Lightstone Group needs to provide a plaza, which they are proposing for the 130 William Street side of a building. (The tower will front onto Fulton Street and wrap around a corner building at William and Fulton.) But that “plaza bonus,” as it is called, could prove elusive because of a zoning regulation that now prohibits it, as well as the question of just how sunny and inviting that plaza would be.

The regulation says that developers cannot have a plaza if it is part of a development that is within 50 feet of certain designated retail streets, such as Fulton Street.

Planning consultants for the developer appeared before Community Board 1’s Financial District Committee earlier this month to request support for a change to that rule so that the plaza can be built if it, alone, is more than 50 feet from the retail street.

It wasn’t the obscure zoning change that bothered some on committee members but what they saw as the prospect of a dark and unpleasant public space.

Thirty-one story 110 William Street abuts the proposed plaza on its southern side.

“I have a problem with it because it’s not going to be a sunny place and that’s what makes plazas welcoming,” said committee member Laura Starr. “It doesn’t seem to follow the intent of the City Planning plaza bonus.”

“What time of year will it have sun? June 21st?” asked another committee member, Deron Charkoudian. “You’re not going to get much sun there other than June.”

“It is in Lower Manhattan so it’s not going to be the most sunlit plaza,” said Jennifer Dickson, of Herrick, Feinstein, the developers’ consultants. “But there will be some sunlight there. And we are proposing plantings and we have done a study to determine that there will be light.” She said there would be fixed and moveable seating and “lots of landscaping,” including a screen wall on both sides with landscaping.

Dickson said that a city rejection of the zoning change would probably result in retail spaces built where the plaza is proposed.

Michael Ketring, a Downtown Alliance lawyer on the committee, defended the plaza proposal. “We’re always saying we need more open space down here and now we’d rather have them just do another store?” he said. “There are plenty of storefronts on Fulton and Nassau Streets. I’d say let them do the plaza, even though it’s not the perfect sun condition.”

The committee voted 4 to 4, with two members abstaining. The full board will weigh in with its advisory position on March 28.