Proposed Pace Tower Gets CB1 Boost

Left: Detail of rendering of Pace University's proposed dormitory. Red line indicates allowable height under current zoning. Right: The planned 3,000 square foot public plaza that is part of the project. Renderings by Gene Kaufman Architect/Photographed by The Tribeca Trib

Pace University came a step closer to approval for its proposed 34-story Beekman Street dorm on Tuesday, when Community Board 1 voted overwhelmingly to support the school’s request for a zoning variance to build six more floors than the zoning allows.

“This type of project makes a neighborhood safer because the institution is concerned with the safety of its students,” board member Bob Townley said before the vote, describing as “desolate” the stretch of Beekman Street where Pace plans to build.

The building, designed by Gene Kaufman, would rise on a vacant lot at 29-37 Beekman St., across from the 76-story residential tower at 8 Spruce St. and the P.S. 397 below it and include a 3,000 square foot public plaza. It would replace a 500-bed leased dorm space at 55 John St. and add an additional 260 beds to meet growing demand for residential housing. The school is close to completing a 24-story dormitory at 180 Broadway.

“Just over 10 years ago we had about 500 residential students Downtown and now we have 2,000,” William McGrath, a senior vice president at Pace told the Trib last month. “Students want a residential experience [and] we provide good campus life type activities.”

Because Pace envisions a building that is six stories taller than the 28 stories that zoning allows, it is seeking a variance from the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA). The community board, which acts in an advisory capacity, is asked to weigh in before the BSA takes up the issue in February.

In return for its support, the board is asking Pace to provide some free access to school space for community use and to encourage its students to volunteer for community projects. They also want to limit the impact of construction by not closing adjacent streets and only working from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekdays. Pace officials said they will look into the need for crossing guards during construction, to ensure that Spruce Street School students can cross the street safely.

The Seaport Committee had discussed asking for a give-back to the community in return for building so high, but decided that the space did not allow for the kind of requests made of larger neighbors. The community negotiated space for the Spruce Street School during the construction of the Frank Gehry-designed tower across the street.

Seaport Committee member Joel Kopel called the prospect of a new building on the lot "exciting." 

“The site has been a blight for a number of years,” he said.