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East Village's Mystery Lot Will Soon Be A Lot Less Mysterious

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People have been saying that “the East Village is dead” since locals spotted the first popped Izod collar on the streets in the early 1980s. In the spirit of that overused expression, East Village-based blogger (and past Curbed contributor) EV Grieve will check in from time to time with a column titled, of course, "This Week in the East Village is dead."



We've been taking our last, nostalgic looks at the East Village Mystery Lot, that brick-and-alien-strewn field of broken dreams (and bottles) that stretches from East 14th to East 13th Streets between Third and Second Avenues. The lot has sat vacant since workers demolished the shell of the old Jefferson Theater in 1999. Once part of the Milstein real estate empire, developer Charles Blaichman paid $33.2 million for the site last fall, bringing an end to the lot’s use for installing rogue art projects and, hopefully, storing dead bodies.

A look at DOB records shows that most of the permits are now in order and approved, as of last week, to start construction on an eight-story, 82-unit project with studios through 3BRs?specifically 6,409 square feet of residential space and 5,275 square feet of retail space, all designed by BKSK Architects. No word yet on just when the construction commences. (We had one false start already with the arrival of some mystery plywood. And if anyone has more details on the renderings, please hit us up in the Curbed tipline.)

But the Mystery Lot?a term first coined by Curbed, and later co-opted by at least one East Village blogger?isn’t ready to give up its past just yet. In recent weeks, the East 13th Street side has provided shelter for a group of the annual summer travelers (crusties if you will)?a group numbering as many as 12 last weekend. In addition, people are still keeping to a time-honored tradition of using the space for tossing, say, unwanted office chairs.

Locals have mixed feelings about the impending development. “Are we really mourning vacant lots now? Seems a tad silly,” said one. Another resident figured even a generic apartment building is better than the current situation. "Would that really be worse than a garbage-, rubble-, and dog-crap-filled eyesore?"

Vanishing New York blogger Jeremiah Moss countered that a vacant lot is a more interesting space than another shiny condo box. "The Mystery Lot is so-called because it is mysterious. There is nothing mysterious about a condo with a Subway and a 7-Eleven on the ground floor, and so it's worth mourning," he said. "Also, empty lots allow for a sense of openness, sky and light. Goodbye to that."

And goodbye again to the East Village, old friend.
· EV Grieve [evgrieve.com]
· East Village Mystery Lot coverage [Curbed]