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Before Redevelopment, A Brief History of the LES's SPURA

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Everybody's finally talking about the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area?SPURA for short?the largest spread of undeveloped Manhattan land the city owns south of 96th Street. Developer proposals for the site are due May 6, and all the major names are circling. And some not-so-major names, probably, since the request for proposals has been downloaded from the city's website 750 times. The level of interest is one SPURA hasn't seen in its half-century (but feels longer) history of waiting for redevelopment. But there were, as the Times reminds us, a few failed redevelopment schemes during that period.

The buildings on the site were originally razed with the goal of urban renewal, but the financing fell through shortly thereafter. The second major attempt to revamp SPURA came from the LeFrak Organization in the 1980s, but that attempt, too, collapsed. Most recently, in 2003, the city and opponents went head-to-head on plans to put lower- and middle-income housing on the SPURA lots, and the opponents won.

Affordable housing is still an issue now, even though development appears more likely to proceed. Several developers tell the Times they are hesitant to bid because of the amount of affordable housing (half of the 1,000 planned residential units) included in the SPURA plan; others wonder why the affordable housing has to be in a neighborhood where they could otherwise make some real money. But given the amount of interest so far, there will surely still be enough developers who want to play.
· After Nearly 50 Years a Lower East Side Gap is Ready to Be Filled [NYT]
· SPURA coverage [Curbed]