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Neighbors Hate Nightlife Mecca Proposed for Wall St. Landmark

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Have you heard of Latitude 360? Perhaps not. Well, it's a chain billed by its CEO as "Maggiano's or the Cheesecake Factory with entertainment" and it wants to set up shop within a long-vacant 101-year-old landmark on Wall Street. Latitude 360 is eyeing 23 Wall Street for its foray into New York City—yes, that's the historic former J.P. Morgan headquarters, right across the street from where George Washington was sworn in the first President of the United States of America. Needless to say, area residents got extremely worked up about the prospect of a giant leisure complex in their midst, and all the noise, traffic, and general ugliness it might attract.

The CEO of Latitude 360, Brent Brown, made a presentation to Community Board 1's Financial District Committee last night to propose his company's takeover of the 100,000-square-foot space, which has sat empty since 2006. There would be a restaurant and bar, a dine-in movie theater, a bowling alley with full food and drink service, an arcade, a dine-in, live, a 175- to 300-plus-seat performance theater, a high-definition sports theater modeled after the sports books of Las Vegas (though, presumably, betting wouldn't be allowed), a bar with a dance floor, and possibly a cigar lounge.

Brown insisted that he wasn't proposing a nightclub, and at several points stressed that it is intended for "multiple generations." Closing time would be 2 a.m. It doesn't sound like the most clubby thing ever, but it still sounds pretty clubby.

Brown said movie premieres, charity events, and corporate events could be held there. He talked about tourists visiting sites who get dropped off coming into the establishment. While there is no denying that plenty of tourists pass through the intersection of Wall and Broad, asserting that they are dropped off anywhere nearby seems less than knowledgeable. Also, if you're in New York City, is something like Maggiano's or the Cheesecake Factory really what you're looking for? As Johnny T says, "You come to New York. You see the same restaurant that's in your hometown. You don't go there! What's wrong with you?!?"

While no lease has been signed, there is a signed letter of intent from Latitude 360, and they expect to apply for a liquor license next month. Brown said that once construction begins, it would take about a year to finish. He said the capacity of the establishment would be 1,500 people.

To say this proposal was welcomed with open arms would be, of course, a complete lie. Many people present at the meeting, both members of the committee and the public, were incensed by the idea. Perhaps the biggest concern was—shocker—noise. One woman spoke of easily being able to hear people on the street from her 29th-floor apartment. That's today's pedestrians, not the crowds that would result from visitors to and cigarette break-takers from a venue like this. Brown responded that there would be soundproofing, plus no outside music or open windows.

Another concern was traffic. Here's the argument: While you can't drive up to the door because the street is barricaded and for pedestrians only, if there were going to be big events, VIPs would presumably be dropped off somewhere in the vicinity, leaving those streets lined with black cars, and then walking to the venue with an entourage.

Other concerns included additional garbage and vermin. At least one person said an establishment like this is just "not the character of the neighborhood."

Brown said his company is working on developing outposts near Barclays Center in Brooklyn as well as in Jersey City and at the former Showboat casino resort in Atlantic City. They currently have locations in Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Jacksonville, with a new branch under construction at the Crossgates Mall in Albany. They're alsoworking on opening one in Boston's Downtown Crossing area, and one in Dubai that would have the world's largest Ferris Wheel (it'll probably trump the one planned for Staten Island).

To be sure, this project is a long way from reality. Brown will be return before this critical community board sub-committee next month—a prospect he no doubt awaits with eagerness. He emphasized that he wouldn't make any changes to the exterior of the landmarked building. Brown said the loud designs seen in the rendering above are only representative of lights coming from inside the building. He did say there would be a logo on the inside, visible from the outside. If he were to change the exterior at all, that would mean going before CB1's Landmarks Committee and eventually the city Landmarks Preservation Commission.
—Evan Bindelglass is a local freelance journalist, photographer, cinephile, and foodie. You can e-mail him, follow him on Twitter @evabin, or check out his personal blog.
· All 23 Wall Street coverage [Curbed]