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Long-planned South Street Seaport supertall may be on its way

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Demolition permits signal movement at the South Street site

The corner of a city block. There is a large apartment building with a red brick facade.

Demolition permits have been filed for two South Street Seaport buildings at 80 South Street and 163 Front Street. Although construction plans have not yet been filed with the Department of Buildings, there’s reason to believe that site owner China Oceanwide Holdings intends on constructing a residential and commercial tower as tall as 1,436 feet on the waterfront lot.

The site, now home to two buildings dating to the 1900s, has long been poised for redevelopment. Back in the early aughts, architect Santiago Calatrava unveiled a design for a similarly tall tower featuring 12 four-story, 10,000-square-foot apartments, an idea Nicolai Ourousoff at the New York Times decried in a prescient rant:

This notion—that architecture is a luxury to be consumed, like an Hermès bag or a private jet—may soon transform the skyline as much as the expansion of American corporate power did a generation ago.

Oh, how far we’ve come since 2004.

A massing diagram illustrates how the air rights transferred to the property in 2016 can affect its size.
City Planning Commission

Despite winning Department of Building approvals, the Calatrava design fizzled when developer Frank Sciame put the site up for sale in 2008. By 2012, Cord Meyer Development had purchased the site, and began pitching designs by Morali Architects including an eco-friendly tower with a facade of photovoltaic glass. The project was ensnared by the labyrinthine approvals process, leading Cord Meyer to sell the site to Seaport developer Howard Hughes in 2014.

China Oceanwide Holding began the process of acquiring the sites in 2015, with the sale closing for $390 million in March 2016. The City Planning Commission approved the transfer of 426,940 square feet of air rights to the site the month prior, allowing a building of up to 1,067,350 square feet to rise on the site. Because of zoning restrictions, just about 512,300 square feet of residential space could come to the site.

Curbed has reached out to China Oceanwide Holdings for comment.

80 South St

80 South Street, Manhattan, NY 10038