Nine sites near the corner of Delancey and Essex Streets in the Lower East Side are about to undergo a radical renovation. This morning, Mayor Bloomberg revealed the new Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) plan to renovate the large, undeveloped plot of land into vibrant, mixed-use space. The project includes a 1.65-million-square-foot development that will be surrounded by 1,000 units of new housing as well as shops and an Andy Warhol museum.
Perhaps the biggest addition to come out of this large-scale project will be the new Essex Crossing, which will replace the old Essex Street Market. The market will relocate across Delancey Street, doubling in size to 30,000 square feet with a 7,000 square foot mezzanine. Design firms SHoP Architects and Beyer Blinder Belle presented designs for the glassy, six-acre complex, which they hope to open in 2018. On top of providing vendors with more space, there will be a unique area known as the Market Line. This will become an archway-vaulted concourse that extends itself from three sites south of Delancey between Essex and Clinton.
Other things the LES community can look forward to include a new dual-generation school operated by the Educational Alliance with another site reserved for a future public school. A total of 64,000 square feet dedicated to these facilities has been permanently reserved as community space. Meanwhile there are also plans for entertainment spaces at Seward Park including a bowling alley and movie theater.
While the project might be a welcome change for those who have been waiting nearly a half century to replace the ugly parking lots, the plan may serve as a double edged sword, raising property values and attracting a new type of resident to the area. With glass-faced buildings that look like miniature uptown skyscrapers, it’s no wonder some residents are worried that the new developments will rob the neighborhood of its identity to become a wannabe upper Manhattan. One particular concern is the threat of Big Box Stores popping up on Essex St. and while that issue seems to have been addressed by the developers, there’s no doubt that the character of the neighborhood will change quite drastically.
As a company that has had its headquarters on the Lower East Side now for close to a decade, we have to wonder whether SPURA is the right move for the neighborhood, considering that many long-time residents are already feeling more and more disconnected after local haunts like Mars Bar are increasingly being turned into corporate establishments. What do you think about the newly revealed plan? Tell us in the comments below.
Images © NYC Mayor’s Office