Thursday, April 28, 2011

Coney Island Riding High

Three towers add to the fun on the boardwalk.

The proposed Ocean Dreams complex to anchor the boardwalk's sparse west end.
A new proposal for Coney Island seeks to anchor the west end of the boardwalk with nearly 500,000 square feet of mixed-use development called Ocean Dreams. The three residential towers with over 400 market rate condos, range from 14 to 22 stories and rest atop 25,000 square feet of retail and 400 parking spaces. Dattner Architects joined Cooper Robertson in designing the project in 2007, but Dattner took the lead after Red Apple Real Estate became owner in 2008. Red Apple, led by Gristedes supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis, ramped up a 2005 plan that many thought dead in the water.

The site sits between the bright lights of the entertainment district and Sea Gate, a quiet gated community at the end of the island, and across from several rent-subsidized towers, ranging from 14 to 19 stories. For years, school buses parked at the two oceanfront lots between West 34th and West 36th Street, Surf Avenue and the boardwalk. As plans for the heart of the island exploded, the sleepy western end didn’t get much attention. That began to change in 2005 when City Planning agreed to rezone the area then owned by Ocean Dreams LLC. Instead of a 40 foot height limit with an FAR of 1.25, new zoning allowed for a 70 foot limit and an FAR of 3.0. More than 300 apartments were planned for two seven-story buildings with 88 parking spaces and no retail.

View of boardwalk retail, looking east to west.

Now Red Apple is seeking to change the zoning once again. In the new plan, the smallest tower, which houses an enclosed parking garage, would rise to 142 feet. “The design has more of a residential and urban quality that is a mix of masonry brick and mason wall,” said William Stein, a principle at Dattner and lead architect for the project. “We’re far enough away to not have to address the downtown honky tonk.”

Lee Weintraub Landscape Architects will unify the two plots by adding winding ramps among a dune-like landscape that merges the boardwalk with the ends of 36th and 37th Streets. The landscaping will buffer the smaller building from the boardwalk but will stop short of wrapping around the larger plot in order to make room for retail. “We’ve really tried to develop a very site specific project,” said Nick Hockens of Greenberg Traurig, the attorneys representing Red Apple. “For sure there’s a potential for retail on the boardwalk. One of the things from a planning perspective is it provides another anchor, but at the other end [of the island].”
View from Surf Avenue.
The new plan calls for the condos to be sold at market rate, and a commercial overlay allows for retail—including a supermarket—to line Surf Avenue. Details of projected costs for the project and for the market rate condos have yet to be released, but in 2005 City Planning documents show pre-crash estimates for the condos at $350,000 to $600,000. “Subsidized housing surrounds the site, that’s why we think this kind of density and bulk is appropriate,” said Stein. “A lot of nearby buildings are towers in the park, so we’re trying to create an urban presence.”

The land-review process began in late March, and the plan goes before Community Board 13’s Land Use Committee on April 27. Members of the community have yet to see the proposal, but if all approvals go through, shovels could be in the sand early next year.

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