The developer that spent nearly $400 million to acquire adjoining lots in the Seaport District in 2016, along with hundreds of thousands of square feet of air rights, has received demolition permits for two structures at the site. This may indicate that the construction of a new “super-tall” tower, which could surpass One World Trade Center in height, will soon begin.
The location, at 80 South Street (along the FDR Drive, between Fletcher and John Streets), encompasses a footprint of 8,128 square feet. It was purchased by the Howard Hughes Corporation (which is also in the midst of several development projects at the nearby South Street Seaport) in January, 2015, for $100 million.
At the time, 80 South Street was zoned for up to 820,000 square feet of development. But the Hughes Corporation subsequently purchased several hundreds of thousands of square feet of unused air rights from adjacent properties and transferred them to the South Street lot. These additions have brought the total developable space for the lot at 80 South Street to slightly more than 1 million square feet. (Given the size of the lot, erecting a structure that will enclose one million-plus square feet necessarily implies a tower more than 1,400 feet tall.) Moreover, this building could theoretically become even larger, if the developer agrees to include community benefits, such as a new school, or some affordable housing.
Even without such bonuses, however, current zoning regulations would permit more than 500,000 square feet of residential development within the tower, where (presumably) the rest of the space would be allocated to other uses, such as office space, retail, or a hotel.
Shortly after purchasing the site and assembling air rights, Howard Hughes began seeking a buyer for 80 South Street. Late in 2015, it reached a tentative agreement Hong Kong-based developer China Oceanwide Holdings, at a price of $390 million. That sale was completed in early 2016, and plans filed with the City by China Oceanwide indicate that the new owner plans to erect a tower of more than 110 stories, that will be slightly more than 1,400 feet tall — a height that will place its roof deck approximately 100 feet above that of One Word Trade Center (although 80 South Street will not match the height of the latter building’s ornamental spire).
Earlier this month, China Oceanwide filed demolition permits to begin razing the two structures that currently occupy the site. This appears to indicate that the project is now moving forward. Although no updated structural plans have thus far been filed with the City’s Department of Buildings, a rendering from 2016 shows a massive edifice that dwarfs every surrounding structure.
Whether Lower Manhattan civic infrastructure — the roster of assets, such as schools, parks, healthcare facilities, and transportation capacity — can accommodate the thousands of new residents who will likely live such a building, and the thousands more who will report there for work each day, is a question that remains unanswered.