Hither the Hippodrome
Concert Venue Big Enough to Host 3,000 People Planned for Financial District
Plans are under way to develop an 80,000-square-foot concert and performance venue on the former trading floor of the American Stock Exchange building, in the Financial District.
Representatives of Live Nation Entertainment, a firm that owns or operates more than 200 venues throughout North America and Europe, including the outdoor concert space on the roof of Pier 17 in the South Street Seaport, came before Community Board 1 (CB1) on Wednesday evening to explain their plans.
In a story first reported by Crain’s, Live Nation Entertainment is partnering with another management company that already has a significant presence Downtown, Legends Hospitality, which currently manages One World Observatory, atop the World Trade Center. Legends is also currently developing a new food hall and music venue at 28 Liberty Street, which will surround “Sunken Garden” — a 60-foot-wide, circular enclosure created by sculptor Isamu Noguchi, that frames a bed of polished stones and a fountain, beneath the landmarked two-acre public deck at the base of the archetypal Modernist skyscraper once known as One Chase Manhattan Plaza.
Together, Live Nation and Legends hope to create an entertainment destination within the 1921 landmarked structure that could host as many as 3,000 people, which has been vacant since 2008, when the American Stock Exchange merged with the New York Stock Exchange.
This proposal is likely to prove controversial. A thematically similar (but much more modest) plan to bring a live performance venue and bar, combined with a luxury bowling alley and upscale pinball arcade, to nearby 23 Wall Street(another iconic, but disused, tabernacle of capitalism) aroused spirited opposition from the community, based on concerns about crowding and quality of life impacts. This scheme was later abandoned by Latitude 360, the firm that had hoped to redevelop 23 Wall Street.
The plan for the American Stock Exchange (located at 123 Greenwich Street) is more ambitious by several orders of magnitude. Located across the street from Trinity Church and in the midst of what has evolved into a residential neighborhood over the last two decades, it would bring thousands of pedestrians to narrow local thoroughfares (some barely wide enough to accommodate a single lane of traffic) that were laid out in the 1700s, such Cedar, Thames, and Carlyle Streets. The siting of a concert venue there could also be expected also to draw many dozens of large trucks and buses to the site (carrying equipment for shows, and ferrying audience members), along with hundreds of for-hire vehicles.
And even some of these narrow streets may be only intermittently available. Thames Street, between Trinity Place and Greenwich Street, has been closed for years, to facilitate construction on a large hotel (on the north side of the street) and then a “super-tall” apartment tower (on the south side). Separately, another block of Thames Street, between Broadway and Trinity Place, is the subject of a proposal by a real estate developer to close the road permanently, and convert it into an outdoor shopping arcade.
With many local streets dead-ending at the World Trade Center complex or the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, the resulting gridlock could affect not just neighborhood quality of life, but also public safety. Moreover, in recent years, concert venues have proved a tempting target of opportunity, both for terrorists (as was the case in Manchester, in 2018, and Paris, in 2015), and for mass shooters (as in Las Vegas, 2017, and Orlando, 2016).
In the decade-plus that the American Stock Exchange building has been vacant, developers have floated numerous schemes to monetize its vast interior space. The former trading floor offers ceiling heights of up to 60 feet, and more than two acres of open space, uninterrupted by supporting columns. The most recent example of the push to exploit this potential was a 2018 plan to create a new “experiential retail” mall within the building. But this foundered as the retail sector struggled nationwide, while locally, millions of square feet of shopping space opened or entered the planning pipeline at Brookfield Place, the World Trade Center, the South Street Seaport, and 28 Liberty Street.
Live Entertainment and Legends came before CB1’s Licensing and Permits Committee on Wednesday evening, because a central element in their plan will be regulatory permission to serve alcoholic beverages at the planned venue. It appears likely, however, that licensing for wine, beer, and liquor will be just one among many concerns for community leaders.
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