New York State Formalized Talks For A Hudson Yards Type Project In South Bronx

Empire State Development is looking for a developer to either buy or lease the 13-acre rail yard in Mott Haven.

By Jeff Vasishta December 5, 2016
Willis Avenue Bridge. Photo courtesy of B Thayer Associates

Empire State Development is looking for a developer to either buy or lease the 13-acre rail yard that sits just north of Willis Avenue Bridge in Mott Haven, reports Crain’s. Though half the size, it would take its inspiration from Hudson Yards, which is built on top of the rail line. Similarly, a developer looking to undertake the Bronx project would have to build a deck on top of the train station upon which the mixed use or residential development would sit.

RelatedThe Bronx’s La Central Development Gets The Green Light From The City

The rail yard is part of a larger area called Harlem River Yards, which is owned by the Department of Transportation. The good news for developers is that the State will not be required to get zoning approvals from Community Boards as the areas falls into “a general project plan”, meaning the state can process applications for the site on its own.

Building in the South Bronx has been a contentious issue of late with gentrification in the cross hairs of community activists fearing displacement as the Mayor’s office angles for development and much needed businesses. Echoing a move made in Dumbo and Williamsburg by developers decades ago, Somerset Partners and the Chetrit Group bought old warehouses along an industrial stretch of the Harlem River Water Front and came under fire for branding the area The Piano District, which it has since backed away from. They do, however, have plans for 6 residential towers and various restaurants.

[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”We want to respect the heritage of the community, the people and at the same time provide opportunities for individuals and families both existing in the community and new to the community,” said Somerset partner Keith Rubenstein.[/perfectpullquote] No doubt the developers were encouraged by the influx of artists and millennials flocking to the area, hoping to emulate the “Brooklyn cool” of the ’90’s. Developer Rubenstein has partnered with designer Jerome Lamaar to open a boutique. Lamaar says he wants to do for the Bronx what Jay Z has done for Brooklyn. “My goal is to make it into a hub for creativity, because I love art, I love fashion, I love culture,” he said. “So for me this is a representation of the way I’ve always seen the Bronx.”

The interest has brought about an inevitable spike in rents with Mott Haven experiencing a nearly 30 percent since the ’90’s. Foreclosures and abandoned buildings have been a hot commodity at house auctions. Neighborhoods have been divided between owners and renters. Owners celebrating while renters fret.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Robert Harris, 64, who owns a house on East 144th Street told the Mott Haven Herald. “The property values are going up because of the new neighbors: white people.”

“The property values are going up because of the new neighbors: white people.” Allison Jaffe realtor specializing in the Bronx feels unusually high prices, such one on landmarked Alexander Avenue for $1.7 million should be taken with a grain of salt. “They’re not going to get it,” Jaffe said. “Not right now. The South Bronx is still the place people go when they’ve been priced out of other places.”

Related: Newark: The Next Great Investment Opportunity Gathers Steam

Still the advent of artisanal coffee with exposed brick walls, reclaimed wood, and nearly $3.00 macchiatos that greets customers at the newly opened Birch Coffee in Hunts Point is a far cry from the dollar bodega java that has been a staple of the neighborhood.

“We like to see the work that we do as self-gentrification,” Majora Carter, one of the partners in the coffee shop told the NY Times in May. “People in low-status communities like nice things, too.”



Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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