The Stapleton waterfront, on Staten Island’s North Shore, is positively booming with development activity – or, at least, as close to booming as the city’s sparsest borough gets.
At the old Homeport site, a 35-acre decommissioned naval base, the city’s Economic Development Corporation picked Ironstate to build the first phase of a broader redevelopment scheme, which will be home to retail space and 900 units of housing, called Urban Ready Living Staten Island, or URL Staten Island. (The URL brand is also being used on their Jersey City project, called URL Harborside, featuring a trio of towers that look like they’ve been shaken in an earthquake.)
Nearby, BFC Partners finished with their “The Rail” affordable housing project at 40 Prospect Street a few years ago, with a senior housing project in the neighborhood two years before that.
Now, BFC Partners is at it again, with a new building permit filing on Monday for 214 apartments planned for 475 Bay Street. The developer has hired Edelman Sultan Knox Wood Architects to design the project, according to the filing, which will rise eight stories and 70 feet.
The building’s apartments will be spread over 162,000 square feet of net residential space, for an average unit size of just 750 square feet (each floor will have about 30 apartments each). Given BFC Partners’ past work on the Rail and the low ceiling heights, we’re guessing this will be another affordable housing project. The building will also include nearly 9,000 square feet of retail space.
The land sale to BFC Partners was brokered by CPEX Real Estate.
“We’re longterm believers in the development of the Staten Island waterfront,” CPEX’s Sean Kelly told YIMBY. “We think the Staten Island waterfront is a good opportunity for people who are going to work in lower Manhattan,” he said, where millions of square feet of new office spare are under development. “It’s a much less expensive alternative to the Brooklyn waterfront and areas like downtown Brooklyn and Williamsburg.”
The land is, however, not zoned for residential development – at least not yet. With the site sitting along the Staten Island Railway tracks, it’s zoned M1-1, allowing only low-density commercial and industrial uses. BFC Partners will have to seek either a variance or a formal rezoning to accommodate the development, which will have a floor area ratio of around three – in line with tenement-scale development in the four more urban boroughs, but dense for Staten Island, even the rail-adjacent Stapleton area.
BFC Partners is likely to win permission to build their project, given the city’s emphasis on growth in Stapleton and Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing goals. But if the city wants private development to go along with it, they’ll need to rezone the underutilized industrial parcels to allow housing as-of-right. Affordable housing developers like BFC Partners are familiar with the city’s land use bureaucracy and are willing to ask for rezonings, but the sort of small-scale builders that are generally first to enter markets like Stapleton and build market-rate housing won’t be willing to risk buying land that might not turn out to be developable.
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