Hell's Kitchen block: A big pool no longer

(Credit: Urbanite)

The Hell's Kitchen site is now buzzing with construction. Below, a photo from Community Board 4's Web site of a former building on the site, which housed the Kraft Restaurant.

The sounds of construction have finally broken the silence of stalled development on a Hell’s Kitchen block.

For more than two years, the site at West 42nd Street between Dyer and 10th avenues has been little more than a running joke to neighbors, who could only laugh at the stagnating pond that formed after the developer, The Related Cos., razed the buildings and development plans were put on hold after community opposition.

“They left a big hole in the ground that started collecting a lot of rain,” she said. “We went nuts here. The neighborhood started calling it Lake Related. Some tenants even joked that they now had waterfront property,” said Maris Rendanty, 53, president of the Manhattan Plaza Tenants Association, which represents residents of a complex across the street from the construction site.

Now the final blueprints fit what the community had been seeking: A mixed space that allows for a 58-story high-rise and restores two theaters to the site. The complex is set to be completed some time in 2010, according to the developer.

Related bought the block in 2004 and faced a battle over the developer’s plan to build a site for Cirque Du Soleil. After Related tore down the Houseman and Fairbanks theaters in 2005, the community wanted off-Broadway venues more in spirit with the area, something the new plan provides.“They [Related] told us that they would come up with a plan that would meet the requirements of the theater bonus regulations of the Department of City Planning,” said Anna Levin, Land Use chairwoman for Community Board 4.

The theater bonus program was created in 2005 as part of the rezoning of Hudson Yards, according to Levin. The program offers incentives for developers to include a nonprofit performing arts space or a “legitimate” live theater with a maximum of 299 seats as part of any development plans.

Now with plans for two smaller theaters, Related is applying for the theater bonus incentives.

“As long-standing supporters of the arts, we are working with the City and the community to help bring cultural facilities to an area steeped in a historical connection to the arts,” Joanna Rose, a spokeswoman for Related, wrote in an e-mail.

Rendanty, the head of the tenants group across the street, said communication has improved between the community and developer, and the construction site is in better shape: “They secured the perimeter with lights, swept, cleaned and drained the property of excess water.”

And neighbors are seeing big changes.

“This whole area is under development,” said Carlos Bauza, 33, manager of the CVS at West 42nd Street and 10th Avenue. “Some people are calling it the Hell’s Kitchen revival.”

-- Gene Roman

Tags: hell's kitchen , the related cos. , development , theater , real estate , manhattan , gentrification

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