Seaport expands programs hoping for a center

General Growth Properties is launching an array of community programs in South St. Seaport under the new heading “Seaport Semester.”

The programs target all age groups, from Downtown Babies music classes to adult workshops with a life coach.

The six-month “semester” will start Jan. 12 with a week of free trial classes. After that, classes and performances will cost $15 to $20. General Growth will run the programs in several of its buildings at the Seaport: 210 Front St. (the @Seaport venue), 159 John St. and the second floor of the Pier 17 mall.

“This is a terrific first step,” said Paul Hovitz, a Community Board 1 member, after hearing a presentation on Seaport Semester Tuesday night.

Corie Sharples, a public member of the board who lives on Front St., was excited to see that the Church Street School would run music and art classes in the Seaport as part of the program. She is used to shuttling her kids to the school’s classes in Tribeca.

Other Seaport Semester programs include Pen Parentis, an after-work reading series by authors who are parents, and Opera on Tap, which will have events for both kids and adults. The many theater offerings include the comedy “Tartuffe” by Dog Run Rep Theater, Tada! youth theater classes and Montauk Theater Productions, which will offer improv classes for children and seniors, along with play readings and children’s theater.

“We’re not married to any one program,” said Lincoln Palsgrove, a senior marketing manager at General Growth. The idea is to see which programs are popular and replicate them, he said. Some programs have already been operating at the Seaport and others are new.

The Seaport Semester could be the first step toward creating a community center at the Seaport, and consultant Debby Hirshman has been working for General Growth all year on that prospect. But the community center, which would go on the second floor of the Fulton Market building where the Bodies exhibit is currently on display, is tied to General Growth’s larger redevelopment plan for Pier 17. The fate of that plan has come into question because of the General Growth’s falling stock price and city Landmarks Preservation Commission’s harsh criticism of the design.

Hirshman said regardless of what happens with G.G.P., it is still worthwhile to start growing programs on the East Side, a neighborhood many say is underserved. And if the G.G.P. center does go forward, the Seaport Semester could serve as a trial period to see which programs would thrive in the neighborhood. General Growth is providing the Seaport Semester space to program operators for free, and it is also providing marketing.

John Fratta, chairperson of the Seaport/Civic Center Committee, agreed that Seaport Semester would help ultimately form a community center.

“We’re going to find a way to get a community center on the East Side regardless of whether G.G.P. lives or dies,” Fratta said.

—Julie Shapiro