Seaport redevelopment back on the table

Plans to redevelop the South Street Seaport, now owned and operated by the Howard Hughes Corporation, are back on the discussion table.

The Howard Hughes Corporation, a spin-off of General Growth Properties, who went bankrupt in April 2009, has acknowledged that is reviving the plans, which include a hotel, a condominium tower and retail shops to the Howard Hughes Corp.

The hotel’s design would be inspired by the South Street Seaport’s maritime heritage, according to thenewseaport.com.

The Howard Hughes Corp. said it was not at liberty to release new design plans to the press or public until they are finalized, according to the company’s president, Grant Herlitz. The company, however, is in contact with the city and various architects and consultants to “make sure we continue the process.”

In 2007, G.G.P. developed a plan to enhance the public open space and access to the waterfront at the South Street Seaport. The goal of redeveloping the area, according to thenewseaport.com, would be to create pedestrian-only streets that extend beyond the city grid. “These new buildings would open lanes that create view corridors to the harbor and the Brooklyn Bridge,” the site reads.

Two sky bridges, would connect the commercial and public spaces, according to the site. The proposal also includes demolishing the Pier 17 mall.

Herlitz would not confirm or specify any aspect of the design plans, though he said that the corporation plans to engage in “thought-provoking” discussions with the city and local organizations to “come up with the most vibrant plan for the South Street Seaport that’ll garner support and be an exciting new redevelopment [project] for the city.” The pier, he added, would continue to serve as an “integral” part of Lower Manhattan.

Since the South Street Seaport is a historic district, any plans for redevelopment will have to go before the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission once it has a finalized version of the plans. The L.P.C. disparaged G.G.P.’s original development design in a hearing held in late 2008, deeming the new buildings too tall and modern for an area that is comprised of low-rise brick buildings. The commissioners never ended up voting on the project, however, since G.G.P. never made a follow-up presentation, according to Elisabeth de Bourbon, director of communications at the L.P.C.

Community Board One initially approved G.G.P.’s original development plans, voting 23 to 16 in favor of the project in November 2008, on the condition that the plans include the creation of a new school. The board rescinded its endorsement of the project later that month, however, when the D.O.E. said there was no need for a school in the South Street Seaport.

Herlitz said it’s too early to solicit community input on the project, and that a time frame for the district’s redevelopment has not yet been ironed out.

A senior designer at ShoP Architects declined to comment on the project without the authorization of the Howard Hughes Corp.

— Aline Reynolds