The Howard Hughes Corp. has unveiled a transformational plan to revitalize Lower Manhattan’s Seaport. The $1.4 billion proposal will bring a mixed-income development and the area’s first affordable housing units to the market in decades. The project is located on a full-city block surface parking lot at 250 Water Street in the South Street Seaport Historic District area.
The affordable housing component is essential to Howard Hughes’ proposal. In the district, the median household income is $150,000, and 2.5% of housing in the area qualifies as affordable housing. The project totals 360 housing units, and 100 unit are reserved for affordable housing—25% of the total project. These are the first new affordable housing units to the area in decades, and they will be made available to families making 40% of the median area income. The remaining 260 units will be for-sale condominiums.
Architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill designed the 250 Water Street project. It has a two-tower design with a scaled podium base that will fit into the design of the adjacent buildings in the Historic District to preserve the character of the community.
The development proposal will bring financial stability to the area, according to the Howard Hughes Corp., and it is particularly beneficial considering the economic recovery following the pandemic. It is expected to generate $1.8 billion in economic impact for the city and state, create nearly 2,500 permanent jobs and roughly 2,000 construction jobs. In addition, the proposal provides resources and support for the nearby Seaport Museum, which oversees a portfolio of historical assets in the area, including a 19th-century home on Schermerhorn Row, a working letterpress printing shop, and its fleet of historic ships. The proposal includes $50 million for the museum that will help to advance a first phase of restoration and rehabilitation.
The project has a strong financial base. Howard Hughes has already repaid the debt on the seaport lease, and it has $1 billion in its balance sheet. As a result, it is in a strong position to carry and develop the project, despite the recent market uncertainty. The next step forward is a comprehensive public review, which will provide an opportunity for community engagement and public comment. The review process will begin in spring 2021, and construction will begin in 2022.
Affordable housing is in high demand across the country, and the pandemic has put more pressure on the CRE market to deliver more affordable housing units. For example, Morgan Stanley has announced a $1 billion social bond to support the development of affordable housing.