Extell Development is finally starting work on a major Harlem development site that is expected to sprout a residential or mixed-use project. The developer has filed permits to demolish a former Pathmark supermarket and U.S. Post Office building that occupy nearly a full block near the East 125th Street station on the Nos. 4 and 5 subway lines.
Extell purchased the building housing Pathmark in 2014 for $39 million, and later bought out the supermarket’s lease for another $21 million after the grocer’s parent company filed for bankruptcy. That same year, the firm spent $10 million to buy a former U.S. Post Office on the same block, located between Lexington and Third avenues and East 124th and East 125th streets.
At the time, residents were outraged at the loss of the supermarket, which was sold to Extell by a partnership between an arm of the Rev. Calvin Butts’ Abyssinian Development Corp.—a religious institution and powerful Harlem landlord—and a nonprofit called Community Association of the East Harlem Triangle.
“I am extremely frustrated and angry at Abyssinian Development Corp.,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito at the time. “I believe they threw this community under the bus.”
After years of inactivity, Extell filed for permits to demolish both properties in early September 2016.
What exactly can be built on the site is unclear. On Oct. 18, the Department of City Planning unveiled plans to rezone a large chunk of East Harlem to allow for denser development. But while Extell’s nearly full-block site was included in the rezoning, the allowable density there is unchanged in current drafts, potentially because the site was included in a 2008 rezoning of 125th Street.
According to land-use experts, that means Extell may be able to build up to 613,605 square feet of residential space if the firm took advantage of city programs that trade additional density for the inclusion of affordable housing or space for performing or visual arts in the project. That could translate to roughly 600 apartments. Zoning laws would also allow for commercial space and something called community facility space—which is reserved for tenants—such as a doctor office or a prekindergarten that the city believes is beneficial to a community.
Extell is known for complex assemblages of development rights. Nearly a year ago, the developer announced that it would donate a supportive housing project it was building 25 blocks south of the Pathmark to a nonprofit. By doing so, Extell was granted bonus development rights by the city that the firm could use for any nearby project it was planning. While there was speculation that the air rights would be transferred to the Pathmark site, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development told Crain’s Thursday that the bonus square footage was transferred to a 30-story condo project Extell is building at 200 E. 95th St.
Extell, which is currently constructing a condo building on another former Pathmark site on the Lower East Side, did not comment.