CB3 Again Discusses Fate of Essex Street Market

Posted on: June 28th, 2011 at 6:40 am by

Hot on the heels of awful news that Jeffrey Ruhalter’s iconic butcher shop is officially kaput, Community Board 3 convened last night to deliberate over the issue of Essex Street Market.  When, not if, SPURA is rebuilt, the fate of this Lower East Side lifeblood will delicately hang in the balance.  The discussion remains a serious sticking point in proposals to redevelop the largest fallow tract of land in Manhattan.

Before the Economic Development Corporation (“EDC”), the city entity that owns the land, launched into its presentation, a half-dozen concerned residents and current vendors spoke their two cents about the Essex Street Market.  For example, Anne Saxelby of the five-year-old Saxelby Cheesmongers stands by preservation.  She spoke about how the institution and the Tenement Museum are inextricably linked.  How notions of separating use from space cannot fly in either situation.  Cynthia Lamb also took to the podium in her crusade to save the market, while simultaneously seeking landmark status.  Her Save the Essex Street Market petition reached well over 2,000 signatures, and includes heartfelt community commentary.

After last month’s meeting, the EDC went to the drawing board and designed a number of early-stage renderings for public display.  There are currently four distinct proposals on the table regarding the fate of the Essex Street Market:

  • A new facility at site 2, which is by far the most comprehensive plan.
  • Maintaining the status quo at site 9
  • Preserving the facade, but building behind.
  • Creating two separate market buildings.

If greenlighted, the new facility would be built on SPURA site 2, located on the east side of Essex between Broome and Delancey Streets.  Renderings promise a new state-of-the-art building that would offer modular market stalls accommodating between 35 and 65 vendors depending on business size.  Total retail footprint would be 14,000 square-feet of leasable space.  Residential units are planned in the vertical real estate above, while an outdoor spillover space is envisioned for Broome weekend activity.

The status quo plan is just that; the program stays as is for the foreseeable future.  However, this option still comes at the price of two vendor stalls.  As it stands, site 8 is the main trash depot.  To maintain the current state, a new garbage storage room would need to be housed inside site 9, eliminating some precious square-footage from the market floor.

Next up was the proposition to preserve the facade, but build a new structure behind it.  This is the most costly option, both in terms of construction and vendor movement, and would actually reduce the retail space inside.  It was quickly bad-mouthed by most committee members.

Lastly, and seemingly least, was a dual market system operating on both site 2 and 9, split by the Delancey artery.  Even the EDC wasn’t too thrilled about this one, believing it would cause rivalries and unnecessary competition between both buildings (i.e. old vs. new facility).

In the end, there are really only two options.  Stay put, or move to a new location on site 2.  That said, it appeared last night that much of the board was already resigned to a new building that employs similar design elements to the original.

Below is a handy cheat sheet of each design option:

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