Samy Mahfar Seeks Commercial Zoning Change for his 13-Story Tower at 255 East Houston Street

Posted on: February 26th, 2016 at 5:00 am by
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​For the second time since 2011, controversial landlord Samy Mahfar is seeking a commercial overlay for a two-and-a-half-block parcel of East Houston Street, between Norfolk and Clinton. The reason – commercial uses are not allowed in new developments situated within residential districts. And Mahfar seeks to construct a new mixed-use tumor at 255 East Houston (aka 171 Suffolk) with ground-level retail. The suits will appear next month to pitch Community Board 3 (again) on a proposed rezoning. (Note: it didn’t go so well last time.)

Plans have apparently changed slightly since December, when the Department of Buildings awarded partial approval to initial plans for the L-shaped lot. Demolition of the crumbling, 1960s-era building is obviously still happening, but height and composition is different. According to the dense informational packet on hand with CB3, Mahfar and company hope to capitalize on the 7.2 FAR (with the 20% inclusionary affordable housing bonus) to erect a building of “up to 13 stories.” Double the height of the surrounding tenements.

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Rendering of 255 East Houston

As previously reported, the proposal also includes a second structure at eight stories, located on Suffolk Street as the main entrance. Approximately 62,500 square-feet of the overall floor area is dedicated to residential, equating to 63 units. By gaining this zoning amendment for commercial overlay (C2-5), the developer would then be permitted to position the remaining 7,240 square-feet for commercial use, “most likely Use Group 6 retail and/or an eating and drinking establishment.” Meanwhile, it’s promised that the “ground floor of the New Building developed pursuant to the proposed Rezoning will fit in with the neighborhood context.” Sure.

Given the miles of red tape and requisite construction, completion date is way on the horizon – the year 2020.

The now-decrepit 255 East Houston has been vacant ever since construction on the adjacent development destabilized the structure. This activity next door ultimately resulted in the departure of the Action for Progress school in 2010. In the ensuing years, Samy Mahfar tried – and failed – to unload this property. There had been numerous retail listings, all in the ungodly price range north of $30 million.

Here are a few pages from the broader application, which you can read in full here [PDF].

Zoning Change Proposed for East Houston St.

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