Columbus Square

Columbus Square, formerly known as Columbus Village, is a mixed-use development between 97th and 100th Streets on both sides of Columbus Avenue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The project, developed by Chetrit Group and Stellar Management and designed by Costas Kondylis and Partners, is expected to include five residential towers and 320,000 square feet of retail space.

The five buildings are 808 Columbus Avenue located on the west side of Columbus Avenue between 97th and 100th Streets; 775 Columbus Avenue located at the northeast corner of 97th Street and Columbus Avenue; 795 Columbus located on the east side of Columbus Avenue between 98th and 99th Streets; 805 Columbus Avenue located on the southeast corner of 100th Street and Columbus Avenue; and 801 Amsterdam Avenue located on the southeast corner of 100th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. According to the New York Daily News, Columbus Village is the largest residential development currently being built in Manhattan.

The retail space is being leased by Winnick Realty. A 60,000 square foot Whole Foods Market will anchor 808 Columbus Avenue. Other rumored tenants of the buildings include Bank of America, the Crumbs Bakery, T.J. Maxx, Michaels, and the Associated Supermarket. A community health center, the Ryan Center, will have space in the complex as will the Mandell School and the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan.

The site of the five buildings cuts through the Park West Village, a mixed-income planned community with 2,500 residential units built by Robert Moses as part of the urban renewal process in the 1950s, which was purchased in 2000 by the Chetrit Group and Stellar Management.

In September 2005, the owners began evicting retail tenants to make way for the new construction. Many nearby residents and elected officials oppose the new development. Preserve West Park North Coalition was formed in opposition to the development and is demanding that any new development in their neighborhood have affordable housing, open space that is accessible to all members of the community, and business that are affordable to residents of the nearby community.

Some in the community are concerned that the new development, both its size and density, will compromise the architectural character of the neighborhood. Another community concern is the location of the Whole Foods Market. As the plan is currently proposed, the loading dock for the store would be on 97th Street directly near a school. The community had suggested that the store relocates to 100th Street, which is both wider and has less traffic.

In July 2007, this development gained new notoriety when a retaining wall on the construction site collapsed, causing residents of a nearby building to be evacuated. Construction on the site was halted until deemed safe by the Department of Buildings in early September 2007, a little over a month after the wall collapse. In response to this construction mishap, the City Council introduced legislation that restricts the amount of explosives used for demolition on construction sites.

In April of 2008, the Buildings Department issued a report saying that the accident could have been prevented if proper oversight by engineers had occurred. The Department did not issue any violations, however, to the construction company, Gotham Construction. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and some residents of the Park West Village nearby claim that the Buildings Department was responsible for the collapse because of a lack of oversight and failed enforcement of stop-work orders on the site.

One resident, Paul Bunten, filed a lawsuit in April listing the Buildings Department and 32 others as defendants over concerns that the project violated zoning regulations and that the Department ignored appeals by Stringer to address the zoning violations.

The lawsuit also claimed that a significant environmental review was not completed. Four other local politicians including Congressman Charlie Rangel, State Senator Bill Perkins, Assemblyman Dan O’Donnell and City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito joined the suit. The lawsuit never made it to court, however because the Buildings Department gave the developer 10 days to respond to a series of zoning violations or else construction would be halted on the development, which the developer did.

Bunten’s lawsuit was re-filed and its review was delayed until October 2008. As the legal battle goes on, construction continues at the development site. The first building, 808 Columbus, will open to residents in July and the Whole Foods at its base opened in August 2009. 808 Columbus is a 29-story building with 359 residential units. The remaining three buildings are scheduled to be completed by October 2010.

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