Editor's Note: This story first appeared in the latest issue of the Tremont Tribune, out now.
A development group is proposing to build a series of high-rise apartment buildings and retail shops in West Farms and Crotona Park East, in what the city is calling one of the largest private rezoning projects undertaken in the Bronx for several decades.
Signature Urban Properties, a real estate group headed by former New York City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, purchased the five-acre site, which runs along West Farms Road and the Sheridan Expressway and north and south of the Cross Bronx Expressway.
The group has requested that the city rezone the 11-block area to allow for residential development in order to construct 10 buildings, each approximately 15 stories high made up of 1,325 apartment units, 663 of which would be affordable housing.
The project also calls for commercial shops along the buildings’ first floors, two landscaped public spaces and a children’s playground. The group has offered to donate a portion of the property to the city’s School Construction Authority for the construction of a new elementary school.
The neighborhood is currently zoned for manufacturing, and consists mainly of warehouses and abandoned lots.
“We think this industrial area is a drag on the rest of the community,” Miller said. “The existing area is underutilized and is too often a magnet for crime. One of our goals is really to turn this into a vibrant street experience. That’s how people feel safe.”
The Department of City Planning approved the project last month for public review, and local Community Board 6 voted in favor of the plan on June 8.
“We welcome any affordable housing, and market rate housing, because it’s needed,” said Sara Logan, chair of the board’s housing and land use committee, who described the current neighborhood as “desolate.”
The West Farms area, however, is poised for rebirth over the coming years, with this and several other major projects in the pipeline that will significantly change the neighborhood’s landscape.
Local nonprofit developer Phipps Houses is constructing three eight-to-10 story buildings of affordable housing on nearby East Tremont Avenue and East 178th Street. Plans are also under way for a new waterfront park along the Bronx River, near the 174th Street Bridge, called Starlight Park—part of a borough-wide plan for the Bronx River Greenway.
“We think it’s an exciting neighborhood,” Miller said, of why the group was drawn to the community. “There’s an awful lot of work that’s been done to help revitalize it.”
Should the city approve their rezoning request, Miller says they hope to break ground on the project next summer, and predicts it will take between five to seven years for completion.
“Ten years from now, West Farms is going to be totally different,” Logan said.