With the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Staten Island officials broke ground on Thursday what’s to be a nearly $200 million transformation project at the old Homeport.
“We’re breathing new life into a once blighted and abandoned spot in our city,” Bloomberg said.
The 36-acre site has been deserted since the Navy set sail in the late 1990s.
Five years ago, Ironstate Development teamed up with the city to announce plans to build 900 units of housing and 30,000 square feet of retail space. Developers were on track to break ground last fall, but Hurricane Sandy forced Ironstate to revise those plans. Now, the housing will have to be built 15 feet above sea level to meet new Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines.
“Gradually slope the roads up, the sidewalks, the lobbies, and make sure that by the time you enter your apartment or your lobby, you’re well above the flood plain newly established by FEMA,” said David Barry of Ironstate.
The waterfront esplanade, which the city will build, will also have to withstand a significant storm.
‘A combination of making sure that the esplanade itself acts as a defensive mechanism in the event of surge, and also putting in green elements like bio-swells that will help with drainage during storm conditions,” said Seth Pinsky of the New York City Economic Development Corporation.
While the site is built up, commercial realtors are launching an aggressive marketing campaign to attract tenants to the retail space.
“It’d be great if we had a couple of tenants that currently operate in Brooklyn, a couple of tenants from Staten Island and maybe some tenants from New Jersey as well so that that way, their existing clientele knows about this project, and we broaden the base of people that shop and live here,” Barry said.
The Homeport is the first of several aggressive redevelopment projects expected to change the face of the north shore. The New York Wheel, which will be the world’s largest Ferris wheel, and Empire Outlets, the city’s first outlet mall, will be built just a stone’s throw away, scheduled to open a year after Homeport is complete in 2015.