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Carter's View

The City Planning Commission has decided to re-examine the text of proposed changes to its Hudson Yards zoning to ensure that the intent of its provisions for "theater bonuses" will encourage small, rather than large, theaters.

The Related Companies, Twining Properties and Macfarlane Partners had hoped to use the provisions to get a bonus for constructing a 1,800-seat theater for the Cirque du Soleil in the base of a 60-story building it planned for the south side of West 42nd Street west of Dyer Avenue. The huge site is shown at the right in a view from west of Tenth Avenue.

The bonus provisions had been incorporated into the Hudson Yards rezoning to reinforce and expand the "Theater Row" of small "off-Broadway" theaters on 42nd Street between Ninth and 11th Avenues.

Related recently demolished the 286-seat Houseman Theater and the 199-seat Fairbanks Theater and the remainder of the full block between Dyer and Tenth Avenues and 41st Street and theoretically could still build a large theater for Cirque du Soleil on the site, but would not be eligible to receive the significant bonuses in buildable bulk for the theater. Jeff Blau, the president of Related Companies, was quoted in an article by Charles V. Bagli in today's edition of The New York Times as saying that "You can't win them all. But we respect the city's decision. We have to redo our plans and decide what to do."

Numerous civic groups had protested the use of the bonus from an inclusion of the Cirque du Soleil in the Related project on the basis that it was not the type of theater envisioned in the zoning and that Cirque du Soleil was not "legitimate theater." Cirque du Soleil is one of the world's most successful performing companies with annual revenues of about $500 million and it has become one of the mainstay attractions in Las Vegas.

Rachaele Raynoff, the press secretary of the Department of City Planning, told today that a reworking of the text changes will likely include a specific limit on the number of seats in theaters eligible to give builders a bonus.

At one point, plans for the project called for a tower designed by Arquitectonica of about 60 stories with about 800 rental and condominium apartments plus theater and retail spaces.

The Related site is across from the Manhattan Plaza full-block complex on 42nd Street.
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Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.