The project is the latest turn in the long history of the Front Street business district, which was the center of port activity until the second half of the 19th century. Early on, the buildings that recently have been renovated housed businesses that served maritime trade. Two hundred twenty-four Front Street was owned by Edith Wharton’s family and was rented to a ship chandler. Just up the block, the building at 227 Front Street was said to be a gambling hall, while 235 Front Street housed sailors down on their luck. Herman Melville included the life, language, and culture of the area in his novels, placing Moby Dick narrator Ishmael on the very same Front Street block that has been redeveloped.
A once dynamic portal to New York City commerce, South Street Seaport has deteriorated some over the years. But with several developments similar to the Historic Front Street Project completed, and with large-scale renovation of the East River waterfront also planned, the seaport’s future as a full-fledged residential neighborhood looks promising.
A ceremonial groundbreaking for the project was held in October 2003, with construction beginning a month later. “The entire mask of the project was to keep it consistent with the feel of the old seaport buildings,” John Evans, vice president of real estate for Sciame Development. Sciame and two other companies, Zuberry Associates LLC and Durst Organization, make up Yarrow LLC, which managed the project. The redeveloped buildings reflect the historic character of the area while incorporating updated touches, such as new wood floors, marble baths, and luxury finishes. The units are single-floor and duplex designs, ranging from studios to three-bedroom apartments and lofts.
Environmentally friendly construction played an integral part in the development project and will continue to do so in its operation. Geothermal wells, for example, will provide heating and cooling, saving energy and eliminating the need for noisy, heat-producing compressors on rooftops.
The Historic Front Street Project was one of the Bloomberg Administration’s many downtown economic development projects and created approximately 80 permanent jobs. The sale of the property to Yarrow LLC was negotiated on behalf of the city by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) as the result of a request for proposals issued by EDC.
The project was financed by $46.3 million in Liberty Bonds issued by the New York State Housing Finance Authority. The city also provided $5 million for the $17 million restoration of the South Street Seaport Museum, also located in the Historic District.
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