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Supermarket, College Site, Redesigned Plaza and More Headed to the Hub

By Patrick Wall | September 6, 2013 7:52am
 Two mixed-use buildings and a new plaza seating area will begin construction this fall.
New Developments Around the Hub
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THE HUB — Construction will start soon on several long-awaited projects around the Hub — including a supermarket, college center and redesigned plaza — that aim to attract more visitors and dollars to this bustling Bronx commercial district.

Work could start as early as this month on one project, the Triangle Plaza Hub, a $40 million, two-building development that will bring a Fine Fare supermarket, a branch of the Metropolitan College of New York, a sit-down restaurant and other shops to two sites by East 149th Street.

This fall, the city will begin to install a $12.7 million fountain and tree-filled seating area that will curve around Roberto Clemente Plaza, which sits near the Hub’s five-pronged intersection — the borough’s busiest.

By year’s end, the city is expected to select a proposal to build a mix of affordable housing and commercial spaces on two large lots currently overgrown with weeds.

“Right now, we’re living on the verge of change,” said Garrett Lucien, a senior director at SoBRO, an economic-development agency based in the Hub, which straddles Mott Haven and Melrose. “This area is set for its boom.”

The heart of the Hub is the intersection of East 149th Street and Third, Melrose and Willis avenues, which some 200,000 pedestrians pass through daily.

The Triangle Plaza Hub is planned for a fenced-in lot just east of the Hub intersection, across 149th Street from the new Opera House Hotel.

Construction at the site has stalled since last fall while the developer sought financing and renegotiated the price of the city-owned property.

The nonprofit Legal Services NYC-Bronx had planned to relocate to one of the finished buildings — a move that Bronx officials heralded last year as a “win-win” and “critically important.” But during the delay, the agency was forced to find a different space and will no longer move to the site.

This week, the developer, Triangle Equities, secured financing through Goldman Sachs, according to Elysa Goldman, Triangle’s director of development.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation originally said Triangle would pay $6.2 million for the sites, but a source with knowledge of the deal said Triangle was able to reduce the cost to about $2.5 million. Goldman and the EDC both declined to share the price.

Goldman said construction would begin “shortly” — others said late September or early October — and would last 15 months.

“We closed on our construction loan, so that’s very exciting for us,” Goldman said. “We’re rocking and rolling.”

Roberto Clemente Plaza, just south of 149th Street, grew to about 6,800 square feet after a major Department of Transportation overhaul of the Hub in 2008, which converted a block of Willis Avenue into a car-free zone.

The city will now install in the plaza an “undulating, bench-lined stone planter strip” filled with trees and capped with a flat fountain that can also act as a stage, according to the designer, Garrison Architects.

Construction will begin this fall and last 18 months, the DOT said.

The final development sites fall within the triangle formed by Bergen, Brook and Westchester avenues. It sits just south of Via Verde, the celebrated new green affordable-apartment complex.

The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development called in March for proposals for the vacant lots, which were due July 3.

“We have received a number of substantive proposals from experienced affordable housing development teams,” and hope to choose one this year, said HPD spokesman Eric Bederman.

SoBRO submitted a proposal, which includes plans for 900 affordable apartments, a T.J. Maxx, a Don Coqui restaurant, a hydroponic-farming business and a Cornell University site.

Another proposal includes plans for a YMCA, according to Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo, who said the location was significant.

“It’s the last really large development site in the district,” she said.