Chelsea Piers could run recreation area at piers 27-31

Chelsea Piers, New York's 30-acre recreation center that once vied to create a smaller version overlooking the Bay, may operate a portion of the proposed development at piers 27-31.

During today's Port Commission meeting, Shorenstein Co. and Farallon Capital Management are scheduled to present an outline of the plans for a 800,000-square-foot waterfront office and recreation development. The port owns the land and must approve the proposal.

Roughly half of the development, about 400,000 square feet, is slated to become office space, said Tom Hart, senior vice president for Shorenstein. The national developer and Farallon plan to move their San Francisco operations to the new development.

The remaining half of the $400 million plan calls for open space, outdoor and indoor recreational areas, public pathways, room for about two restaurants and a small amount of specialty retail space, Hart said. A field for team sports, basketball courts, a bowling alley, climbing walls, a golf course, a swimming pool and an ice rink are some of the possibilities under consideration.

“The plan evolves daily,” Hart said.

Chelsea Piers, on the edge of the Manhattan's Hudson River, offers many of the same activities, including yoga and sailing. Hart confirmed Tuesday that Shorenstein has been talking with Chelsea Piers officials about the possibility of operating the recreation portion of piers 27-31.

Five years ago, Chelsea Piers competed with Mills Corp. for the right to develop the piers. Chelsea's plan called for no office space but failed to win approval with the Port Commission. In 2001, Mills was selected by the Port Commission to develop the piers.

Neighbors opposed to the Mills retail-centered development derailed the project, and it failed to get the approval of the Board of Supervisors.

In February, Mills received $1 million from Shorenstein to transfer the development rights.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who represents the area, said the new plans are much better than the mega-mall project proposed by Mills.

One major concern for residents was the amount of traffic congestion that the Mills’ plan would have brought, Peskin said.

“Many of the businesses and residents that didn't like Mills plans are happy [with the new plans],” Peskin said.

Additional details of the current plan are scheduled for unveiling before the Port Commission on Aug. 21.

The project could break ground as soon as 2008 and be completed in 2010 if it gains approval, Hart said.

Still, the ballooning costs remain a concern because the estimated price tag of maintaining the underlying piers has doubled, Hart said.

Repairing the piers will cost about $144.8 million, as opposed to the originally anticipated $77.7 million, Shorenstein officials said.

“We're optimistic about 2010,” Hart said. “We're concerned about the economic feasibility. An awful lot has to go right” for this to move forward.</p>mcarroll@examiner.com

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