Will LoLo Be a Future Manhattan Neighborhood? Maybe, Possibly.

Published on Dec 2, 2011

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Looking for a Manhattan rental apartment with breathtaking skyline AND river views? Have you tried Lower Lower Manhattan... or, as the locals call it, LoLo?

Ok, so LoLo apartments don't really exist, because Lower Lower Manhattan doesn't exist--yet?--but that didn't stop the NYC real-estate-obsessed from talking about it last week, when a new research group at Columbia University put forth the concept of creating "LoLo" by dumping millions (and millions!) of cubic yards of landfill into Upper New York Bay, connecting the eastern end of Lower Manhattan with Governors Island.

Now, before you start planning on moving to a Manhattan rental apartment in LoLo in, say, 2032, know that the Center for Urban Real Estate, the body of thinkers and planners at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation who released the "plans" for the LoLo project, understand that creating a new neighborhood in this manner may not be possible, or even desireable.

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For one thing, there are countless regulations for building on top of landfill, and the Center for Urban Real Estate's plan for Lower Lower Manhattan is nothing if not (overly?) ambitious, with some 88 million square feet of development--mostly for residential and retail space--being proposed.

The building and leasing of LoLo property would generate some $16.7 billion for the city, say the planners, which would definitely be needed for, among other things, the proposed extensions of the 1 and 6 subway lines into the new neighborhood, and, on the Brooklyn side, for a bridge to it from Red Hook. The Center for Urban Real Estate also envisions a 92-acre historic district on Governors Island, 270 acres of open space, and 3.9 million square feet worth of public buildings.

But even if they could figure out the engineering and finances of such an enormous project, is LoLo something anyone's clamoring for? New Yorkers have kind of fallen in love with Governors Island these past few years for the way it is now, as an UNdeveloped, yet easy to get to, expanse of land, with all of the great art, music and food festivals going on all summer, as well as just your basic bike riding, strolling, picnicking, relaxing activities that make it a warm-weather must.

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As far-fetched (or just exhausting to contemplate) as the creation of Lower Lower Manhattan may sound, remember, Battery Park City, which was just completed this year after four decades of development, and is now home to more than 13,000 people, is built entirely upon landfill.

Also, as Vishaan Chakrabarti, director of the Center for Urban Real Estate points out, when he was an executive vice president at the giant developer Related Companies, he worked on the rezoning and city approval of the Hudson Yards projects, and the extension of the 7 train into that neighborhood, both of which are decades-long, multi-billion-dollar projects which many thought were too ambitious to ever get off the ground.

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Finally, a historic note: this isn't the first time someone's proposed making Manhattan bigger. In 1916 an engineer and city planner by the name of Dr. T. Kennard Thomson sought to extend Manhattan some SIX MILES down the Bay to merge with Staten Island (thus greatly increasing land values there) AND rerouting the East River so as to connect Brooklyn with Manhattan. NYC rental apartments in WeBro, anyone?

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