Van Nest wary of upscale condo project

An artist’s rendering of the updated design of a condominium project at 500-508 Van Nest Avenue. Local residents grilled the developer of the project at a public hearing held June 15.
Arthur Cusano

A new condominium building planned for the Van Nest community will offer luxury units, but residents are still wary of the project.

Einstein College of Medicine was the location for the fifth public hearing concerning The Residences at Van Nest, a project planned for the vacant lot at 500 through 508 Van Nest Avenue.

The upscale project requires a variance and must be approved by the City Council to go forward.

The project was originally eight stories tall, or 85 feet, including the water tower, but the new plan unveiled at the Thursday, June 15 meeting lowered it to six stories tall, or 65 feet, after community members objected to the height, saying it did not fit the community.

The new, lower design is a bit wider and does not require a water tower but has less of a green buffer, said D’Wayne Prieto of Ward Capital Management, the company overseeing the project with development company Van Nest L.L.C.

“We have the same square footage, but we are required to make the building a little wider, so where we had a community facility on the terrace, we no longer have that in the building,” Prieto said.

The 47 units will include a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom condos ranging in price from $350,000 to $450,000.

The basement level would have an underground parking garage with 24 spots and a large community space.

The use of that community space is still being determined, but the developer said an annex space for the Bronx Museum of Art was being considered.

An incubator space for local start-ups is also being mulled.

When asked what would happen to the building if units do not sell at market rate, the developers said the goal was to sell every unit but would consider renting units as a last resort but did not anticipate that happening.

The high cost of the development alone would prevent it from becoming Section 8 housing or a shelter, Prieto added.

Both the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance and Morris Park Association have voted against the project in recent months, citing a litany of concerns including the former height of the project as well as an anticipated increase in traffic, crime, pollution and a feared decrease of neighborhood property values.

VNNA president Bernadette Ferrara said traffic was still a major concern, despite traffic studies the developer funded that said otherwise.

She also urged the developer to consider housing for local seniors if possible.

The developers said the project was not far along in the state attorney general approval process to know if subleasing of the condos would be allowed.

Community Board 11 Land Use Committee chairman Joe McManus said the board had kept discussions open with the developer and local elected officials after listening to feedback from area residents.

“Nobody has made a decision yet,” McManus said. “We’re all trying to work together to come to a good decision.”

Regardless of whether the project is approved by the community, it must still be approved by the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals.

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 742–4584. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @arthurcusano.

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