Monday, July 28, 2008

Costco's West Side Story

According to Eliot Brown at the Observer, Extell Development may be looking to put a 150,000 sq, ft Costco into its Riverside Boulevard complex: "Extell Development is in talks with discount bulk retailer Costco to occupy a large underground store as part of a new 3.3 million-square-foot development of mostly residential buildings on the Upper West Side."

This prospect is already generating considerable consternation on the West Side: "The community will be greatly affected by a placement of a Costco," said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, who represents the area. "I'm afraid it's going to bring a lot of increased vehicular traffic." And while Ms. Rosenthal said she had yet to take a firm position on the prospect of a big-box retailer, another area elected official was more direct: "I certainly do not support the Costco or anything like it," said Councilwoman Gale Brewer in a phone message."

It appears to us that Extell has a fairly large hill to climb; 11th Avenue in the area around 59th-61st Streets is a traffic nightmare, and adding thousands of new vehicular trips to the neighborhood doesn't seem like a move that will generate any enthusiasm. Political support, however, will be necessary: "The company's plans for the final parcels between 59th and 61st streets would need approval of the City Council and City Planning Commission, as the firm is seeking to change the initial restrictions to allow for more density and different uses (the original development planned for a commercial tower for NBC at the site)."

It's hard to imagine that the City Council, with the opposition of the local council member and the likely opposition of the UFCW, approving this plan: here's Brown's take: "As a national big-box retailer with no stores in Manhattan, the prospect of a Costco at the development--which would take up about 150,000 square feet--seems prone to controversy, and indeed it was discussed at length at a meeting between Extell (and a string of consultants and lobbyists) and members of the local community board Wednesday night. Extell also wanted 2,300 parking spaces in the complex."

Indeed. We should remember that it was about 8 years ago that a similar move to put Costco on the West Side (in two locations; one in Clinton, and the other in Chelsea) was defeated by the Alliance, the UFCW's Local 1500, and the strong grass roots opposition from an array of community groups. One of the leaders in that fight was the local council member, Christine Quinn.