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Bridgemarket is reborn after 70 hard years.

After decades of being stalled by neighborhood opposition and economic downturns, efforts to restore. the Bridgemarket area underneath the Queensboro Bridge have finally been realized.

The area, once the site of a turn-of-the century open-air farmer's market, is now home to a food superstore, the Guastavino's restaurant complex, and other enterprises. Earlier this year a 32,000 SF Food Emporium opened up, capping years of work on behalf of private developers and public officials to build a modern version of the farmer's market that used to serve Manhattan residents in the early 1900s. Since the beginning, the city's Economic Development Corporation has played an important role in moving the project forward.

"To have something that was completely desolate in that area and bring new amenities to a neighborhood that is predominantly residential is great," said Bruce Brodoff, an EDC spokesman.

The Food Emporium has "stores within a store," such the Corner Deli, the Fruit and Vegetable Stand, and the Corner Bakery. The Food Emporium Bridgemarket concept store is the company's flagship enterprise. Its innovative design reflects the Old World style originally designed by architect Henry Hornbostel and engineer Gustav Lindenthal while incorporating a canopy of tile vaults that preserve the architectural character of the bridge.

"Food Emporium is thrilled to be a part of the rejuvenation of the Bridgemarket area," said Lou Ruggiero, Food Emporium president when the store opened. "Opening America's first supermarket under a bridge as historic as the Queensboro Bridge is a great honor."

The city's Landmark Preservation Commission has also played an important role in the renovations, overseeing and approving designs for Bridgemarket throughout the process.

"This is a great investment in New York City's historic architecture and we are sure that the citizens of New York City will enjoy shopping here for years to come," said Commissioner Chairwoman Jennifer Raab, when the store opened.

Efforts to redevelop the area date back decades ago, at a time when memories of the farmer's market had been nearly forgotten. In the early part of the 20th Century after the construction of the Queensboro Bridge, Long Island farmers brought their produce into Manhattan and sold their goods in a marketplace under the bridge. Cornucopias carved in stone on the bridge's towers announced the market, which thrived throughout the 1920s but collapsed during the Great Depression. In the 1930s, the New York City Department of Transportation took over the area and used it as a sign-painting shop, storage area, and parking garage.

The industrial use of the space continued for decades, so long that the history of the site was nearly forgotten. In 1972, the Office of Midtown Planning and Development initiated the Queensboro Bridge Area Study, which called for designating the area a landmark and redeveloping the site. The study turned out to be a catalyst for the ever-evolving project, which has been the subject of several development proposals, lawsuits and neighborhood protests.

A proposal in the mid-1970s to turn the area into the International Fair with a mix of food shops, restaurants, boutiques and movie theaters was opposed by neighbors and later voted down by Community Board 8. With the neighborhood opposition and a stagnant economy, redevelopment plans were stalled for years.

In 1983, developers Harley Baldwin and Sheldon Gordon established a partnership called Bridgemarket Associates and secured a contract with the city to establish a marketplace for 50 or 60 independent food. shops, a plan that was modeled after the great food market in Lyon, France.

After receiving approval, to increase the size of the project from 64,000 to 132,000 square feet, the developers broker ground on the project but construction was halted by a lawsuit brought by the Sutton Area Community Inc.

The developers later won the court battle, paving the way for the project to move forward.

Among the projects biggest supporters has been the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which was formerly called the Public Development Corporation.

In February Guastavino's, a 26,000-square-foot, 600-seat collection of restaurants, bars, a club and semiprivate rooms, opened up-underneath the bridge. The complex is named after Rafael Guastavino, the 19th Century architect who designed the surrounding site below the bridge. London partners Joel Kissin, a New Zealand-born restaurateur and Sir Terence Conran, a British-born designer and entrepreneur, developed the project.

Kissin has said the inspiration for Guastavino's comes from the historic brasseries of Paris. But unlike the French restaurants, which tend to offer a more casual dining atmosphere, Guastavino's offers a more formal, fine dining atmosphere.

The commercial development has spurred residential development. A 218-unit apartment building called BridgeTowerPlace, is being built on an L-shaped site on First Avenue between 60th and 61st Street.

The building will include a 38-story tower and a 10-floor wing. The tower will have 127 units ranging in size from one- to four-bedroom units and will be priced from $570,000 to $1.95 million, or an average of $725 a square foot. The wing will have 91 one- and two-bedroom units priced from $400,000 to $1 million or $625 a square foot.

"The city has used this project as an example of what can be achieved when the public and private sectors work together," Brodoff said.
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Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Sep 20, 2000
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