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This month in real estate history.

1970: Port Authority unveils plans to expand bus terminal

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced plans 38 years ago this month for an $80 million expansion to its overcrowded Midtown bus terminal, as well as plans for a private developer to build a $50 million office tower above that.

The proposal to extend the terminal north on Eighth Avenue to the block between 41st and 42nd streets was expected to take two and a half years and be completed by about 1975. When the project was finally completed and the expanded facility opened in 1981, the cost had risen to $200 million and the proposed office tower project had been abandoned, a result of declining bus use, union strikes and a battered city economy.

The expansion, which increased the terminal's capacity by 40 percent, had been planned in response to a surge in commuters from New Jersey. The original terminal had opened in 1950 at a cost of $24 million; it originally covered the entire block between Eighth and Ninth avenues and 40th and 41st streets. In 1951 it handled 39 million passengers. By 1966 it was handling 2.5 million buses with 69 million travelers annually.

The Port Authority estimated that in 2007, 57 million passengers riding on 2.1 million buses passed through the terminal.

In November 2007, plans were revived for the office tower component. The agency said Vornado Realty Trust and Ruben Companies would build a 1.3 million-square-foot office tower above the bus terminal.

1951: Woolworth's signs lease in new Herald Square building

Discount retailer F. W. Woolworth and Co. signed a 50-year lease for retail space in a four-story building near Herald Square 57 years ago this month, making it the first major department store planned in years for the district.

The modest building originally proposed in 1951 was not constructed, and Woolworth instead moved into a 25-story retail and office building at 112-122 West 34th Street, across the street from Macy's flagship store, which was completed in 1954.

The 1950s saw a postwar boom in Midtown construction. By 1957, the district had 41 newly built office towers and 35 more planned. In 1963, the building's leaseholder, Webb & Knapp, sold its interest to a partnership including Lazard Freres and Co.

In 1967, Lawrence Wien paid $6.5 million for the leasehold. The building is now part of the W & H Properties portfolio, which plans to spend $80 million on renovations.

Woolworth's, which was founded in 1879 in Utica, New York, closed the last of its stores in 1997, and in 2001 the company took the name of its top-performing athletic-wear brand, Foot Locker. Today, the shoe retailer's corporate headquarters are housed at 112 West 34th Street, and a Foot Locker store is located on the ground floor.

1916: City approves zoning changes in reaction to tall buildings

The New York City Board of Estimate approved a comprehensive zoning law to regulate development in a uniform manner for the first time 92 years ago this month.

The city was spurred to action by outrage over buildings such as the 42-story Equitable Building erected in 1915 in the Financial District. Some citizens complained that such structures cast too many shadows and blocked views of the sky and water.

The Zoning Resolution updated the 1901 Tenement House Act, which sought to regulate the height of apartment buildings.

In 1916, developers scrambled to make the deadline before the resolution's passage. "A most unusual rush set in to file plans, mostly for skyscrapers, under the former condition," the New York Times reported at the time.

The new code encouraged tall buildings in plazas, used floor-area restrictions to moderate density and created different districts -- manufacturing, commercial and residential -- that dictated the type of space to be built in a specific neighborhood.

By 1948 the city was overwhelmed by zoning amendments, and leaders sought to revise the law. It was not until 1961 that a new Zoning Resolution was approved. That set of rules, while amended, is still the law today.

Compiled by Adam Pincus
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Publication:The Real Deal
Date:Jun 27, 2008
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