East Harlem Media, Entertainment
and Cultural Center

NEW YORK CITY-City officials gathered on Monday on East 125th Street and Third Avenue to break ground on what will eventually be a $700-million mixed-use project in East Harlem.

Work has now begun on the first phase of the East Harlem Media, Entertainment and Cultural Center. The initial work, valued at approximately $23 million, involves the construction of 49 affordable housing units and 5,600 square feet of retail space on three mostly vacant parcels of land on the east corner of East 125th Street and Third Avenue. Construction on the first phase of the development is expected to be finished by July 2011. City officials could not provide a timetable on the next phases of the project and when construction might begin, although they have given it a target completion date in 2016.

The multi-phased development will total 1.7 million square feet of residential and commercial space. City officials say the project will include 30,000 square feet of community and cultural space; in excess of 800 housing units, including 600 that will be earmarked as affordable; a public plaza; 50,000 square feet of retail space reserved for locally-owned businesses that will be priced at below market rents; 250,000 square feet of office space; and a 98,000-square-foot hotel. Also part of the venture is a $10-million local investment fund to be established in order to assist small businesses and entrepreneurs that locate in the new development.

“Today’s groundbreaking, along with the other projects taking shape along 125th Street, are helping sustain the momentum of Harlem’s ongoing renaissance,” said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “This major multi-use development—a major investment and show of confidence in Harlem’s future—will serve the community in a variety of important ways: by creating needed affordable housing, valuable community and cultural space, and new office and retail space. Most importantly in today’s economy, it will create thousands of permanent and construction jobs.” According to figures provided by the city, the project will create 4,000 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs once completed.

The 49 affordable rental apartments will feature seven studios, 21 one-bedrooms, 13 two-bedrooms, seven three-bedrooms, and one two-bedroom superintendent’s unit. City officials note that all of the affordable housing will be available to families at varying income ranges, with a maximum income level of 60% of Area Median Income (AMI) or equal to an annual household income of $46,100 for a family of four.

The project is being developed by 125 MEC Center LLC, which consists of Archstone-Smith, the Richman Group, Monadnock Construction and local development partners Hope Community and El Barrio’s Operation Fightback. The first phase is being financed by: 125 MEC Center LLC, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the New York State Department of Housing and Community Renewal, the New York City Council, and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

When completed, the city and the developers are expecting the East Harlem Media, Entertainment and Cultural Center will achieve at least a Silver LEED Certification from the US Green Buildings Council.