Work has now begun on the first phase of the East Harlem Media,Entertainment and Cultural Center. The initial work, valued atapproximately $23 million, involves the construction of 49affordable housing units and 5,600 square feet of retail space onthree mostly vacant parcels of land on the east corner of East125th Street and Third Avenue. Construction on the first phase ofthe development is expected to be finished by July 2011. Cityofficials could not provide a timetable on the next phases of theproject and when construction might begin, although they have givenit a target completion date in 2016.

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The multi-phased development will total 1.7 million square feetof residential and commercial space. City officials say the projectwill include 30,000 square feet of community and cultural space; inexcess of 800 housing units, including 600 that will be earmarkedas affordable; a public plaza; 50,000 square feet of retail spacereserved for locally-owned businesses that will be priced at belowmarket rents; 250,000 square feet of office space; and a98,000-square-foot hotel. Also part of the venture is a $10-millionlocal investment fund to be established in order to assist smallbusinesses and entrepreneurs that locate in the newdevelopment.

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"Today's groundbreaking, along with the other projects takingshape along 125th Street, are helping sustain the momentum ofHarlem's ongoing renaissance," said New York City Mayor MichaelBloomberg. "This major multi-use development—a major investment andshow of confidence in Harlem's future—will serve the community in avariety of important ways: by creating needed affordable housing,valuable community and cultural space, and new office and retailspace. Most importantly in today's economy, it will createthousands of permanent and construction jobs." According to figuresprovided by the city, the project will create 4,000 constructionjobs and 1,500 permanent jobs once completed.

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

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The project is being developed by 125 MEC Center LLC, whichconsists of Archstone-Smith, the Richman Group, MonadnockConstruction and local development partners Hope Community and ElBarrio's Operation Fightback. The first phase is being financed by:125 MEC Center LLC, the city's Department of Housing Preservationand Development, the New York State Department of Housing andCommunity Renewal, the New York City Council, and the New YorkState Energy Research and Development Authority.

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When completed, the city and the developers are expecting theEast Harlem Media, Entertainment and Cultural Center will achieveat least a Silver LEED Certification from the US Green BuildingsCouncil.

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John Jordan

John Jordan is a veteran journalist with 36 years of print and digital media experience.