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Farms, Stores Brighten Stalled NYC Building Lots

Stocks in this article: ARE

MEGHAN BARR

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ A remnant of the Great Recession is hiding behind a paint-splattered wall in Chinatown, in an empty lot where a building was supposed to rise into the sky.

The plywood barely conceals the mess behind it: a pile of cement blocks and tangled metal and empty bottles of beer. It is, in short, exactly the sort of place that draws the ire of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

"There's a lot of bad things that happen in stalled construction sites," says Stringer, whose office issued a report earlier this year cataloguing the more than 600 stalled sites that are scattered throughout New York City. "Especially if everybody sort of ignores the site and lets it grow in a very unpleasing way."

Instead of allowing these lots to become eyesores, some developers are coming up with creative ways to use them temporarily until construction can begin. Grow vegetables in milk crates? Sure. Sell doughnuts out of a shipping container? In New York City, where open space is a precious commodity, just about anything goes.

In a lot near the East River, an urban farm sprouted last summer on the spot where the construction of a life science park is in limbo. At roughly 15,000 square feet, it's a patch of green in the shadow of the tower next door.

"We thought, we have this bald site here, this plot of land in the middle of New York," said Scarlet Shore, executive director of corporate strategy for Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. "Why don't we figure out how to make it productive?"

The original design for the project called for two towers that would house office space for commercial life science companies. Work began on both towers in 2007, and the East Tower was completed. But after Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, Alexandria, the developer, decided to halt construction on the West Tower. Now the company is taking a wait-and-see approach amid continued economic uncertainty.

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