The largest undeveloped area of city-owned land south of 96 th Street is on the Lower East Side, which was known until recently as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA). After nearly 50 years of political stalemates, the city began accepting bids in May and then selected a developer for the 1.65 million square foot site which will break ground in 2015. Now named Essex Crossing, it will add to the neighborhood many services and amenities including approximately 1000 apartments, with fifty percent slated for affordable housing and a full-time school for the nonprofit Educational Alliance's groundbreaking College Access and Success program, which helps low income residents earn a college degree while their children attend Head Start preschool in the same building.
To meet the demands and needs of this diverse and growing neighborhood, the Educational Alliance will be opening the Manny Cantor Center in early 2014. The Center will provide the neighborhood with a state-of-the-art fitness center and classes, early childhood center, community space in addition to its long-standing and enhanced programming. "We started construction on the Manny Cantor Center at the height of the recession. Some people might have thought it was a risk, but we knew how much this neighborhood needed and deserved these services in a state of the art facility," says Educational Alliance CEO Robin Bernstein "The Manny Cantor Center will provide opportunities to every family in the Lower East Side community while supporting and investing in the future of the neighborhood and its residents."
Residents and businesses have had a hand in spurring the neighborhood's revitalization. The Lower East Side Waterfront Alliance and community have created a plan to turn Pier 42 (an unused space on the East River) into a community and green space for the neighborhood's low-income residents. This summer, Pier 42 opened for the first time since 1987 as a temporary park site with educational and art programming to engage the residents of the Lower East Side and Chinatown in the renovation. Businesses small and large are emerging alongside each other. On Orchard Street alone, formerly part of the discount district, there are not only 25 galleries but a slew of new restaurants and shops. The neighborhood has become so popular, a Holiday Inn opened on Delancey Street and the exclusive club SoHo House is looking to establish an east-side outpost on Ludlow Street.