UPDATE: August 10, 2018: The New York City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve the Union Square Tech Training Center, as reported by Curbed New York. The training center, which will cost an estimated $250 million to build, will replace the former P.C. Richard & Son building on East 14th Street.
Despite some initial pushback from Councilwoman Carolina Rivera, whose district includes the hub, she voted in favor of the proposal under the condition that the deal included neighborhood protections such as a commercial zoning measure. "I am voting yes today for a tech hub that will bring true community benefits, tech education, and workforce development services that will finally give women, people of color, and low-income New Yorkers access to an industry that has unfairly kept them out for far too long," she said in an emailed statement to amNY.
- The New York City Council's zoning committee has approved a 21-story tech hub proposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, a step that signals approval by the full city council as early as this week, reports Crain's New York Business.
- The proposed project is a partnership between the city's Economic Development Corp. and developer RAL Cos. and would host a mix of retail, startup office space, training centers for nonprofits and space for community events or conferences.
- City Councilwoman Carolina Rivera and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation have said they would only support construction if it came with a plan to protect the surrounding area from overdevelopment. Rivera said at last week's vote that she was only voting to approve the project to "continue negotiations with the mayor's office toward the possibility of reaching a deal that would satisfy all impacted communities."
The center is being designed to expand the city's tech industry to a more diverse population. The nonprofit Civic Hall, which tries to apply technology to the public good, would be a primary tenant, and 25% of the building's office space would be reserved for first-time entrepreneurs. A digital skills training center would also offer scholarships to bring underserved developers and entrepreneurs, RAL Companies senior project manager Spencer Levine told AM New York.
Announcing plans for the project last year, de Blasio said the building would be "the front door for tech in New York City," adding "no other city in the nation has anything like it." The goal, the city said, is to provide an outlet for tech training, business support and giving more New Yorkers a chance to engage with the industry, especially with its placement in Union Square.
Still, the project has attracted some controversy, with concerns that construction would lead to development of high-rises and more expensive buildings in the neighborhood, pushing out local residents (echoing the worst-case scenarios in cities like San Francisco, where the influx of tech money has driven up rents and forced out less advantaged residents). Rivera and neighborhood groups pushing for zoning protections could be close to a deal — if her vote is any signal — and a compromise that would both boost the tech scene and keep New Yorkers happy.