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Firm Wants To Change The Way Landmarks Can Sell Air Rights

By: Henson Architecture

Jessica Dailey reports for Curbed.


Air rights of landmarked buildings are a valuable commodity in city where developers are always trying to build bigger and taller, but for landmarks located in a neighborhood where there’s limited high-rise development, air rights are basically money that they can’t use. Current city regulations only allow landmarks to sell their air rights to a developer next door, across the street, or catty-corner. Special districts have loosened these restrictions in recent years—and if the Midtown East Rezoning passes, landmarks within the area will be able to sell to any building in the area—but the Journal reports that now a group wants to make it possible for nonprofit owners of landmark buildings to sell their air rights to a building anywhere in the city.

The group, called Iconplans, was founded by former grocery store executive Lawrence Daitch and real estate expert Michael Lipstein. Under their plan, 180 nonprofit owners would contribute their air rights to a bank, and Iconplans would sell them to developers, taking a 10 percent cut. According to a report they commissioned, the system would generated $600 million of revenue for the involved landmarks. Many landmarks, like Grace Church in Greenwich Village, are on board with the idea, and many city groups and officials expressed interest in exploring the plan further. Many say its a great way for landmarks to obtain money for upkeep—Grace Church, for example, needs millions of dollars worth of repairs and currently can not sell its air rights—but others worry that it “cause a glut of development in neighborhoods that aren’t ready for it.”

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