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"I've heard the response was more than HPD expected and they were very happy with the quality," says one source. "The developers are so anxious to get in this neighborhood, they did not balk at the income guidelines." Megadevelopers like the Brodsky Organization, Rockrose Development, Harry Macklowe Real Estate Company, Helmsley-Spear, and Donald Zucker are thought to be among the bidders.
Ironically, the developer favored by the local community board, the nonprofit Settlement Housing Fund, offers the most generous income mix, with only 70 percent of the units going market-rate. But the fund faces an uphill battle. "I think we have the best proposal, but I don't know if we can compete with the big boys," says the fund's associate director Susan Cole. "The city will pick whoever offers the highest bid for the land, and that's not our mission. We want to build housing to fulfill the community needs."
Sources say HPD is expected to select a developer in two or three weeks. During that same interval, Papert says he hopes to work out crucial details to make a June 1999 groundbreaking on Theater Row possible.
"Talk to me again in about two weeks," says Papert. "What we have now is a nice idea, and everyone seems to be enthusiastic. When we see a shovel in the ground, we'll all know for sure that this is going to happen."
Five candidates vying for the City Council seat vacated by Tom Duane, who was elected state senator, will debate Monday, December 7, at 8 p.m. at Hartley House, 413 West 46th Street. The district includes Clinton, Hell's Kitchen, Chelsea, and parts of Greenwich Village.