NYC Wants ‘Entertainment and Amusement’ Destination at Former New York Wheel Site

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The empty patch of land on Staten Island’s waterfront previously slated to be the home of a 660-foot-tall observation wheel could get a new lease on life.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) released a request for proposals (RFP) on Monday seeking applications for an “entertainment and amusement” destination at 155 Richmond Terrace, next to the St. George Ferry Terminal.

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EDC wants proposals that will “deliver a premier recreational destination for the region with entertainment, amusement and retail uses” on the 8-acre former parking lot. The city also called for the RFPs to include 7 acres of public space.

“This is really one of the pearls in the necklace that is Staten Island’s North Shore,” Melissa Romàn Burch, the chief operating officer of the EDC, told Commercial Observer. “It’s really extraordinary how far this area of Staten Island has come.”

EDC President and CEO Andrew Kimball said in a statement that the goal would be to build a “multi-use recreational destination with amenities that visitors of all ages can enjoy.”

This won’t be the first time an amusement attraction was pitched for the Staten Island site. In 2012, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that a parking lot adjacent to the ferry terminal would be transformed into a massive observation wheel dubbed the New York Wheel.

It was slated to be the world’s largest Ferris wheel, and work commenced in 2015, two years after the city’s approval. Developers dropped about $250 million on the project in 2016 — pouring 4,000 cubic feet of concrete in the ground for the base of the 20 million-pound structure — with a 2017 opening planned.

However, the New York Wheel hit numerous bumps. There were lawsuits and costs ballooned before the developers officially pulled the plug in 2018

There were rumors that CanAm Enterprises, which arranged the EB-5 financing for the project, would take it over to build a smaller, 420-foot-high wheel by early 2025, but CanAm had its lease for 155 Richmond Terrace terminated earlier this year, the Staten Island Advance reported.

Despite all of the work done to the site already, Romàn Burch said the city wasn’t necessarily looking for another Ferris wheel to take the New York Wheel’s place, and officials have been approached by parties interested in other uses for it.

“It does not need to be a wheel, it could be a wheel, and we invite all the creativity of the respondent,” Romàn Burch said. “It’s very rare to have an 8-acre site that is support connected.”

Even if the new developers opt to not build a wheel, Romàn Burch added that the work already done will give them a “leg up” for the project. Aside from the foundation installed to support the heavy wheel, the previous developers also built an 850-space parking garage and partially completed a 70,000-square-foot commercial and terminal building.

“This new RFP benefits from all of that investment,” she said. “The four mega-pile foundations we believe can be a great platform for some sort of future outdoor attraction”

While the New York Wheel might have been the biggest, it wasn’t the only structure set to transform the St. George waterfront that spun out. 

Empire Outlets, a 350,000-square-foot outlet mall with a 200-room hotel at 55 Richmond Terrace, was announced alongside the New York Wheel in 2012 by developer BFC Partners. It also faced numerous delays before it finally opened, sans hotel, in 2019. Yet, visitors told The City, it was akin to a “ghost town” three months after opening with barely one-third of the project occupied. 

BFC later defaulted on $174 million worth of loans owed to Goldman Sachs and $38 million owed to Sterling Equities, and Empire Outlets was sold to Goldman Sach for $10 million earlier this year in an auction, NY1 reported.

Also slated to open nearby both was Lighthouse Point, a 115-unit residential project by Triangle Equities that has been under construction on and off since 2016. The developers and EDC said work restarted this year, the Staten Island Advance reported.

The 155 Richmond Terrace RFP is part of Mayor Eric Adams’s $400 million North Shore Action Plan aimed at developing or redeveloping Staten Island’s waterfront. The four-year project wants to “unlock” 20 acres of open space, build 2,400 new housing units, and create more than 7,500 jobs on the North Shore, according to the city.

“For too long, our economic development plans have focused on Manhattan and slices of Brooklyn and Queens — but New York is a five-borough city,” Adams said in a statement announcing the plan.

The proposals for the site are due to the city by April 8, 2024, according to the EDC.

Nicholas Rizzi can be reached at nrizzi@commercialobserver.com.